Low Oil Pressure: Symptoms, Causes and Fix

Oil is the substance keeping your engine alive. However, when Oil is in short supply, then your engine is on the brink of damage and ruin. Low oil pressure begins the 'doomsday' journey for your engine, your engine begins to overheat and in the long run, your engine goes bad.

Apart from protecting and prolonging the lifespan of your motor engine, the motor oil is responsible for lubricating all the various compartments of your engine and allows for optimum performance.

 One of the ways to ensure that your engine is safe and protected from damage is to make sure that your motor oil pressure is adequate at all times.

Low oil pressure

What Is Considered Low Oil Pressure?

Low oil pressure is a beaming light indication that the oil pressure is insufficient, or that the oil level has become too low. When this occurs, oil is prevented access through the narrow passages to provide adequate lubrication. 

Inadequate lubrication could cause your vehicle’s engine to cease to function or even be damaged beyond repairs. This is because components like the camshaft bearings, pistons, crankshaft and other moving parts need to be lubricated properly in order to function effectively. 

To achieve the standard required pressure, the oil pump will have to push the oil via thin clearances under galleries and bearings. The pressure in the system is built by these tiny passages simply due to the fact they limit oil flow rate. This standard pressure is what keeps your engine running at optimum performance.

Thus, when the engine's lubrication system is not able to maintain adequate oil flow, or should the pressure drop at a time it shouldn't, the components in the engine are going to be short – supplied of much-required oil.

It's also essential to note that too much pressure could potentially damage the components of the engine. When the pressure reaches its maximum value, what happens is that a relief valve very close to the oil pump opens up. Maximum pressure is usually between 45 and 75 PSI (Pound per Square Inch). At this level, extra oil will be drained back into the oil pan.

Symptoms of Low Oil Pressure

Because adequate oil pressure is essential to the overall performance of your engine. Car engines are typically built with some kind of self-defense mechanism, which helps the engine give their owners some warning signs before eventually 'knocking off'.

Here are some of the symptoms of low oil pressure:

  1.  Overheating
  2. General engine performance drop
  3. Frequent Burning oil smells
  4. Beaming oil alert warning light
  5. Abnormal clunking noise

What Causes Low Oil Pressure

Let’s examine 5 common causes of low oil pressure

Although the absence of sufficient oil is the common reason for low oil pressure, however, other preventable factors can cause low oil pressure in engines;

1. The Oil Pressure Gauge is Faulty

Every vehicle comes with an automatic low oil alert gauge. If this gauge develops any form of fault, you will not be able to tell when the oil level is low. To fix this, visit an auto mechanic to check and correct your oil pressure reading.

2. High level of oil viscosity

Viscosity means (oil thickness). When the oil you purchase is too thick, it does not allow for easy flow, especially at certain times of the year. Temperatures impact the thickness and flow of the oil. If you are using a mono-grade oil it is pertinent to choose the grade depending on the temperatures outside. That means that if you are using high viscosity oil during the summer, it will be better for you to switch to a lower viscosity during winter (and vice versa). This will help to avoid using an oil that is too thick to flow easily. If you are however making use of a multi-grade oil, your oil will be suitable for all seasons and does not require a change depending on the temperatures.

3. Low Oil Level

This is a common cause of low oil pressure issues. Oftentimes, vehicle owners get in the habit of forgetting to check for their oil level, which eventually leads to engine damage. To fix this always set a reminder before making use of your vehicle.

4. Oil Filter Is Faulty

The moment your oil filter gets clogged, low oil pressure sets in, hence, the oil filter plays a vital role in maintaining your engine's oil pressure. If the valve responsible for pressure relief is damaged, it will result in the uncontrolled flow of oil and eventually lead to low pressure.

5. When the engine wears out

The oil typically flows through your vehicle's cam bearings and crankshaft bearings. These are major passages oil passes through to reach your engine. Once these passages become too wide, it will cause an uncontrolled passage of oil and will cause low pressure.

