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Why Does Your Car's Oil Light Come On?

Oil Pressure Light

Car Troubleshooting

Have you been wondering why does your car oil light come on in your car? Well, if the car red oil light comes on steadily while you were driving, there are three possible reasons that causing this.

Usually, when you turn "ON" the engine, the red oil light comes on in a few seconds then it goes "OFF" but if the oil light goes on and will remain "ON" especially while you are driving then there is a problem with the oil system.

Reasons why does your car oil light come on

(1) Low engine oil level
(2) Bad Oil pump
(3) Faulty oil pressure sensor/wiring

Car troubleshooting

When your car's oil light is on while driving, this is an indication of a low engine oil level, it means that the engine oil is too low and the engine is losing oil pressure which triggers the oil pressure light. With that said the first thing to do is to check the oil level.

Oil Dipstick Reading

Oil Dipstick Reading
When the oil level is low it is possible that there is a leak somewhere in the system which causes the amount of oil inside the engine insufficient. Now, look underneath the car and check if there is a leak on the oil pan.

Sign of oil leak in the engine

Some signs that your car suffers from the oil leak is when there are drops of oil in the ground to where your car is parked. Look at the ground where you parked, look for any droplets of oil that comes from the engine. Another portion to look at is the engine. Usually, the oil leaks out between the engine block and the cylinder head, this will happen if the gasket is worn out. But sometimes problems like loose oil drain plug can cause oil leak because during change oil some service shop does not do the change oil job well leaving the oil drain plug not securely tightened and is loose.

Can you drive with low engine oil?

No, it is not advisable to drive with low engine oil because it can damage the engine. Oil is not only to lubricate the engine but also to prevent overheating of the engine. Since the oil level is too low, the engine will become too hot and will eventually overheat if you continue driving with low engine oil for a long period of time and will result in car stalling.

What will you do when the oil light comes on while driving?
If you are driving your car and the oil light suddenly comes on, pull over a safe place and stop the car, do not continue driving the car because you might lose more oil from the engine and will cause the engine to breakdown and will result in a more serious problem. Check the engine oil level once you stop,  if the oil level is low refill the engine with a sufficient amount of engine oil.

However, if the oil level is within the normal level then the possible cause of why does the oil light comes on is a bad oil pump or a faulty oil pressure sensor/wiring.

Symptoms of common bad oil pump or failure oil pump

One of the symptoms of having a bad oil pump is when your car's oil light is lit. Whenever this problem happens it indicates that the oil inside the engine lacks pressure inside it, it is possible that the oil pump is not delivering enough oil to circulate inside the engine. If the oil pressure is not enough the engine and its components will not be lubricated and will freeze up. The oil pump is the one that creates oil pressure inside the car engine for the oil goes where it is needed by the engine if the oil pump goes bad the oil pressure inside the engine will drop this drop will trigger the oil warning light to come on.

Bad Oil Pump

Is it safe to drive with a bad oil pump?

Yes, it's safe to drive with a bad oil pump but not for long, because if you continue driving with an oil pump failure it will eventually make the motor seize up and creates a bigger problem soon which may result in a much expensive repair. Also, the engine and its components like the camshaft and bearings will be damaged quickly because of oil starvation.

Warning Lights on the Dashboard
What is that warning lights on the dashboard mean? If these dashboard warning lights are lit it means something is wrong with the car to warn the driver.
Read more: Warning Lights on the Dashboard

On the other hand, if the oil pressure sensor/wiring is faulty it will incorrectly read the oil pressure inside the engine, at times it will read that the oil pressure is low even though in actuality it may not. This scenario will send an electrical current to the oil light causing the warning light to come on.

Symptoms of a bad or failing oil pressure sensor or wiring

When an oil pressure sensor or its wiring is bad your car's oil light comes on or the oil pressure light blinks constantly another symptom of a failing oil pressure sensor is that the oil gauge reading will go down to zero.

If after checking you found out that the engine oil is enough then do not drive the car because it will cause more damage, instead tow the car to a reputable auto repair shop. When at the repair shop tell the mechanic to inspect both the oil pump and oil pressure sensor/wiring it is important that the mechanic know that you have an idea on the problem so that the mechanic will have an impression that you have knowledge about cars this will prevent the mechanic to be more careful and make sure that diagnosis is correct. If you drive the car with a problem like the bad oil pressure sensor/wiring or the oil pump, you will cause the engine to freeze up and will result in a more serious problem like a damaged engine. Take this problem seriously and attend to it immediately once the symptoms occur to avoid the more expensive repair in the future.

How do you prevent your car's oil light to come on in the future?

Regularly check your car engine oil level, do the checking every morning before you use your car. Also, do a regular change oil of your car and bring the car to the service shop for regular car maintenance. For a car with a gasoline engine usually, regular change oil must be done every 6 months or 5000 km whichever comes first and for a car with diesel engines usually, change oil must be done once a year or 10,000 km whichever comes first. When you do the change oil also change the oil filter.

How to Check Oil in Car

It is a must to regularly check the oil level in the car especially every time before the car is used. It may result in a car break down. In case the car user manual is not available here's how to check the oil in the car.

Learn more: How to Check Oil in Car

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