In order to maintain the proper level of oil in your car, balance is key. When discussing an engine, its lifespan, and performance capabilities, balancing the oil is necessary and imperative. A change in the oil pressure in your car can highly disrupt this balance and lead to engine failure. The oil pressure in your car plays a huge role in lubricating certain areas like the camshaft and the shaft bearings, which then in turn reduce the wear of these parts and prevents overheating.
The oil pressure is a huge part in the longevity of internal combustion engines. Oil is picked up by the displacement of an oil pump and forced through passageways into bearings, such as the main bearings and big end bearings. With sufficient oil pressure, the metal of the shaft and the bearing never touch, and the wear and tear is reduced. However, low oil pressure can indicate worn bearings or a broken oil pump.
How To Read A Low Oil Pressure Light And The Two Different Types of Gauges
In order to properly diagnose and fix what is wrong with your vehicle, you first need to be able to decipher the signs and warnings on your dashboard in order to remedy the problem. In your car, there are two types of gauges: electrical and mechanical.
Electric Oil Pressure Gauges
Most newer cars have electric oil pressure gauges instead of the mechanical ones. The power for the electric oil gauges is supplied from the wires behind your vehicle’s dashboard providing a connection to the dash. The electrical current flows through a coil and is in charge of measuring the resistance in the return wire. This resistance is correspondent to the oil pressure. This type of gauge is usually easier to use with modern circuits, making this the paramount reason that they are installed in almost all newer cars. If the resistance from the return wire isn’t working properly, this can be an indication of low oil pressure.
Mechanical Oil Pressure Gauges
In older cars, you might have a mechanical gauge instead of an electrical oil pressure gauge. The mechanical gauge uses pipes instead of wires to determine the return power. Mechanics sometimes believe that this mechanism provides a more accurate and reliable reading, but it also creates more of a risk in the same boat. Instead of measuring resistance with electrical currents, the mechanical oil gauge siphons oil into pipes at the same pressure it then goes into the engine. If anything were to damage or puncture the oil pipe, then it could start leaking oil at engine pressure – which is highly dangerous. If the mechanical oil pressure gauge has shown a low oil pressure light, the oil pipe leaking oil could be the main reason why.
How To Read An Oil Gauge
The oil gauge on your dashboard looks like any other symbol that might be on your dash in order to show and give the driver a visualization of the proper oil levels, which can indicate a low oil pressure. In addition, low oil pressure will cause the low oil pressure light to come on and light up the dash. With the gauge, there’s usually a label, characterized by “OIL”, and numbers ranging between 1-80 or 1-100, along with a needle for the indication of the oil level. Instead of numbers, some vehicles will use an “L” or an “H” to indicate a high or low pressure in your vehicle. To determine the baseline reading of oil in your car, be sure to check your manual in order to see their recommendation for the right level and prevent the low oil pressure light from coming on.
If Your car is idling, it might show a zero reading on the oil gauge. However, if this occurs at higher speeds, this means that something is wrong with your car. Your gauge could be faulty, which will need a repair, your oil level could be low, or the oil pump could be broken or damaged. Be sure to switch your engine off and get your engine checked to ensure that you don’t have low oil pressure and prevent the low oil pressure light from coming on. If your car has a blown engine, very low oil pressure could be the sign of a damaged engine.
If your oil pressure gauge maintains a low number reading while your car is idling, you should get your car checked out. This typically indicates an issue with the gauge, like a leak, or that a part of the engine has worn down and created a drop in the oil pressure. Be sure to check your engine to ensure that your low oil pressure light doesn’t come on during use.
The needle on your pressure gauge should remain at the middle of the gauge after the car has been on and running for 20+ minutes. If it consistently sets towards the top of the oil gauge, then this could mean a high oil pressure. This obviously won’t cause your low oil pressure light to come on, but you should still get your car checked, since this could indicate that your oil filter is damaged or the oil delivery line has a blockage.
Oil Pressure Warning Light Diagnosis
In order to determine why your car may have low oil pressure, you need to check out a few different parts and run a few tests to see the current condition of the interior of your car. First, you must determine if the oil in your car is actually low, or if it is full. On some engines, an oil level sensor in some vehicles will turn on the oil warning light if the oil level is low. If the dipstick shows a low level, your engine could be leaking oil or burning oil. Add some oil as shown by the dipstick and restart the engine. Be sure to check if the engine has normal oil pressure, by noticing the gauge reading and the oil pressure warning light turning off.
Second, check the parts of the car for where the leaks might be coming from. Oil leaks are a common cause of low low oil level in the engine, and can originate from various places. They can occur at the valve cover at the top of the gasket, the oil pan at the bottom, overhead camshaft end seals or plugs, or the front oil seal. Checking these exterior parts can determine if the oil leak is causing the low oil pressure light to come on.
Be sure to check all sides of the engine for the signs of the oil leakage. Look for stains, grease accumulation, or oil dripping onto the ground beneath your car from the engine. If your car has a higher number of miles on the engine, then the gaskets and seals might be leaking. If your engine is leaking oil due to a bad gasket, the gasket will need to be replaced.
