Car Low Oil Pressure

Low Oil Pressure Symptoms, Causes & How to check the oil pressure

In Engine Oil by 43 Comments

Low oil pressure is terrible for any car engine, and if the oil pressure gets too low, it can damage your engine with permanent damage within seconds.

But what could cause a low oil pressure and how do you fix it?

A lot of questions are flowing through your head if you think your car has low oil pressure. In this article, we will go through low oil pressure symptoms, the most common causes, and how you can measure the oil pressure.

4 Low Oil Pressure Symptoms

There are a few things that can happen if your car have low oil pressure.

The most common symptoms of low oil pressure are an oil pressure light on the dashboard, bad noises from the engine, and a check engine light.

Here is a more detailed list of the 4 most common symptoms of low oil pressure.

1. Oil pressure light on dashboard

Low Oil Pressure Light

The first thing you will notice if your car has low oil pressure is the warning light on your dashboard.

The oil pressure sensor is live-monitoring the oil pressure all the time when the engine is running. If the oil pressure gets too low or too high, it will light up the oil pressure light.

Remember that a faulty oil pressure sensor can give false signals to the dashboard.

2. Bad Noises from engine

Car Engine Noise

The other widespread symptoms of low oil pressure are rattling and other strange noises from the engine. The oil pressure prevents engine parts in the engine from rubbing metal against metal, and if the oil pressure is low, they will start rubbing against each other.

Related:  6 Causes why Engine Oil Smells Like Gas

This can create a horrible sound, and if you hear this, you should turn off your engine immediately.

3. Check engine light

Check Engine Light

The oil pressure does also control tensioners like the timing belt or timing chain tensioner. It can also control different pumps like the fuel pump if you have a diesel engine.

For example, if the oil pressure is low and the chain tensioner won’t tension the timing chain – the camshaft timing will be off, and the check engine light will turn on.

4. Seized Engine

White Smoke Engine

This is the last and the worst symptom which you never want to happen. If you drove your car with rattling noises and an oil pressure light on your dashboard until it stopped working – your engine is probably seized.

A car engine that got seized after too low oil pressure is often not possible to repair. It is often cheaper to replace the whole engine, unfortunately.

4 Low oil pressure Causes

There are several causes of low oil pressure at idle and other RPMs.

The most common causes of low oil pressure are low oil level, faulty oil pump, or damaged crankshaft bearings.

Here is a more detailed list of the most common causes of low oil pressure.

1. Low oil level

Oil Level Low Light

If you have low oil pressure at idle, make sure that your engine’s oil level is correct. Check your dipstick and make sure it’s not under the MIN mark.

Modern cars do often have an oil level sensor. If you see a yellow oil can light on your dashboard, it means that your oil pressure is light.

This can also be recognized if the oil pressure light appears while you are turning your car. This means the oil is pressed to the engine’s side, and if the oil level is low – the oil pump will suck air instead.

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If you have a low oil level, the oil pump can suck up air from the sump and make a low and fluctuating oil pressure.

If you do not know how to check your engine’s oil, check your repair manual or leave a comment below.

2. Wrong type of engine oil for your engine

Engine Oil Type

The oil you use in your engine could cause a low oil pressure for your engine, especially at idle. If you are using 0w-20 oil in an engine that requires 5w-50 oil, you could get a low oil pressure when the engine is hot.

Some engines have a bigger bearing play and require a thicker oil to get the correct oil pressure at idle.

If you have low oil pressure and suspect that you have the wrong oil in your car, check your repair manual of what oil you should have and make an oil and oil filter change.

3. Dirty pickup to the oil pump

Vw Oil Pressure Hiccup

If your oil level is correct, and you are sure that the oil type is correct, the most common cause of low oil pressure is too much dirt in the pickup to the oil pump.

Normally the oil pump takes the oil from the bottom of the oil pan from a pipe. Before that pipe, there is often a net that will prevent any big metal pieces from going through the oil pump.

That filter/net could catch a lot of dirt and may have to be cleaned. To check this, you have to remove the oil pan from your vehicle and inspect the oil pickup.

4. Damaged oil pump

Oil Pressure Inside

If the oil pickup filter looks fine, there could be some damage to your oil pump. To diagnose whether your oil pump is damaged is not very easy, and it’s often pretty hard to replace the oil pump. If you are lucky, the oil pump is fitted inside the oil pan with a chain to the crankshaft, and then it is much easier to replace.

