oil pressure warning light

Low Oil Pressure Causes, Symptoms & Solutions

In Engine Oil by Josh S26 CommentsLast Updated: December 9th, 2018

low oil pressure

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

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

For how long time can my engine run with low pressure? Could a faulty oil spec cause low pressure on my engine when it’s hot?

A lot of questions are flowing in your head. In this article, the most common questions will be answered.

Low Oil Pressure Causes

There are several causes of low oil pressure at idle. Down below you will find a list of the most common causes.

ProblemSymptomsCausesSolutions
Low oil pressure at idleNoises from engine

Oil level/pressure light on dashboard

Limp mode

Damaged Engine
Low oil level

Wrong type of oil

Dirty Pickup at oil pump

Damaged Oil pump

Internal oil leak inside engine

Faulty oil pressure sensor

Faulty Instrument cluster
Fill up oil

Replace Engine Oil + Filter

Replace Oil pump

Repair internal oil leak

Replace oil pressure sensor

Replace Instrument cluster

1. Low oil level

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. 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 down below.

2. Wrong type of Oil for your engine

The oil you use in your engine could cause a low oil pressure for your engine. If you are using a 0w-20 oil SAE on an engine that requires 5w-50 oil you could get a low oil pressure when the engine is hot. Some engines do have a larger bearing play and require a thicker oil to get the correct oil pressure at idle.

If you have low oil pressure and you 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

If your oil level is correct and you are making 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 is taking 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 to go 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

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

If you are not familiar with cars you should let a mechanic diagnose 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

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 bearings are already gone, but usually, you will hear a 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?

The first thing you should check is to make sure that the oil pressure gauge is showing correctly. You may have a good oil pressure but the oil pressure sensor/gauge is giving you the wrong value. This should be checked with a mechanical pressure gauge to get the most accurate result.

An example of this is the 8milelake Oil Pressure Diagnostic Tester Tool Set. Always check the instructions on how to connect it to your vehicle.

If you have checked your pressure with a mechanical gauge and it’s confirmed that the oil pressure is low, there are several causes that have to be checked.

How To Check Oil Pressure -EricTheCarGuy

What could happen if my oil pressure is too low?

oil pressure bearing

A 4-stroke engine does normally have a very long lifetime, it is mostly because it uses a high pressure on the rotating parts. Instead of having a bearing that could fail after a while, the car engines are using oil pressure between the bearings.

For example, The crankshaft does not have any direct contact with the rest of the engine, it uses a thin oil film between the metals made by the oil pressure. Because of this, the metals will not have direct contact with each other and the bearing will not get worn.

But if your oil pressure drops low, the bearing could get in contact with the crankshaft and wear the bearing down. If this happens too often the bearings play will get too big and the oil will just pour out and your engine will get destroyed really fast. This process can go really fast if you have low oil pressure.

On the picture, you see crankshaft bearing that is fitted between the crankshaft and the engine block.

Conclusion

  • You should always check that the oil pressure sensor/gauge is correct before you are starting to diagnose the cause of the low oil pressure.
  • If you have low oil pressure you should always make sure that you have the right oil for your engine. Check your repair manual or call your authorized dealer
  • Low oil pressure will cause permanent damages really fast if you are unlucky.

If you have High oil pressure. Check this article out: Causes of High Oil Pressure

If you have any other questions about your oil pressure or you have a story of how you fixed your vehicle, comment down below and I will answer your question as soon as possible. If you have any other car questions you can ask us at our homepage for free.

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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.

  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

  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!

  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

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