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Oil pressure sensor – An Important Part of the Fuel System

Oil pressure sensor

Maintaining the proper engine oil pressure by making sure the oil pressure sensor is working correctly can be a clear way to keep your engine running correctly. Rapidly moving metal surfaces produce an abundance of heat in the engine and friction, requiring constant lubrication to prevent damage to other parts and the engine as a whole, potentially causing a replacement. 

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The oil pressure sensor has to function as the role of monitoring the internal pressure and sending the signal to the oil pressure gauge, alerting you if there is a problem with the oil pressure in your vehicle. This warning sign on the dashboard can give the driver some time to pull over and fix the problem before costly repairs become apparent.


The internal combustion engine is in charge of relying on oil to function correctly. Pressurized engine oil is used to create a layer between two moving parts to lubricate the mechanism. This layer of protection keeps the moving parts from coming into contact with each other. Without this layer and lubrication between parts, excess friction and heat can cause the engine overheating and engine damage. 


In simple terms, oil is meant to provide protection as a lubricant and to aid in the engine temperature and engine cooling. To provide this pressurized engine oil, the engine has an oil pump that is used to pick up on the oil stored in the oil pan, building up pressure, and delivering the oil to various locations inside the engine. 


The ability of the oil to do these engine functions diminishes for various reasons. As the engine gets hotter, it is running at full throttle, and when the engine cools down, the engine shuts off. This heat cycle causes the oil to lose the ability to lubricate and cool the engine to prevent friction and overheating. 


Once the oil breaks down in the engine, it creates small particles that can clog the oil tubes and cause engine deterioration. This is why the oil filter has to pull the particles out of the oil and why there are specific intervals for changing oil, leading to a possible decline in the oil pressure sensor performance. 

How to test an oil pressure sensor


As we know, the oil pressure sensor is a key part of your fuel system. The oil pressure sensor is a unit that is in charge of telling a vehicle’s computer, the engine control unit, the amount of the oil pressure. It controls the gauge on a vehicle which then lights up as a warning indicator on the dashboard of your vehicle. 


The gauge on the vehicle signals the car’s engine is receiving not enough oil pressure or that the sending unit is faulty or damaged over time. The low oil pressure could mean that there is not enough oil present and can be fixed by adding more oil. It might also show that the engine is burning oil or that there is an oil leak in the system. If the oil pressure sensor is faulty, this can be tested by using these steps.


The first step is to insert the key into the ignition and turn the key to the accessory setting. Make sure the engine is not on and has cooled off after use. After this, look at the oil gauge on the dashboard. Unplug the wire that is directly connected to the sending unit if the gauge is at zero. If the gauge increases from there, it shows that the sender is faulty and needs to be replaced. 


Next, hold the end of the unplugged wire from the sending unit and tough it to the negative part of the battery to another piece of metal in the car. If it shows zero on the oil gauge reading, it is a good sender and is not faulty. This can show you if the oil pressure sensor is working correctly or not. 

Diagnosing an oil pressure sensor light


There are a few different situations that can occur when you need to diagnose the oil pressure sensor light. The first situation is that there is an on and off oil pressure sensor light


If you have an oil pressure sensor light that keeps coming on even if you just have filled up your oil to the right level, then there is a high chance that the oil pressure sensor could be the main issue. If you also find that the light continues turning on and off while you are driving your car, it is most likely due to a faulty oil pressure sensor. Make sure to always check your oil when the light comes on again, since this can be a key indicator it is time for an oil pressure sensor replacement. 


The second scenario is that the oil pressure sensor light turns on when the engine is idle. When the engine is idling, it is normal that the oil pressure will be too low, causing the oil pressure sensor to have a low reading. This means that the oil pressure sensor light should not be on, but if it does, there is something wrong with this sensor.


The last scenario when you are diagnosing the oil pressure sensor light is when the oil pressure sensor is on with the ticking noise. If your oil pressure sensor light comes on and is also happening with a loud ticking noise coming from underneath the hood, it would be best to stop your car as soon as you can to avoid any further damage. 


This might not mean there is a bad oil pressure sensor, but it can mean that your sensor might be telling you that you are running too low on oil to run correctly. Even if you just filled up your oil recently, a low oil level can mean that there is a clear leak in the oil line and causing the oil levels to drop. 