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If you are not familiar with cars, you should let a mechanic diagnose the issue to see if it’s a faulty oil pump. Ask your authorized dealer or check your repair manual to find where the oil pump is located and how hard it is to replace it.

5. An internal oil leak or damaged bearings

Bad Rod Bearing

In rare cases, there could be an internal oil leak inside your engine. It will make your oil pressure low, and it could leak from a crack or a bad internal gasket.

Another problem could be that your crankshaft bearings are already gone, but usually, you will hear a nasty noise from the engine if the bearings are gone. These problems are not very easy to diagnose yourself if you are not a skilled mechanic.

How to check the oil pressure?

Oil Pressure Tester

The best way to check your car’s oil pressure is to install a manual oil pressure gauge temporarily.

One product I recommend from Amazon is this one:

8MILELAKE Engine Cylinder Oil Pressure...
  • Tests oil pump pressure and also low oil...
  • Fitted with quick coupling adaptors and...
  • Includes 90 degree coupling adaptor for...
  • Gauge fitted with heavy-duty cover.

The easiest way to connect your manual oil pressure gauge is often to remove the oil pressure switch and get or make your own adapter to the oil pressure gauge to fit in the hole for the oil pressure switch.

Check the repair manual for your car to see which oil pressures you can expect on your car model at the given RPM.

If you have checked your pressure with a mechanical gauge and confirmed that the oil pressure is low, follow the causes guide above one more time and then consult a mechanic if you can’t solve the problem.

43 thoughts on “ Low Oil Pressure Symptoms, Causes & How to check the oil pressure ”

Comments
  1. I have a 1.3 Toyota tazz, I’ve done an engine overhaul and all parts have been fitted correctly. My problem is that the oil pressure is too low at idle and I don’t understand what went wrong. New oil pump, pressure valve, oil filter and new oil,oil pickup is cleared and clean…. If engine is reved, oilite goes off but then when idled comes back on and there’s noise on engine. Plz help..

    1. Author

      @Patric Check the crankshaft rod and main bearings if you haven’t. If one is damaged, the pressure can pour out and it will result in a low oil pressure.
      Make sure you have the right engine oil and check the pressure with a mechanical pressure meter also.

      1. My dealer just replaced my oil pan because of a leak and now the pressure drops to 0 when idling, I plan on taking it back tomorrow but I’m curious why? What did they possibly do wrong?

      2. Hi, I drive a Golf MK5, I get the low oil pressure light coming on randomly, we have tested the oil pump and the pressure is within the VW spec range, the sensor have been tested and the correct voltage is displayed, we have also changed the oil and is using 5w40. Can some one assist

  2. My trail blazer gauges keep saying low pressures and it swinging back and forward could it my oil is low in my trail blazer

  3. M54B22 engine and red light message. 15-20min after start. New pump and accesories install 6month ago. Someone can solve the problem?

    1. Author

      @Zoltan Sounds that you always have a bit of low oil pressure, and when the oil gets hot enough, the oil pressure will reduce even more and light up the oil pressure light. However, you should look into the oil pickup in the oil pan for any dirt. Check for any signs of metal pieces in the oil from rod bearings.
      It can also help to replace the oil and filter if you haven’t done so for a very long time.

      It could also be a wiring problem to the oil pressure sensor or a broken sensor, which means that the pressure is okay in reality. You can check it with a manual oil pressure gauge to make sure that the oil pressure is okay when the light is ON.

      1. Hot idle pressure 0.7bar. 3000rpm 4-4.3 bar. Oil castrol 5w30. Oil pressure sensor and cable bad.

        1. I have a 2008 Honda accord it throws the oil up all over it’s all over in the hood alternator everywhere

          1. Have 2013 Cruze put in shop for low oil pressure light, tech change oil sensor, then said scan said ecm had bad internal ground, replaced ecm, brought car home, next day low pressure light back on?

  4. 2004 Chevy suburban loud knocking noise in idle and all of a sudden today it started beeping warning for oil pressure we added some oil and it did it again stopped put more oil and asap did it again? Any ideas

    1. Author

      Sometimes the oil needs to get warm and it takes up to an hour before it has filled up the oil level sensor pipe. It could also be caused by a bad oil level sensor/wirings. Make sure that the oil level is correct and drive until the car gets hot and then leave it on a flat surface for 10 minutes and let it stand for 2 minutes with the ignition on, and check if the problem is gone!

