Home Diagnosis and TroubleshootingEngine Oil and Lubrication Oil Pressure Light – Why Is This Light On?

Oil Pressure Light – Why Is This Light On?

by Jordan Harris
Oil Pressure Light

Have you noticed the oil pressure light on the cluster and you got worried about your engine? Well, if this is the case and you are in this situation, then you are at the right place because there will be a lot to cover when it comes to the oil pressure gauge.

Having a situation like this can be really dangerous for you and your engine. Why I’m saying this? Well, I’m saying it because it is true. The correct oil pressure is one of the essentials that you need to have if you want to have a properly working engine. Without proper oil pressure, you will have a ton of problems.

And some of these problems can get critical for the health of your engine and could cost you a ton of money. This is why you need to learn more about this problem and how to diagnose this issue the right way before the problem becomes bigger and bigger and you end up spending a ton of money in the process to get it fixed. And we are going to help you out with that.

First, we are going to learn what is oil pressure and the two types of oil pressure. Then we will cover the oil pressure light and learn how to read it. After that, we will cover the situations when the oil pressure light turns on and the causes for this action. Then we will move on to diagnosing and fixing the problem. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

What Is Oil Pressure?

Now before we dive into more complex stuff such as the oil pressure light and situations when this light turns on, let’s first learn what is oil pressure in general. I bet that there are a ton of people who are not familiar with what oil pressure is. So, this is a chapter dedicated to them.

Having the proper understanding of something like in our case with the oil pressure and the oil pressure light is essential if you want to understand a problem and the possible causes why it appears. This is why you need to learn how everything works. So, what is oil pressure?

Well, in simple terms the oil pressure is the resistance that the oil faces while it is flowing through the tight oil passages across the engine.

Oil Pressure Light

The engine after startup needs about a few minutes to determine what is the oil pressure. So, at the start, you shouldn’t be scared if the oil pressure is not at the recommended value and you get the oil pressure light.

Soon after the engine starts, this light should disappear and you will be able to see the right oil pressure on the gauge.

What is worth noting is that this oil pressure is measured in PSI which is an abbreviation for pounds per square inch.

The oil pressure greatly depends on the engine that you are running and it could vary from 25 to 65 PSI and you could face basically two situations. When the oil pressure is too low or a situation when the oil pressure is too high and in the next chapter we are going to cover precisely that before we learn more about the oil pressure light.

Low Oil Pressure

Now before we cover the low oil pressure light, let’s first cover what is low oil pressure. Knowing what is low oil pressure is a lifesaver and could save your engine. I mean literally because having a low oil pressure can be really detrimental for the engine.

This is a situation when the oil pressure in the engine is below 25 psi. When this is the case, you are probably dealing with a ton of engine issues that prevent the engine from buildup enough oil pressure.

When this happens, your engine probably needs a good overhaul and it is really useful to stop the engine and make sure that you don’t cause further damage because when the pressure is low, there is no lubrication in the system and you are basically running an engine that could fail at any moment.

So, remember, when there is low oil pressure, stop driving the car and focus on diagnosing the issue. Later on in this article, we are going to go through all of the causes of this situation after we cover the oil pressure light. Now let’s learn what is high oil pressure.

High Oil Pressure

As we covered the low oil pressure, now before we cover the oil pressure light, let’s say a few words about the high oil pressure because as we said, there could be two instances, low oil pressure, and high oil pressure. So, what is high oil pressure?

Well, high oil pressure is a situation that tells you that you are running more psi of pressure in your system than the recommended.

This is also a bad situation that could be detrimental to your engine. Even though it is not as bad as the situation with the low oil pressure. It is still a bad situation.

When the pressure is high it means that there is an obstruction in the passageways for the oil inside of the block or cylinder head. This obstruction will cause a ton of pressure to build up since the motor oil will not be able to pass through.

So, a part of the engine could be left bone dry because of this obstruction, and engine damage could be created. So, beware of this situation as well. But what is an oil pressure light? Let’s learn that next.

What Is Oil Pressure Light?

Now let’s discuss the oil pressure light. What is the oil pressure light? First, it is worth noting that this light is also known as oil light.

This light indicates that there is a problem with the oiling in your engine. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are having a problem with the oil pressure in your car. You might be having low oil and that’s why the light turns on, or possibly a bad oil pressure sensor. There are a ton of options.

Oil Pressure Light

The important thing for you in this situation when you notice the oil pressure light is to check the oil pressure gauge. Most cars are running these gauges and here you can see the correct oil pressure in your car.

If it’s at the recommended level, you shouldn’t worry that much. Should the pressure level be too low or too high it means that something is really wrong and needs to be checked.

If you don’t have an oil pressure gauge, you need to rely on the oil pressure light only. So, the first thing you need to do is to check the level of oil in your engine and move on from there. Avoid driving the car before you diagnose the oil pressure light. But in what situations this oil light will turn on? Let’s elaborate more on that in the next chapter.

