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Your vehicle’s engine requires an adequate amount of oil pressure to be able to operate smoothly. However, if it gets too low, your car engine is affected terribly and may even encounter permanent damage within just a few seconds.
Low oil pressure can simply prove to be deadly for your car’s engine and should be fixed as soon as possible to prevent further damage. Fortunately, there’s a handy indicator on your vehicle that warns you about such unfortunate situations through error messages.
Notoriously known as the “Low oil pressure – stop engine” error, this message indicates that the engine isn’t able to get a standard fuel pressure to carry out its processes. Here’s everything you need to know about this issue and how can you fix it.
What’s The Significance of Oil Pressure in Your Car?
Oil pressure is a crucial factor that determines the efficiency of your engine to run smoothly and last for a long time. Since engines are nothing but highly complex machines, they have a lot of moving parts that are able to function optimally with proper lubrication and oil.
When oil passes through your vehicle’s engine, some sort of pressure starts building up, which makes sure that the oil is adequately reached everywhere it is required. For some reason, if the pressure drops, the oil will no longer be able to flow around to your engine’s moving parts.
As a result, friction will build around soon, facilitating issues like warping, seal braking, and more. It’s the fastest way your engine can deteriorate as oil-related problems can cause significant damage to your vehicle if it isn’t treated timely.
Causes of the Oil Pressure Low – Stop Engine Message
There can be several reasons why your engine’s oil pressure is getting low, some of which are discussed below:
Insufficient Oil in the Engine
While getting your engine oil changed, chances are that the oil may get consumed fast due to various reasons like evaporation, leaks through seals, and burning due to worn-out piston rings, even when you’ve added an adequate amount of lubricant.
Moreover, it is also natural for the oil consumption to increase as the engine ages, which may require you to keep checking the oil level periodically and top it up whenever required. However, if you see any visible leaks, get the component fixed as early as possible.
It is recommended to overhaul whenever the engine consumes a quarter of oil after every 2000 miles. If you somehow overextend the interval to change the oil, its level may drop considerably low, even if the engine is still relatively new.
Way Too Low or High Viscosity
When the viscosity gets too high or low, the engine may detect it as a loss of pressure in the oil supply. Due to low viscosity, less resistance flows through the system, which is then perceived as low pressure by the sensor or the pressure gauge.
Similarly, high viscosity can also produce greater resistance from the oil, which may reduce the lubrication of the system and lower the pressure as well. The viscosity of oil in an engine is affected by various parameters such as the operating temperature, additives, contaminants, and more.
You may find the recommended viscosity grades for your vehicle specified precisely in the manual. Keep in mind that selecting a higher viscosity may prove to be concerning, especially when you’re trying to start the engine in cold weather.
Visible Low Pressure
Mostly in diesel engines, the pressure gauge is responsible for providing insights about the real-time pressure in bars of pounds per square inch. A lot of manufacturers produce lubricants with low viscosity within the range of the SAE grade.
With a lower viscosity, you can enjoy better fluidity throughout the lubrication system. However, it may also result in low pressure in the pressure gauge, and if the pressure is still within the normal range, you don’t have any concerns to worry about at all.
If the oil level is fluctuating between add and full on the dipstick, a potential cause can be worn engine bearings for the low pressure. This is specifically true when your engine has very high mileage, and excessive wear may even reduce the original flow restriction as well.
As a result, this consequently drops the pressure, and in such cases, all you can do is get your engine replaced or rebuilt, whatever you prefer.
Defective Oil Pressure Gauge
If you see the oil pressure warning light come up, but you’ve already verified that the oil level is adequate and the engine is also running optimally with no signs of high temperature or unusual noises, chances are that the issue may be with the sensing unit itself.
It’s recommended to get the oil pressure checked through a gauge in that case. If it appears to be normal, then you just have to replace the oil pressure sensor. However, if the problem still persists after replacing the sensor, a bad oil pump might be the actual cause of the problem.
Worn Out Pump
If the dipstick’s oil level fluctuates between add and full, but you can experience the engine causing noise, then it is very likely that the oil pump is worn out. This damaged component may not be able to generate the required pressure and you should prevent driving before getting it fixed.
A typical lubrication system consists of a filter placed right before the pressure gauge. When this filter is clogged due to contaminants, the bypass valve starts malfunctioning and eventually leads to issues like lubricant starvation.
It often occurs due to overextended oil, and can also be caused by soot or water contamination. The latter is more of a result of a leaking cooling system, while the former is much more likely to occur as a result of poor combustion of your vehicle.
What Are the Common Symptoms of This Issue?
There are several evident signs that indicate your vehicle’s oil pressure is low, such as:
- The oil pressure light appearing on the dashboard
- Unusual noises originating from the engine
- Check engine light turned on
- A completely seized engine
How To Check the Oil Pressure?
The optimal method for determining your vehicle’s oil pressure is to temporarily install a manual oil pressure gauge. A convenient way to connect this gauge is to remove the oil pressure switch and utilize an adapter that is specifically designed to fit in the hole left by the switch.
To gain a better understanding of the expected oil pressures for your specific car model, it is recommended to consult the repair manual at the corresponding RPM. It is advised to re-examine the potential causes and seek the assistance of a mechanic if the issue remains unresolved.
How Can You Fix the Oil Pressure Low – Stop Engine Issue?
To diagnose and fix the “oil pressure low – stop engine” message on your car, follow these steps:
- Verify the oil level and add oil if necessary.
- Flush the oil system and install a fresh filter to check if the issue persists.
- Inspect the oil pressure switch and use an OBD2 scanner to check for diagnostic codes. Replace the switch if faulty.
- If the problem persists, check the engine’s compression level and the oil pump function.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix This Issue?
The cost to address the “oil pressure low – stop engine” message varies depending on the underlying cause. The following are potential costs associated with resolving the issue:
- Topping off oil: minimal cost.
- Oil flush: approximately $60.
- Oil pressure sensor: around $50.
- Oil pump replacement: $200-$300, plus labor costs.
- Engine replacement: $3,000-$5,000.
Can You Keep Driving with The Oil Pressure Low Message?
Ignoring the “oil pressure low, stop engine” warning can have severe consequences for your vehicle. Continuing to drive with this alert active can lead to engine failure as a lack of oil flow can cause damage to the internal components.
This can lead to costly repairs and costly damage to the engine. It’s recommended to stop the car and take necessary actions as soon as possible to avoid further damage.
In conclusion, the “oil pressure low, stop engine” message is a warning that should not be ignored. It indicates that the oil pressure in your vehicle is too low and the engine needs to be stopped to prevent damage.
The cause of this warning can range from a simple oil level check to a more complex issue such as a malfunctioning oil pressure sensor or a failing oil pump. It’s important to address this issue as soon as possible to avoid costly repairs and damage to the engine.