    2. I have a 2012
      Peugeot bipper 1.3l diesel
      My oil level is correct and pressure switch changed but the oil canister light on the dash is still flashing
      The van is running ok and have plenty of power while driving
      What else could be causing this light to keep flashing

      1. Hi Alan

        Did you get to the bottom of your light problem? I have exactly the same!

        Cheers

        Roy

  5. I have fiat1.8 engine.Oil presure at cold engine at idle is
    4,9 bar and when revs up go to 7,0 bar that,so ok .But needle on mehanical tester fluctuating 0,5 bar up und down,the same is when engine got hot,oil presure drop to 2,8 bar at idle and fluctuating between 2,4 -2.8 bar.
    I finde the my crank oil seal at the end of crankshaft liking,is the any relative to bouncing needle? Have new oil,new filter,clean the oil pickup screen.

    1. Author

      The crank oil seal is most likely not causing your problem. Fluctuating oil pressure is often caused by a faulty Pressure relief valve/Oil pressure pump.

  6. When I turn on the ignition, the oil pressure light shows , and stays for 2secs when the car is started and goes off. My car does move as fast as it ought to move. Could that be the reason ?

    1. Author

      The oil pressure light should light up with the ignition on and does normally goes off after 1-2 seconds after the engine is started. So this sounds fully normal. The problem is most likely somewhere else, read the trouble codes with an OBD2 scanner and check for any problems.

  7. Got a oil leak coming from somewhere on my 1.8 Nissan primera 2004 p12 and oil pressure gauge idle when engine on

    1. Author

      How much does it leak? Check around the oil filter and the oil pressure sensor. However you should have a major oil leak if it should cause low oil pressure.

  8. hi, i own a wh 3.0 jeep when i’m parked at a set of lights the car will stall when i go to move off. the oil light comes on . have done complete oil change and its still happening . jeep could not explain why but said it could be the oil sender unit .or the egr valve .oil pump. i’m on a pension and cant afford to pay them hundreds of dollars just to find the problem. hope you can help me out. cheers Darryl.Roberts

  9. HI!
    First of all: thank you for the info source you offer.
    I am located in France.
    My car is a1967 Chevy Impala,with 396 engine.

    recently i performed a valve job,and replaced the timing set on the engine. After reassembly,i started it on: everything was ok. I waited for the water to reach operating temp to check for any head gasket issues: all good.
    The car was started a few times after that and every thing was ok. then the oil pressure idiot light flickered at iddle and i checked my added on gage: pressure was low. i gave some gas,it did not make the pressure rise.
    So i shut it off,and started it again.Oil pressure was building up on start up then falled down after a few secs. I installed a machanical gage on the engine to be sure about the reading: same thing happened ,pressure builds up high on cranking,then falls down after a few secs of engine running…
    the oil level is ok,oil is 20w50,oil filter is new(i replaced it twice during the tests). i dropped the pan: there was a bit of sludge on the oil pump filter.i tried the pump with a cordless drill: it sucks a lot! i took thenumber cylinder rod bearing out: looks like new… i am puzzled. Any ideas,before i take the engine out for disassembling?(i’d like not to have to do it..)

  10. I changed my oil pump in my 2001 chevy silverado and now I have no oil pressure and the rest of the motor ant getting any oil eather all the lifters are making noise now I cant figure it out .. Can you please help me??

  11. Developed low oil pressure on the way. Oil is on full level. At idle there is a clunking sound from the area near the belts at the base near the crankcase. When I rev, noise disappears but pressure remains low and when I release accelerator, a loud resistance sound is heard till vehicle returns back to idling. Engine got rebuilt last month with new oil pump, new conrod and main bearings as well as new crankshaft and has only moved 600 km since then. Vehicle is a Toyota Gaia 3s engine 1998 model.

  12. Charlie lebyane
    I’m driving an audi A3 it’s just been overalled but sometimes it usually keeps a red light of oil low pressure but when I check a dipstick oil it’s on correct level. pls help

  13. i have golf 5gt m experiencing ths presure low of oil wat coud be the cause i tryd to replace d pump stil no solution

  14. Re. Marine 4 cylnder basic diesel engine
    Just changed big end shells, piston rings head gasket and valves
    Engine runs nice
    Cleaned oil pick up and and new filter.

