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 damage within seconds.
But what could cause a low oil pressure and how do you fix it?
How long 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 through 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. Below, you will find a list of the most common causes.
|Low oil pressure at idle||Noises from engine|
Oil level/pressure light on dashboard
|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 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 an 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 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 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
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 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 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
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 displaying 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.
What could happen if my oil pressure is too low?
A 4-stroke engine normally has 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, these car engines use 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 happen really fast if you have low oil pressure.
On the picture, you see a crankshaft bearing that is fitted between the crankshaft and the engine block.
- You should always check that the oil pressure sensor/gauge is correct before you start 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 damage really fast if you are unlucky.
If you have any other questions about your oil pressure or you have a story about how you fixed your vehicle, comment 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.