All vehicles will eventually require some form of maintenance. That’s just the nature of cars – wear and tear eventually build up and something will need fixing, replacing, or tuning. More often than you might like, especially if you lack the necessary experience, you’ll need to take your car into the shop to get it back up to speed.
But there is something that you can do on your own time, without needing to resort to professionals to charge you for a DIY sort of job. You know the oil gauge, that little light that comes on every now and then that you ignore? Well, you shouldn’t ignore it, because it’s a vital part of what makes your car run smoothly.
Thankfully, it’s not the sort of thing that you need to bring outside help in.
What Is Low Oil Pressure?
When that light comes on your dashboard there are two things you can do: ignore it or do something about it. As easy as it is to ignore, that’s not going to do anyone any good. Whether it feels like it or not, that light is important. It needs to be dealt with soon.
Now, low oil pressure can be caused by a whole list of things. A list of things that I will now provide.
Low oil level: The most common cause of that light going off, the low oil level is pretty much what it sounds like. You don’t have enough oil in your engine to keep it going effectively.
Overheating: Overheating is often tied with a low oil level. Since you don’t have enough oil in the engine, your car will overheat.
Old oil: It might have been a while since your last oil change. The longer oil sits in your engine, the less effective it will be at maintaining your car’s efficiency. If left to sit too long, it’ll stop doing its job.
Worn-out engine bearings: As your engine bearings age, weather, and wear down, they will eventually result in low oil pressure readings.
Oil is essentially the blood of your car. Without it, your car cannot run properly. Nothing moves, metal scrapes, damage occurs, everything goes haywire.
As defined by the list, low oil pressure does not necessarily mean that you don’t have enough oil in your engine. Low oil pressure means that the oil that you have (or don’t have) is not properly being cycled, pushed, and processed through your engine through the narrow clearances between the various components. If the oil can’t get to where it needs to go, there’s something wrong.
How to Troubleshoot for Low Oil Pressure
Among the first signs that you have low oil pressure will be the flashing light on your dashboard. That much is obvious, but it can’t be stated enough that you can’t ignore it once it shows up. Immediate action, once you’re sure that light means business, is best.
To be certain that there’s something faulty with your oil, you need to troubleshoot to ascertain what exactly is going wonky. There are a number of things to do that will help diagnose what’s wrong with your oil.
Check Your Dipstick – The first step for any troubleshooting process is checking the oil dipstick. This is that familiar metal rod that extends into your engine with the oil can symbol on its cover. It’s easy enough to pull out and examine. Most dipsticks will have a line that marks off where you start having low engine oil. Make sure you wipe it clean and stick it back in to gauge an accurate oil level.
Check For A Faulty Sensor – You might not even have oil troubles. The oil sensor can fail just as often. Chances are, the sensor will be one of the later things you check in the troubleshoot, especially when there doesn’t seem to be anything else from your oil. Taking your car into the shop to check for the sensor is the best way to end the search, and generally won’t end up with much of an impact on your wallet.
Check for Leaks – Yeah, that sounds a little scary. Leaks in your vehicle generally mean bad news. Nonetheless, it’s better to identify the problem before it worsens and becomes a hazard to your wellbeing. Checking for leaks involves climbing under the carriage and performing a thorough inspection yourself. If you find that there’s a pool of oil forming beneath your stationary vehicle, then that tells you all you need to know.It won’t always be that easy to identify. Leaks can vary in size and placement. If you’re not seeing a pool of oil, take a rag with you to clean off your oil pan. Once you’ve wiped it clean, you’ll have to play the waiting game for a little bit. Keep an eye on the oil pan. If you start to see oil forming and becoming visible, then you’ve found your issue.
Find the Oil Pan Gasket – This one is pretty easy to find but may get a little messy. You’ll need to make sure you have replacement oil handy. You’ll first need to identify the gasket itself; it’s what seals the oil pan in. It’s more of knowing what you’re looking for. Once you’re ready, you’ll need to get a bucket and drain the oil pan into it. Once the oil pan is completely drained of any oil, and you’ve cleaned the oil pan with a rag, then plug it back up and refill it with new oil. Keep an eye on the gasket. If you see oil forming around it, then you’ve got a faulty gasket.
Check the Oil Filter – Debris buildup in the filter will eventually gunk up your engine performance. Too much debris, and you’ll lose oil pressure. We already know the harm that can cause. The oil filter is a cylindrical component, fairly easy to identify, and easier to identify if it’s positively filthy. If you find that your oil filter is caked with grime, then it’s time to get it replaced.
Engine Bearings – You might find that you need to get your bearings replaced. If you hear a knocking sound when you start up your car, combined with the low oil pressure reading, that’s a sign that they’re worn and you need new ones.
Fixing Low Oil Pressure
If you’re able to identify the source of the low oil pressure, there’s a safe chance that you can fix it on your own time. It might take a little bit of effort though.
First and foremost, before we get into anything complicated: replace your oil first. Give your pan a thorough oil removal, cleaning, and fill it up with fresh oil. If you’re lucky, that’ll be all you need to do to make that obnoxious little light go away.
If the oil filter is the problem, it’s pretty easy to replace it. Make sure you have the oil filter wrench set on hand first. Once you’re ready, and you’ve run your car for a minute or two to warm it up, drain the oil into a pan. Once it’s empty, it comes down to simply replacing the oil filter with a new one, tightening everything up, and refilling it with new oil.
Oil leaks, while they sound intimidating, are fairly easy to address. Once you identify the issue, and hopefully you’ll have identified it quickly, then you can use a leak-stopping additive like No Leak or Blue Devil. You may also want to check your gasket and screws to make sure they aren’t the cause of your leak. If they are, it’s probably time to replace them.
For the most part, that’s going to be the end goal of how to solve your oil problems: change and replace. The hard part is identifying the problems first. After that, it’s a matter of finding the proper parts for your vehicle and getting your hands a little dirty.
If All Else Fails
If you’ve identified the source of the low oil pressure, done the necessary adjustments to your vehicle, topped it up with new oil, and the light’s still burning bright, then it might be time to head into the shop. As much as you may want to knock around your car and fix your problems yourself, sometimes it’s best to let a professional handle the work.
If you do have to resort to that, chances are your problem is not limited to your oil pressure. Not to worry! Those problems come far and between, and chances are that light that pops up will be something you can handle on your own terms.