    Changed oil p switch but still alarm going

    Have used cheap oil ready for flush out but 1 added a thickner

  15. Good day, I’m driving toyota tazz 1.3 problems is when the engine hot. Oil light reflecting on dashboard like is the oil low pressure actually when the car not moving or low speed…. but I already have new oil pump and cleaned oil pick up changes the oil and every things… please help what can I do please

  16. Your Comment please help im driving toyota runnex one day i hear some noise in the engine then the oil light shows up in the dashboard. i tried to replace the oil pump with new crank shaft and bearing bt still the oil light shows up.

  17. I use an L200, the oil pressure goes pressure normal when I starts my van but goes low after a minute with the oil light on and a clucking sound from the engine. I have changed oil, oil filter, oil pump, top gasket, flush the oil line. Please when next can I do?

  18. I’ve changed oil pump and everything light still comes on when oil temp gets to 92

  19. 2016 Cadillac Escalade ESV AWD Platinum
    I have an oil lick at engine oil level sensor
    I replace the seal at the sensor
    Still have the oil lick and I have a message
    Service oil level low add oil
    Also I see the oil pressure dropped in idle hot engine at 18psi
    I replace the oil sensor pressure
    Still show me 18psi
    When I drive the car it go to 40+ psi
    What can I do to fix this
    Thank you

  20. I have a 2013 suburban afm engine. I recently installed a high volume oil pump but has very low oul pressure and has a bad lifter noise. It already had lifter noise but it got worse. I dont know if it could be the rear main seal because it is not leaking, but my question is can the rear main seal leak internally? Also what else can be causeing this?

  21. Hi my vw Caravelle blew a gasket mechanic replaced it without ckeaning my engine now my oil light and buzzer going on at times when driving

  22. I have vw touran 1.6 diesel, and my car has been given me low oil pressure from 2.5 years, when it started this issue i changed the oil pump but problem is still going on i changed the oil pressure sensor few times problem is still here, what you recommend me? i have 238000 miles on it.

  23. I drive a 2006 Audi A3 2.0 TDI DSG. Can’t get to start the car. At first, when I tried starting it. It showed me the oil pressure indication on my cluster & couldn’t get it started. No other signal was given or showed before this happened. It only showed me the oil pressure signal ones or twice the next day when trying to start it, & now it just don’t want to start….

  24. I had a shop do a engine build on my 2009 jeep overland 5.7 hemi with a cam. what can cause low oil pressure?

  25. For KIA RIO 2006
    * Can a faulty oil pump sensor cause engine knock or destroyed
    * How can I test the effective or faulty oil pump in my car

  26. Good day

    I have a problem with my Opel Astra Ecotec 1.6 16valve 2002
    After replacing big end bearings, new rings, skimmed head cylinder, new head gasket, new valves and valve stem seals, new oil pump: The oil still gets into the intake manifold and oil pressure drops when hot. I’ve now, instead of using SAE40 I’m now using 20w50. this cause the oil pressure to be good for a longer period…

    At this stage drive with the heater fully open and the fan on highest speed to keep the water temperature at lowest. It helps but wifey is not happy with me.

    Any advice is welcome.
    Problem started exactly after we dismantled the intake manifold and reassembled it.

    Many Thanks

  27. I recently purchased 2020 grand Cherokee and have had it for 8 weeks. While getting my winter tires out on the mechanic did a. Oil change to save me a trip back soon for my first oil change. When putting the cap back on the oil he lost the O-ring inside. I drove the car for about 100 km before I got and engine light and low oil pressure error. I pulled over about 5 mins after the engine light came on (as soon as I could).
    There was oil all over the inside of my hood. Pooping on the bottom on joints. My dip stick was bone dry / crystal clear.

    I had it towed to the dealership. Where they discovered the o-ring was missing and fished it out.

    They’re are now trying to tell me there was no risk to my engine despite loosing 4-4.5L of oil put the 6L I should have had.

    I do not feel confident that I won’t have issues down the line on my brand new car after a mechanic made this mistake. To top it all off the mechanic says “we do 30 of these a day and some times were fast and take short cuts. But we do loose about 1 o ring a week because we do so many”

    I feel I have the right to be concerned that my engine was put at risk and potentially now is not a reliable new engine.

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