Situations When Oil Light Turns On

Now as we covered the oil pressure light, we can move on and discuss the situations that you will notice when the oil light turns on. This is also useful to know when it comes to tackling this problem and see if one of these scenarios is overlapping with yours.

The first situation that you will come across is when you notice the oil pressure light but the oil is full. This is a clear situation in that you possibly have a bad oil pressure sensor or possibly a blockage in the passageways of the engine.

The second common situation is when you get the message oil pressure low stop engine. This is a clear example that your oil pump possibly stopped working or you got a massive oil leak and your engine is running low on oil.

Oil Pressure Light

The third situation is when the oil pressure light comes on when idling. Another common situation that could be attributed to a bad oil pump or possibly a bad oil pressure sensor. You need to check the oil level in this situation.

The fourth common situation is when you notice the oil pressure light flickering or that you notice the low oil pressure light comes on and off. This is another situation that could be attributed to a bad oil pressure sensor that could cause these things.

And the last situation that we are going to cover is when the oil pressure light comes on when the engine is hot. This is probably a situation when you have problems with overheating. You need to check the cooling system as well as the condition of the oil. If the oil is sludgy, then it is normal that the engine will be hot and you will be getting the oil pressure light.

Causes For Low Oil Pressure

Now as we covered the most common situations and scenarios when this oil pressure light will turn on, we think that now it is time to move on to the probable causes behind this light.

As you probably know, everything happens for a reason. And the same thing is in this case. You are probably dealing with some problems inside of the engine that cause this oil pressure light to turn on and notify you that you have bad oil pressure. So, let’s elaborate on the causes in the following chapters.

1. Bad Oil Pump

The first cause that could make the oil pressure light turn on is a bad oil pump. Although oil pumps are really hefty devices that can withstand anything you throw at them, they can also fail at some point.

Modern engines are using a wet sump system. This means that the oil pump is picking up the oil with the help of the pickup tube that goes down to the bottom of the oil pan.

Then as this pump rotates, it disburses the oil whenever there is a need to. Not to mention that this oil pump is the one that maintains the right oil pressure. So, if you have a poorly performing oil pump you might be facing a problem like low oil pressure and engine overheating, and damage in worst cases. Although this oil pump rarely fails, it is worth being aware of the possibility that this pump could fail and cause problems.

2. Bad Oil Pressure Sensor

The second cause for the oil pressure light that we are going to cover is the oil pressure sensor. This component is also known as an oil pressure switch.

It has a role to observe the oil pressure inside of the engine. So, whenever there is low oil pressure, it will decide to throw the check engine light and the oil light.

This component fails pretty frequently and it is one of the most common causes of this problem. So, you need to be aware of this component and replace it.

You can see if it is bad by checking it. These sensors usually leak oil from the wiring connector. So, if it leaks, this is probably the root of the problem that you are having. These components are also really cheap and affordable. So, replacing it as a preventive might be a good idea.

3. Low Oil Level

The third major cause of the oil pressure light is a problem with the level of oil. If you are running low on oil, you probably will be having a problem like in this case.

Cars do not want to run low on oil and whenever this is the case, you will have a ton of trouble with engine overheating, friction, noises from the engine, and whatnot.

If you keep running your engine like this, the oil pressure light will be your least concern. The components inside of the engine will probably wear off prematurely and you will have to replace the whole engine altogether. And this could cost you more than $5,000 in some cases. So, beware of your oil level and top off your oil regularly.

4. Oil Sludge Inside Of The Engine

The next probable cause that could be the reason for the oil pressure light is the oil sludge inside the engine.

If you are not a fan of oil changes, then you probably are having oil sludge in your engine. There are people who delay their oil changes. And with each delay, you are only doing bad to your engine. With each delay more and more sludge is accumulated.

This oil sludge prevents the oil flow inside of the engine and will cause your engine to fail eventually.

So, when you are having this type of engine that hasn’t been loved, then the best thing would be to flush the oil a few times after a few hundred miles and cross your fingers that this will solve your problem. There are also solutions that are available to clean all this sludge.

So, the prime reason for oil pressure light and low oil pressure is this, so beware of it.

5. Clogged Oil Filter

The last cause for the oil pressure light that we would like to cover is the clogged oil filter. As you probably know. If you do fewer regular oil changes you will highly likely end up with a clogged oil filter.

The oil filter can get so clogged that will not allow the oil to flow. Resulting in poor oil pressure. So, if you keep on delaying the replacement of the oil filter and also flushing the oil, then you highly likely will be having troubles like this with the bad oil pressure.

The important thing when you are dealing with a situation like this is to diagnose the problem properly and then fix the oil pressure light. And in the next chapter, we are going to discuss precisely that.

How To Diagnose The Problem With The Oil Pressure Light?

So, how you can diagnose a problem with the oil pressure light? What methods you should try in order to see what is causing this issue? Let’s elaborate.

