Don’t Panic! Simple tips on how to fix low engine oil pressure

How to fix low engine oil pressure: A man looking under the hood. A business man having a bad day checks under the hood of his car to figure out what the problem is.
How to fix low engine oil pressure: A man looking under the hood. A businessman having a bad day checks under the hood of his car to figure out what the problem-  is. Image via freePik

In its simplest terms, Low engine oil pressure occurs when the oil pressure in your car’s engine is lower than it should be.

 This may occur if the oil level is too low, the oil pump is malfunctioning, or there is a leak in the system. 

The engine doesn’t receive the proper lubrication when the oil pressure is too low, and over time, this can result in serious engine damage.

Signs of low oil pressure

  • Oil Light

If your dashboard’s oil pressure warning light illuminates, it’s obvious that something is wrong. Don’t disregard it! 

Your engine may suffer serious damage from low oil pressure, and continuing to drive could be fatal.

  • Engine Noise

Low oil pressure may be the cause of unusual engine noises. 

It’s crucial to stop driving as soon as you hear any clicking, ticking, or clacking sounds and have your car serviced right away. 

Your engine may suffer irreparable damage if you ignore these noises.

  • Burning Oil Odor 

A leak in your engine may result in a drop in oil pressure, which may lead to oil burning on hot surfaces like the exhaust system. 

It’s crucial to have your car inspected by a professional if you smell burning oil.

  • Low oil pressure can also contribute to an engine overheating problem.

 Your engine will become overheated if there isn’t enough oil because oil helps regulate heat within the engine. 

It’s critical to stop driving and have your car serviced as soon as possible if your engine is overheating.

What’s the main cause of low oil pressure?

  • Not Enough Oil in the Engine

Evaporation, piston ring burning, and seal or oil plug leaks can waste oil even after an oil change

Checking and topping off the oil may help as the engine ages. 

Leaks outside the engine or oil on the floor should be fixed immediately.

Old engines burn more oil. An overhaul is needed when the engine uses a quart of oil every 1,000–2,000 miles. 

Even a young engine may have low oil levels if the oil change interval is extended. Thus, change the oil regularly and check the level.

Low Oil Pressure Light.

  • Too High or Low Viscosity

When oil viscosity is too low or high, engine oil pressure drops. Low viscosity reduces system resistance, which lowers pressure.

High viscosity may cause oil pumping resistance, which reduces system lubrication and pressure.

The original lubricant viscosity, operating temperatures, breakdown of viscosity index improver additives, and contaminants like glycol and soot affect engine oil viscosity. 

The engine or car manual should recommend viscosity grades based on equipment design and operating temperatures.

In cold weather, engine startup may be affected by higher viscosity. In extreme cold, you may need an oil heating system and the right lubricant viscosity.

Fuel dilution, lubricant viscosity selection, overloading, or cooling system failure can cause low viscosity.

  • Apparent Low Pressure

Diesel engines usually display real-time pressure in pounds per square inch or bars. 

Some lubricant manufacturers make lower-viscosity SAE-grade lubricants.

Lower viscosity improves lubrication system fluidity but lowers pressure gauge pressure. 

Normal pressure is fine. Some lubricants generate higher pressures.

  • Engine Degradation

If the oil level on the dipstick is between “add” and “full,” worn engine bearings may cause low pressure, especially if the engine has high mileage. 

Excessive wear reduces flow restriction, lowering pressure. If so, the engine may need rebuilding or replacement.

  • Oil Pressure Gauge Failure

If the oil pressure warning light is on but the oil level is correct and the engine is running normally with no unusual noises or high temperatures, the sensing unit may be defective.

Gauge the oil pressure. Replace the oil pressure sensor if the pressure is normal. 

After replacing the sensor, the warning light or low gauge reading may indicate a bad oil pump.

  • Pump  Wear 

The oil pump may be worn if the dipstick reads “add” or “full” but the engine is noisy. 

Leaks prevent worn pumps from producing enough pressure. Engine off until fixed. Replace the pump.

  • Plugged Filter

Pressure gauges follow filters in lubrication systems. 

Lubricant starvation may result from a clogged filter and a malfunctioning bypass valve.

Overextended oil often clogs filters. Water/soot contamination may also cause it. 

A cooling system leak causes water, while poor combustion causes soot.

Defective filters may cause bypass valve failure.

How do I increase engine oil pressure

  • Change Your Oil

 Dirty oil can cause low oil pressure, so it is essential to change it regularly. 

Using the wrong type of oil can also affect oil pressure. 

Changing the oil to the correct type can make a significant difference in oil pressure while driving.

  • Upgrade to a Lifetime Oil Filter

A clogged oil filter can reduce oil flow to the engine, causing low oil pressure. 

Using a lifetime oil filter can keep the oil clean and the oil flow optimal, leading to an increase in oil pressure.

  • Clean Out the Oil Pan

 Impurities such as sludge and metal shavings can accumulate in the oil pan, which can dirty fresh oil faster and cause a drop in oil pressure.

Cleaning out the oil pan can help prevent this issue.

  • Check the Oil Pump

 Oil pumps usually don’t cause problems until a vehicle reaches 100,000 miles, but if suspected, it’s essential to check for wear and metal shavings. 

The clearance between the pump lobes or gear teeth and the body of the pump should also be measured.

  • Check the Engine

A mechanical problem within the engine, such as worn engine bearings, can cause low oil pressure.

Oil analysis can help diagnose the problem by identifying what kind and how much of different metals are in the oil.

FAQs

Is it OK to drive with low oil pressure?

Driving with low oil pressure is not advisable.

Your engine may suffer severe damage from low oil pressure, necessitating expensive repairs or even engine failure.

Check the oil pressure and level as soon as possible, and if necessary, seek professional assistance, to address the problem.

Low oil pressure while driving increases the risk of further damage and accidents.

Will adding oil fix low oil pressure?

Adding oil to your engine could fix low oil pressure if the low pressure is caused by a low oil level.

But if the low pressure is caused by something else, like a clogged oil filter, a broken oil pump, or engine wear and tear, adding more oil will not fix the problem.

It is important to figure out why the oil pressure is low before trying to fix it.

Can a dirty oil filter cause low oil pressure?

Yes, a dirty oil filter can lead to low oil pressure.

The oil filter is a crucial part of keeping the right oil pressure in your engine.

When the filter gets clogged with dirt and debris, it can slow the flow of oil to the engine, causing the oil pressure to drop.

Changing the oil filter as often as your car’s manufacturer suggests is a key part of keeping the oil pressure in your engine at a good level.