Failing oil pressure sensor warning signs

Warning light


If the low oil pressure sensor warning light turns on in your vehicle, you need to pay close attention to it to figure out how to fix the issue and where it is coming from. Whenever this warning light comes on, you need to figure out the real cause of this issue, even when you already know the oil pressure sensor is at fault.


If the oil dipstick shows that the oil level is correct and sufficient to keep your car running, and the engine sounds like it is running normally and smoothly without any rough idling, then the light might just be a result of a bad sensor. If you find that the oil level is normal, but you hear loud grinding or ticking noises from the engine, this could mean that your oil pump is not working, and you should not start the engine until it is fixed and seen by a mechanic. 


If the oil pressure level is low, this could mean that a lack of oil pressure is occurring from a leak of an oil hose or an oil pressure gasket, or possibly that the oil is being burned in the combustion chamber, that you do not have enough oil to run the car. In this case, you will need to stop driving the car until you fix the issue with the oil pressure sensor. 

The oil light


If you have an issue with the oil pressure in your car and the oil pressure sensor, then chances are it is not intermittent but it is consistent. This is not a condition that changes back and forth, but needs to be changed as soon as possible to keep it from getting worse. The blinking oil light is probably the most noticeable and surest sign that the sensor is on the way out and succumbing to extreme wear and tear.


You might know that some older cars might not have a dedicated oil pressure light, and the problem might come back as the check engine light comes back after use. However, not all check engine lights have something to do with pressure, so you need to get this oil pressure sensor checked out. 

The oil pressure gauge 


If you get an oil pressure gauge reading of very high, this can show there is a faulty oil pressure sensor. It could be an internal short in the sensor that gives a consistent high reading, or the signal pathway might be completely damaged. If the wiring harness is faulty or damaged, you have a corroded plug, or there is an unplugged connection, this can be the reason for a damaged oil pressure sensor or oil pressure gauge.


In addition, you need to rule out low oil pressure by checking the dipstick level and listening to the functioning of your engine. Too much oil can cause a low pressure situation which can cause further damage to your car and lead to more extensive and expensive repairs in the future. 


A broken oil pressure sensor can be annoying, but also dangerous. If you have to pull over to check that the oil pressure sensor and gauge are working correctly, this can lead to future problems and cause you to spend a lot longer of a time getting to your destination. You can also assume it is a bad oil pressure sensor when you hear excessive noises. 


If the oil pressure gauge is at zero even when the oil levels are where they have to be in your specific car, then the oil pressure sensor is usually to blame and is faulty in some sense. Modern cars on the market have an oil pressure gauge and use an electronic signal – but if this oil pressure sensor is not working, the gauge may sit at zero, full, or have erratic readings. 

How to replace an oil pressure sensor


If you notice there are issues with the oil pressure sensor, then you might need to look at the steps to the oil pressure sensor replacement. The oil pressure sensor and the oil pressure gauge and light can be used to alert the driver of the health of the oiling system. Once the oil breaks down, it is possible for the oil pressure to drop. The pressure drop of the oil is noticed by the oil pressure sensor and told to the gauge on the instrument cluster. We will go over the steps to replace an oil pressure sensor. 


The materials you will need to begin the replacement of an oil pressure sensor is a screwdriver set, shop towels and rags, thread sealant, and a wrench set. The first step is to locate the oil pressure sensor that is most often mounted in the engine block or cylinder heads. The sensor can be mounted in any number of locations, but if you can’t find it, you will need to consult a repair manual. 


The next step is to unplug the oil pressure sensor electrical connector. Release the retaining tab on the electrical connector and pull the connector out of the oil pressure sensor. Since the oil pressure sensor is so exposed to the elements, debris can build up over time and you might need to push in and pull out the plug a few times. 


After this, the third step is to remove the oil pressure sensor. With the wrench or socket, you need to loosen the oil pressure sensor and unscrew the rest of it by hand. Then, compare the replacement oil pressure sensor to the one you have removed. Make sure that you are cautious since the oil pressure switch is mounted into a location that has pressurized oil. 


Once these steps are finished, you need to install the replacement oil pressure sensor by threading the replacement into place until you can no longer turn it by hand. Finish tightening it with the wrench or socket, and then reinstall the electrical connector. The last step is to check for proper operation by starting the engine and check to see if there is oil pressure on the gauge. 


If you do not do these steps, it can lead to a complete engine failure that requires an engine replacement. 

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