Head gaskets should be replaced more often in order to prevent them from failing. They typically last at least 100,000 miles if the oil and coolant are maintained. Obviously an oil leak or a low oil pressure can cause the head gasket to be damaged, and vise versa. Be sure to keep dirty fluids out of the gasket, and replace them on schedule. The head gasket must be maintained in order to keep a sela between the engine block and cylinder head to prevent oil, coolant, and gases from escaping. The replacement cost of a head gasket is between $1,170 and $1,496. Labor costs add onto that total cost, coming in between $900-$1148, and parts are an additional $260-$348. If the head gaskets and the exterior of the engine isn’t showing leaks, then you will need to investigate the other parts to determine why there is low oil pressure.
Third, you will need to check some other portions of the engine if the exterior of your engine is clean and there aren’t any tell-tale signs of leaks from gaskets or the crankshaft. This is usually the sign that either the piston rings, cylinder, or valve guides are burning oil. This could be due to the aftermath of wear and tear due to high mileage or not maintaining your car properly, like not changing your oil often enough. If you don’t maintain your oil often enough, your low oil pressure light will come on – but don’t fret, there are still car companies that will purchase your damaged car.
These oil problems can often be an expensive fix since it might require you to replace the engine or rebuild the engine. The average engine replacement cost will be between $3,000-$4,000. If you own a luxury car, you can expect to pay at least 50% more than $3,000. When looking at new engines, it will cost you $5,500 for a V6 and $7,000 for a V8 engine replacement. However, if you want to ensure that the oil low pressure light won’t come on anymore and diagnose the problem, you might have to replace the engine. Prolonged oil pressure loss can often result in severe engine damage.
If the oil usage in your car isn’t that high, be sure to check your engine dipstick and keep adding the oil as much as needed in order to prevent the inside oil level from getting too low and causing damage to the rest of your car. If your car is using a lot of oil, at around over a quart per 500 miles, you must check the dipstick every time you fill up with gas. This is needed in order to maintain a proper oil level to prevent further damage. If you notice it is burning this much oil, you will need to get your engine replaced or rebuilt soon.
Common Causes Of Why The Oil Pressure Warning Light Is On
When analyzing the reasons that the oil pressure warning light may come on in your vehicle, there are usually a few main reasons that are the most common among car owners. Fortunately, with these reasons already discovered, it might save you time to just check these four parts and solutions in order to cut down on some time troubleshooting your low oil situation.
- Faulty Oil Pump
The oil is pressurized in the engine by the oil pump, and then it is pushed through the engine. After this process occurs, the oil lubricates the inner workings of the engine so that they can move without restrictions. If something damages the oil pump, then the oil pressure would decrease and it would cause the low oil pressure warning light to go off in your vehicle. The weak oil pressure causes the oil to not be able to move through the engine and lubricate the parts. This will result in friction between the engine’s components, resulting in high temperatures inside the engine, causing an expensive repair or engine replacement.
- Clogged Oil Filter
The engine highly depends on the oil filter to protect against abrasions and wear-and-tear. The duty of the oil filter is to filter out particles in the oil and prevent them from getting into the engine where they could cause damage. These contaminants are typically metal, carbon, and dirt. If these particles would get into the engine, it would damage the cylinder walls and bearings.
The more that these particles and contaminants get filtered in the oil, the better your engine will run and the lifespan will be longer. However, oil filters in cars tend to get clogged after a long time of use, especially if they are not checked and replaced during the routine oil change. These contaminants after doing damage could cause the engine to set off the low oil pressure light in your vehicle.
- Clogged Oil Passages In The Engine
The oil pan is what stores and holds your oil in the car. The oil capacity for most engines is usually around 4-6 quarts. The job of the oil pump is to pressurize the oil, circulate the oil, and then send the oil to the filter so that the aforementioned contaminants can be filtered out and prevent damage to the engine.
The clean oil that passes through will then go through the oil filter and enter passageways until it finally reaches the crankshaft. Due to the passages in the crankshaft, the oil can circulate through the surfaces of the engine freely. However, if the passages are obstructed or blocked, oil cannot flow freely through the passageways, which results in the low oil pressure warning light coming on in your dashboard. If this problem does not get fixed, your engine can be severely damaged in the process.
- Low Engine Oil
A common reason that your low oil pressure light might come on is low engine oil levels in your car. Oil is in charge of lubricating the engine of your car so that the parts move freely and are not obstructed. After long-term use, the oil level might start to decrease due to a small leak. If your vehicle is older, the chance of an oil leak is higher, and can sometimes cause multiple leaks. If your car isn’t leaking oil, the low engine oil could be due to the oil getting burned away by the engine’s normal functioning, since it generates a high amount of heat. After the oil level goes down, you will see the low oil pressure warning light turn on. This should prompt you to check your engine oil level immediately to prevent further damage to your engine and spur the low oil pressure light from turning on again.
What If I Don’t Want To Go Through The Hassle Of Diagnosing And Fixing My Car?
If you don’t want to go through the tedious process of noticing the warning signs, diagnosing your vehicle, and paying for a fix for the low oil pressure light, you can bring your vehicle into CashCarsBuyer to receive a fair quote from a reputable company that has your best interest in heart. Earn some money by selling your car and put that towards a brand new vehicle!