What Causes Low Oil Pressure in An Engine?

Oil pressure is super important for your engine. If your car’s oil pressure light comes on or the gauge shows lower pressure than usual, it could mean something’s wrong.

It’s hard to tell how serious it is, so the safest thing is to stop driving.

This article will explain why your oil pressure might be low and what you can do to fix it.

An image illustration of what causes low oil pressure in an engine
What causes low oil pressure in an engine
Phot Courtesy: RymaxLubricants

What is Oil Pressure?

Oil pressure is essential for an engine’s health and longevity. It ensures that oil, which acts as a lubricant, is distributed evenly throughout the engine’s intricate parts.

High oil pressure means that there is enough oil reaching every component, thereby allowing for smooth operation.

However, low oil pressure indicates that the oil isn’t circulating well, which can cause engine parts to rub against each other.

This friction can lead to overheating, deformed parts, leaks, and a host of other issues, ultimately resulting in rapid engine deterioration.

What Causes Low Oil Pressure in an Engine?

Low oil pressure in an engine can be caused by several factors. Some most common causes and potential solutions:

  • Low Oil Level: If your engine oil levels are low, it can lead to low oil pressure. Engine oil dissipates over time, so if you haven’t changed or refilled the oil lately, you might be running low. Check the oil dipstick to see if the level is below the recommended mark.
  • Old or Bad Oil: Oil has an expiration date of 2-5 years, but it can degrade faster if it has been sitting in your engine for a while. If your car hasn’t been driven in a few years, consider getting an oil change. Old oil may appear milky, hazy, and thick. Regular oil changes help maintain proper oil pressure.
  • Damaged Oil Pump: The oil pump is responsible for circulating oil through the engine. If the pump is damaged or not functioning correctly, oil won’t flow properly. Signs of a faulty oil pump include overheating, grinding noises, and the oil pressure light coming on. Consult a mechanic to replace the oil pump.
  • Incorrect Oil Viscosity: Using oil with the wrong viscosity can affect oil pressure. Make sure you’re using the oil recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Different engines require specific oil grades (e.g., 5W20 or 10W30). Using the wrong type can lead to low oil pressure.
  • Clogged Oil Filter or Pickup Tube: A clogged oil filter or pickup tube can restrict oil flow. Regularly changing the oil filter helps prevent this issue. If the pickup tube is blocked, oil won’t reach critical engine components, leading to low pressure.
  • Worn Engine Components: Over time, engine wear and tear can cause gaps between moving parts. Insufficient oil pressure exacerbates this problem. Regular maintenance and timely repairs can prevent excessive wear.

Signs of Low Oil Pressure

Low oil pressure is a big problem that can really hurt your engine. To avoid pricey repairs, keep an eye out for these warning signs:

  • Oil Pressure Warning Light

If the light is yellow, it’s time for an oil change. If it’s red, your oil pressure dropped fast.

  • Engine Feels Weak:

Your car isn’t as powerful as usual, it might not have enough oil pressure. Look out for power loss, stalling, or high fuel use.

  • Burning Smell:

A burning smell inside your car could mean oil is leaking and burning on something hot. Pull over safely to check your oil levels.

  • Engine Noises:

A noisy, knocking engine is a serious sign of engine trouble. Don’t ignore it. Get help from a professional right away.

  • Engine Overheating:

If your engine is overheating, it could be due to oil issues. If you see smoke from your hood, get your oil checked soon.

It’s always smart to trust pros for oil problems. They’ll figure out what’s wrong and keep your engine running smoothly for longer.

Is it safe to drive with low oil pressure?

No, driving with low oil pressure can really mess up your engine and make fixing it expensive.

The oil keeps everything moving smoothly, cools down the engine, and stops metal parts from rubbing together.

Can using thicker oil solve low oil pressure?

Yes, thicker oils can raise oil pressure, but they can also lower engine power.

Too much oil pressure can cause problems like bursting the oil filter, harming seals, or damaging bearings.


In conclusion, understanding the causes of low oil pressure in an engine is crucial for maintaining its health and longevity.

By identifying common culprits such as oil leaks, worn-out components, or inadequate oil levels, you can take proactive steps to prevent potential damage and costly repairs.

Whether it’s regular maintenance checks, addressing leaks promptly, or using the right type of oil, staying vigilant and proactive is key to ensuring optimal oil pressure and preserving your engine’s performance.

Remember, a well-maintained engine is a reliable one, so prioritize proper care to keep your vehicle running smoothly for miles to come.

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