Low Oil Pressure Fix

Here are some few things required from you, to avoid Low oil pressure risk

  • You must take oil level inspection very seriously, you do this by constantly checking the oil level and also don’t forget to check your engine and the garage floor for any leakage.
  • Make sure to pay attention and note if the exhaust is emitting blue smoke. This is most especially important for vehicles that have high mileage.
  • Changing an engine’s oil filter should be done at the right time. High-quality lubricants which have the required viscosity level, should be the recommended choice for usage. For example, engine lubricants rated by the API (American Petroleum Institute) are an excellent choice.
  • Avoid the use of your vehicle if there is an issue with your pressure sensor. In a scenario like this, the smartest move would be to take your vehicle to an auto mechanic for a proper diagnostic rundown of your engine.
Low oil pressure fix

The Role Of Oil Pressure, How Essential is it?

An engine's lubrication system is constructed from the oil filter, pump, equipment, and lubrication sheets. The machine pressure is generated by the resistance the oil has to overcome in the lines to reach the lubricated sections. Pump purpose is to push lubricant through the system. It provides sufficient pressure and runs so the lubricant can enter to the farthest part.

If you perceive the low oil pressure, it implies that your engine must have something wrong. It also implies your engine may require lubricant. A lubricant-hungry engine can provoke metal parts to touch other metal parts and cause harm to the machine. Depending on how serious the situation is, an engine may stop working for a few minutes, or even a few hours. The fixing fee might be quite costly because most of the components need to be replaced.

How To Check For Oil Pressure

To check for oil pressure you may use a tester for oil gauge, to inspect the lubrication system of your vehicle. However, you should note that proper lubrication system depends on the following;

  • Clean galleries
  • Certain components of the system that are within the required specificatio
  • The excellent working condition of the oil pump
  • Proper clearance between journals and bearings

You will receive real-time authentic feedback about the working condition of your vehicle's oil pump and the lubrication system in general from the gauge.

However, if you do not have the recommended oil pressure gauge, you can go to your local auto parts store and ask them to lend you one.

Using the oil gauge tester:

  1. 1
    First, you will have to find the oil sending switch or unit. The switch is typically located next to the oil filter. If you are not sure, please consult the repair manual for your vehicle.
  2. 2
    Then you can unplug the sending switch’s electrical conductor. After that, you should use a wrench to remove the sending switch.
  3. 3
    Next step is to link the correct fitting to the gauge’s hose to connect the gauge in place of the sending switch. As you wish, you can attach the test gauge in one of the cooler lines of the oil, but only do this if your engine makes use of only one (the cooler lines are typically found in diesel, turbocharged, or vehicles designed for high performance). Again, if you aren’t sure, please consult the repair manual for your vehicle.
  4. 4
    The next step is to ignite your engine and allow it to go idle for at least 15 – 20 minutes. The reason is so it would reach operating temperature.
  5. 5
    Increase and charge the speed of your engine to about 1,000 RPM(Revolutions Per Minute) then check the pressure of your engine oil
  6. 6
    Again, go a bit further to about 2,500RPM (Revolutions per Minute) and observe the pressure of the engine oil.
  7. 7
    Now, you’d have to do a reading comparison to the listed specification on the manual for your vehicle repair.
  • If the system oil pressure is relatively lower than what is listed on your vehicle repair manual, then you have to find out what caused it.
  • However, if the oil pressure stays within the required specification, and your vehicle engine operates without rattling noises or knocking, just know that the engine has got a fine oil level and is in sound condition.
  • If you notice that there are some overheating issues, then it’s probably because there is a problem with the electrical circuit, engine oil pressure sensor, light indicator or oil pressure gauge

It is important to note that some specific test procedures often differ from the one that is outlined here, so it’s always a smart move to do one of two things; consult your vehicle repair manual or visit an auto mechanic near you.

In conclusion, it's always a smart move to have an auto mechanic regularly perform oil pressure reading on your vehicle. By employing this practice, you save your engine from possible colossal damage and you get to save yourself unnecessary cost.

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