The first thing you want to do is to check the oil level, you just need to make yourself sure that the oil in your engine is topped off correctly and is at the ideal level. Too little oil or too much oil can affect the oil pressure.

The next thing you want to check is the quality of oil and when was the last time you replaced your oil. If the oil smells burnt and is really thick and black, then you probably have a sludgy engine. And this engine will need an oil flush to clean off the sludge.

Get a good quality filter and replace the oil. By this, you will make sure that your engine has proper oil flow.

If you still get this problem, then you might want to check the oil pump and the oil pressure sensor. For the oil pump, you can remove the valve cover and start the engine. If there is oil coming from the rockers then it means that the pump is working well. If there is no oil on the top of the engine, then you probably have a clogged oil passage.

Also, test the oil pressure sensor with a multimeter and see if it has continuity. In addition, see if it has oil leaks from the side where the wiring goes. If there is a leak, then your sensor is the problem. Overall, these are the things that you need to focus on when you have an oil pressure light.

Cost To Fix Bad Oil Pressure?

So, what is the cost to fix the oil pressure light? Well, the cost really depends much on the root of the problem.

Let’s say that you have a bad oil pressure sensor, in this case, you will pay about $130 for the parts and labor. An oil pump will cost you between $500 and $800 for the parts and labor.

Engine problems troubleshooting fluids repair maintenance

If it’s something simple as a need for topping off or flushing the oil and replacing the filters, you can expect to pay about $100.

But if the problem is engine damage and your engine runs really bad. Then a rebuild or a replacement of the engine will be needed and this can cost between $3,000 and $5,000.

Car Oil Pressure Warning Light: What You Need to Know

  1. A lit oil pressure warning light on your car’s dashboard can indicate issues such as low oil, a faulty oil pump, and more.
  2. Symptoms of low oil pressure can include blackish oil, engine noises, low oil levels, power loss, and much more.
  3. Failing oil pumps can result in low oil pressure and engine protection, causing engine noises, blackish oil, burning oil smells, slow engine cranks, and rattling.
  4. Sometimes, the issue may be electrical without involving oil pressure problems. Electrical malfunctions can falsely trigger the oil pressure warning, and shutting the car off and restarting it might clear the light for a while.
  5. A faulty oil pressure switch can cause both the oil pressure light and the check engine light to come on, and there may be no aggressive symptoms, but the check engine light may appear.
  6. A clogged oil filter can trigger the oil warning light, and if the oil level is low, the oil might have a dark-colored appearance.
  7. If sludge and filter particles obstruct the car’s oil passages, poor performance, engine sputters, odd noises, burnt oil smells, and the yellow “check engine” light may occur.
  8. Whenever the car runs low on oil pressure, the warning light will turn on, and this can be due to electrical or mechanical issues.
  9. Driving with the oil pressure light on can be dangerous, and it’s best to safely pull over, turn the car off, and check the oil level with an oil dipstick.
  10. If the issue is a faulty oil sensor, there won’t be any different noises from the engine, and the oil level will be acceptable, but the yellow “check engine” light may appear.


In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to the oil pressure light. We learned what is oil pressure and the two types of bad oil pressure which are the low oil pressure and high oil pressure. Then we learned the situations that you will most often notice when you have low oil pressure.

After we covered the causes for the low oil pressure and as we noted, this can be due to bad oil pressure sensor, sludge, and less frequent oil changes. Lastly, we learned how to diagnose the problem and sort out the issue.


Now let’s answer some frequently asked questions.

What Does Low Oil Pressure Mean

Low oil pressure means that the oil pressure inside of your engine is below the recommended threshold. The oil pressure is basically the resistance that the oil faces when flowing inside of the engine.

What Causes Low Oil Pressure

The most common causes of low oil pressure are the sludge development inside of the engine, low engine oil, too much oil in the engine, less frequent oil changes, engine damage, or possibly a faulty oil pressure sensor.

How To Reset Low Oil Pressure Light

Just remove the positive terminal from the battery. Then wait for a few minutes and reattach the cable back in place. This should reset the light. If this doesn’t help then you need to fix the problem first before you be able to reset the light.

What Color Is The Oil Pressure Light

This light is usually red in color. In some cars, it could be orange. It really depends on the manufacturer of the vehicle.

How To Put Oil In Car

You can put oil in the car by removing the cap that is located on top of the engine. This usually is a big rounded cap that is easily removable. Then pour oil carefully, check the level often in order not to overfill the engine with oil.

How To Check Engine Oil

You can check the oil by removing the dipstick. This dipstick is usually located in the front or on the side of the engine. It has a yellow handle that you remove and then you can inspect the level of the oil inside of the engine.

How To Tell If Engine Is Damaged From No Oil

This is not possible unless you disassemble the engine. There you could inspect the pistons and bearings. Then see the damage on the rod bearings. If there is damage, the bearings will be pretty worn out.

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