Low Oil Pressure: The Causes and Solutions

The flickering oil pressure warning light on the dash gauge could be the first sign of low oil pressure in your car. Ignoring it for some time will result in issues with the valves or hydraulic lifters and creating various noises under the hood. If you still keep driving, you will end up sending the engine into a coma.

What Are the Causes and Fixes of Low Oil Pressure?

Oil provides lubrication for the inner components of an engine. Low level of oil can lead to overheating of the engine and increased frictions among its various parts. The continuous rubbing and brushings will lead to the wearing out of the components pretty quickly. Knowing the reasons for low oil pressure will help you to fix the problem immediately whenever you spot a warning sign.

1. Inadequate Amount of Oil

It seems to be the most common reason since car owners often forget to check the oil level and refill it. This happens when you fail to maintain regular tune-up or inspection of the automobile. Sometimes, leakage in part of the oil transportation route will cause a significant loss of oil pressure.

low oil pressure
Forgetting to refill the oil is a common reason for low pressure. Source: QualityTrade

To fix these problems, you have to check the oil supply lines and replace the damaged component. Fill up the tank to the right level and your car will be up and running again.

2. Dirty Oil Filter

Another answer for “what causes low oil pressure?” is dirty oil filter. The oil passes through the filter on its way from the pump to the bearings and oil galleys. When the filter becomes clogged with dirt and debris, it creates more than usual resistance to the oil flow. There comes a point ultimately when it does not let any oil to pass through. The only fix to this trouble is to replace the plugged filter.

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3. Damaged Relief Valve

It is a pressure relief valve that ensures that the oil pressure does not become too high. However, a worn out or leaky valve lets oil pass more freely into the engine, reducing the pressure.

4. Worn out Bearings

One of the possible low oil pressure causes is worn-out bearings. If you have driven the car for quite a long time, low oil pressure could occur due to worn out rod bearings and main bearings. The bearings also play an important role to keep up the right pressure of the oil. The right clearances of the bearings keep the pressure at the desired level. When they wear out, they yield too much clearances that lead to a significant drop in pressure. It also leads to increased noises and pounding in the engine. Excessive clearances elsewhere in the engine (not in the road bearings) can also make the pressure to drop. It could happen in the camshaft journals, lifter bores, and can bearings.

low oil pressure
Worn out bearings also keeps the oil pressure down. Source: Anpadeh

The only way to fix the excessive clearances is to replace the bearings and refurbishing some other related engine parts. Adding a higher volume oil pump could be a solution as it will enhance the oil flow and lift the pressure a bit in the process. However, the clearance issue will still be there. So, you have to replace it at one time or another.

5. High Oil Viscosity

The oil with a high viscosity is thicker than regular oil, which makes it flow a bit slowly. During the winter season, the flow may become so slow that it will not allow oil to build the right level of pressure.

Check out the video below to learn on how to fix a low oil pressure light in your car:

Related Questions And The Answers

1. Can I Drive A Car With A Low Oil Level?

When you are driving on the road and your oil warning light turns on, you need to take it seriously.  This means there is something wrong with the lubrication system and your car is not safe to drive. If this situation occurs, the first thing you should do is pulling over and then shutting off the engine as soon as possible. By doing this, you can save your life as well as prevent further damages to the engine of your car.

2. How Much Does It Cost To Replace The Oil Pump?

When it comes to changing the oil pump of your car, you have to calculate the fee for buying a new oil pump and the fee of the labor to put it in, unless you can install it yourself. The average price of a new oil pump varies from $200 to $300 depending on your car model. The labor cost is about $200 to $300 as it requires more skills of an experienced mechanic and it takes more than one hour to do. In general, the total price is about $300 to $600 depending on who does the job.

3. The Important Role Of Oil Pressure

The lubrication system of an engine is built by the oil filter, pump, hardware and lubrication lines. The pressure of the system is created by the resistance which the oil has to bypass in the lines to meet the lubricated parts. The function of the pump is forcing lubricant through the system. It provides the needed pressure and runs to enable the lubricant to reach the furthest part.

When you observe the oil pressure is low, it means there is something wrong in your engine. It also indicates that your engine maybe lack of lubricant. A engine with lubricant starvation can cause metal part touching metal part and damage the machine. An engine can stop working for some minutes or even a few hours depending on how serious the situation is. The fixing fee could be quite expensive as you need to replace most of the parts.

4. How To Get Rid Of Low Oil Pressure?

To avoid the risk of low oil pressure, here are some things you need to do:

  • Make sure to inspect the oil level regularly and check your engine and garage floor for leaks.
  • When it is time to change the oil and filter, be sure to do it right away. The recommended lubricants are the high-quality goods which include the correct viscosity grade and appropriate quality standard specified by the API (American Petroleum Institute) in car manual/engine.
  • If there is a problem with the pressure sensor and you don’t know about it, avoid driving your car as soon as possible. For this situation, the best solution is bringing your car to a mechanic to inspect the condition of the oil and engine.
  • Observe if there is blue smoke coming out from the exhaust, especially with cars having high-mileage.

5. Low Oil Pressure At Idle: Causes And Solutions

Symptom of low oil pressure at idle: The oil pressure light turns on only when the car is hot at idle. After getting some revs, the light turns off and stay off under load.

Here are the most common symptoms and causes to inspect:

Symptoms Causes Solutions
Limp mode Dirty Pickup at oil pump Replace Oil pump
Noises from engine Engine lacking oil Fill up oil
Oil level/pressure light on dashboard The type of oil is not correct Change engine oil + filter
Broken engine Broken oil pump Change oil pump
Defective Instrument cluster Change Instrument cluster
Defective oil pressure sensor Change oil pressure sensor
Internal oil leak inside engine Fix internal oil leak

Did you enjoy our article? If you have any question, feel free to leave it below and then we will discuss further. Addition to it, don’t forget to check out our blog to learn more maintenance tips updated by car experts everyday.