Why is my oil pressure light on?


The oil pressure light on your car’s dashboard is not just another indicator, it’s a crucial warning that you should never ignore. It signals that there may be an issue with your engine lubrication system, which is vital for the engine’s health and performance. Understanding what this low oil pressure light means, why it turns on, and what you should do if it does can help prevent serious damage to your engine and save you from costly repairs.

oil pressure warning light

What does the oil pressure light mean?

The oil pressure light is a warning light on your car’s dashboard that resembles an old-fashioned oil can. When this light comes on, it typically means that the oil pressure in your engine has dropped below a safe level. Oil pressure is crucial because it ensures that all moving parts within the engine are properly lubricated, reducing friction and preventing overheating.

Oil pressure light comes on when engine is hot – why?

When the oil pressure warning light comes on, it indicates that the oil pressure has dropped to a dangerously low level, specifically when the engine reaches its operating temperature. Here are some common reasons why this might happen:

1. Low oil level

When the engine is hot, the demand for oil circulation increases. If your oil level is low, the oil pump might struggle to maintain the necessary pressure, especially when the engine is under load or running hot.

2. Thin oil due to high temperature

Oil viscosity changes with temperature. As the engine heats up, the oil thins out, which can cause a drop in oil pressure. If the oil is too thin, it might not provide sufficient lubrication, leading to a warning light.

3. Faulty oil pump

The oil pump circulates oil throughout the engine. If the pump is failing or inefficient, it might not be able to maintain adequate pressure, especially at higher temperatures when oil is less viscous.

4. Clogged or dirty oil filter

A clogged oil filter can restrict the flow of oil, leading to a drop in pressure. When the engine is hot, the oil must flow more freely, and any restriction can cause a pressure drop.

5. Using the wrong oil

Using oil with incorrect viscosity for your vehicle can cause pressure issues. Always use the manufacturer-recommended oil type to ensure proper lubrication and pressure.

6. Oil pressure sensor malfunction

Sometimes, the oil light comes on but oil is full might be with the oil pressure sensor itself. If the sensor is faulty or malfunctioning, it could give false readings, triggering the low oil pressure light even if the oil pressure is adequate.

Is it safe to drive with an oil pressure warning light on?

No, it is not safe to drive with the oil pressure sensor light on. This light indicates a dangerously low oil pressure level, which can lead to severe engine damage. Low oil pressure means inadequate lubrication, causing increased friction and heat that can quickly wear out engine parts. Continuing to drive can result in engine overheating, seizure, and ultimately catastrophic failure, requiring costly repairs or a complete engine replacement. Being cautious and responsible is key to avoiding such situations.

If the oil pressure warning light comes on, pull over immediately and turn off the engine. Check the oil level and add oil if necessary. If the light remains on after adding oil or if you suspect a leak, have your vehicle towed to a mechanic. Regular maintenance, including timely oil changes and inspections, can help prevent oil pressure issues and ensure the longevity of your engine. Do not ignore this warning; it is vital for your vehicle’s health and safety.

How to fix oil pressure light?

If your engine oil pressure light comes on, it is essential to take immediate action to prevent potential engine damage. Here is what you should do:

1. Check oil level

check engine oil

Start by checking the oil level using the dipstick. If it is low, add the appropriate type of oil. This might resolve the check engine oil pressure light temporarily.

2. Inspect for leaks

Look for any signs of oil leaks under the car. If you find a leak, it needs to be repaired immediately to prevent further oil loss.

3. Check the oil condition

Examine the condition of the oil. If it looks dirty or old, consider an oil change. Fresh, clean oil with the correct viscosity can help maintain proper pressure.

4. Monitor engine temperature

Keep an eye on your engine temperature gauge. If your engine is overheating, it can cause the oil to thin excessively, leading to pressure drops. Address any cooling system issues promptly.

5. Visit a mechanic

If the oil level is adequate and there are no obvious leaks or issues, but the light continues to come on, it is better to visit a professional mechanic. They can perform a thorough diagnosis, including checking the oil pressure with a mechanical gauge to determine if the issue is with the sensor or the actual oil pressure.

Preventive Measures

  • Regular oil changes: Follow the manufacturer’s recommended oil change intervals to keep your engine oil at normal pressure.
  • Use correct oil: Always use the oil type and viscosity recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
  • Regular maintenance: Perform regular maintenance as it is your key to keeping your engine in good health. This includes replacing the oil filter and inspecting the engine for wear and tear.
  • Monitor engine health: Pay attention to any changes in your engine performance or unusual noises and address them promptly.

How to reset low oil pressure light?

Resetting the low oil pressure warning light involves addressing the mentioned issues that caused the light to come on. However, if you have already fixed the problem and the light remains on, you might need to reset the light manually. Here are steps to reset the low oil pressure light:

1. Verify the issue is fixed

Before resetting the light, ensure that:

  • The oil level is adequate.
  • There are no oil leaks.
  • The oil filter and oil pump are functioning correctly.
  • The oil pressure sensor is in good condition.

2. Consult vehicle’s manual

Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specific instructions related to your car model. The process for resetting dashboard lights can vary significantly between different makes and models.

3. Use an OBD-II scanner

If the light remains on after fixing the issue and performing an oil change, you might need to use an OBD-II scanner to reset the light. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Locate the OBD-II port under the dashboard near the steering wheel.
  • Step 2: Plug the OBD-II scanner into the port.
  • Step 3: Turn the ignition to the “ON” position without starting the engine.
  • Step 4: Follow the scanner’s instructions to scan for codes and reset the oil pressure light.

4. Disconnect the battery

If you don’t have an OBD-II scanner, disconnecting the battery might reset the light. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Turn off the engine and locate the car battery.
  • Step 2: Use a wrench to disconnect the negative (-) terminal of the battery.
  • Step 3: Wait for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Step 4: Reconnect the negative terminal.
  • Step 5: Start the car and check if the light is off.

5. Professional help

If the oi light remains on after trying the above methods, it is worthwhile to consult a professional mechanic. There could be some unsolved problems, and a mechanic can perform a thorough diagnostic to find and fix them.

Conclusion

The oil pressure light is an essential warning that should never be ignored. Understanding its significance and knowing what steps to take if it comes on can save you from major engine troubles. Regular maintenance and proactive oil checks can help keep your engine running smoothly and efficiently.

Shafiqule

Mohammad Shafiqule Islam is a seasoned mechanical engineer with over 16 years of experience in automotive maintenance and training. He combines technical expertise with a passion for the automotive industry. His extensive background includes hands-on maintenance, diagnostics, and advanced training, making him a valuable resource for industry insights and practical advice. Shafiqule's engaging writing style and deep knowledge ensure that his content is both informative and accessible, catering to professionals and car enthusiasts. His dedication to continuous learning and sharing insights helps you stay informed about the latest advancements and best practices in automotive maintenance.

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