Low Oil Pressure

by | Sep 30, 2020 | Car Maintenance

Low Oil Pressure

Motor oil is essential for the working of any engine. When you see a ‘low oil pressure’ warning from your dash it’s not something you want to put off until you find some “time”. The motor oil helps in the lubrication of the metal components, which are moving at high speeds in the engine; also, it helps in reducing the friction which prevents overheating.

The smooth functioning of the engine for a long time is all due to the motor oil. The engine’s protection from high temperatures and wearing out over a long time is only possible if the engine is provided with optimum oil pressure. The low oil pressure in the engine can cause very serious damage to the parts of or even to the whole engine, which may deteriorate the engine’s performance. So, it is important to know the causes of low oil pressure and its solutions. Don’t worry! We’d guide you through it.


Causes of Low Oil Pressure in car

There could be many causes which can cause low oil pressure in the engine of your car. 

1. Inadequate Quantity of Motor Oil

It may sound obvious, but some owners of the cars forget to service their cars at regular intervals. When a car owner takes his/her car for granted and never pays attention to its maintenance, this problem arises. The motor oil remains useable for a specific time, and if it is not changed at regular intervals, it can cause damage to the parts of the engine.

Another common reason is negligence on the part of the owner of the car. Many car owners do not get their cars checked up at regular intervals, which causes an inability to find any problem in the car. The oil pressure can significantly drop if there are leaks in the car’s oil or gear chamber, or the engine has exceeded its lifetime. The engines which have exceeded their lifetime are bad at combustion and similarly use the motor oil quickly.

2. Inappropriate Oil Viscosity

Every car manufacturing company recommends the grade of the oils to be used in the car, and if not used the same viscosity, problems can arise.

Lesser viscosity means lesser resistance, and higher viscosity means higher resistance, which oil would provide to the engine parts. In both cases, the car’s oil gauge would identify the low oil pressure because either the engine is being offered low resistance or high resistance, but not the appropriate one. So, for proper lubrication, the oil viscosity must be taken into consideration.

3. Amassing of dirt in the Pickup

To make your car run perfectly, you must understand the mechanics of the engine. If you have been changing the oil regularly and using the right grade, there is a probable chance that the oil pump may drag the dirt or the debris collected at the base of the oil pan. Resultantly, the quantity of the oil, which the oil pump would be dragging, would be significantly less, resulting in low oil pressure. It is basically the clog that has been developed over time, which is not allowing adequate oil to pass. So, to eradicate this problem along with the oil filter, the pickup pipe must also be cleaned regularly.

4. Damaged oil pump

Another reason for pressure to drop is if the pump is not functioning properly. The workload of the pump is quite complex as it has to transport the motor lubricant to every part of the system, just like a human heart. If the human heart stops pumping blood in the body, it will cause a lot of problems, including immediate shutdown.

Although structurally, the oil pump is not the same as the human heart, both serve the same purpose. If a heart stops, the blood pressure will start decreasing. Similarly, when an oil pump gets damaged, its efficiency decreases in circulating the engine’s oil.

Oil pump failure can have several causes. It may have limited functionality due to incorrect/improper installation. Poor oil maintenance and contaminated oil can be another reason for reduced efficiency. Apart from that, an insufficient quantity of motor oil can also damage the pump. Last but not least, time and usage factor is also important.

5. Internal Oil leak

Another primary reason for low oil pressure is a leakage in the engine. That said, if there is a leakage in oil passages, the oil will start seeping from those points or cracks. In simpler words, the oil escapes or deviates from its original route if there is a leakage in the engine. 

Some of the most common reasons for leakage include worn valve seals and piston rings. There will be a reduction in oil pressure if there is excessive clearance in valve guides. The inclusion of PCV ensures better usage of energy. However, a system failure can cause unnecessary pressure buildup in the crankcase, pushing out the gaskets and seals, and eventually leading to an oil leakage internally. 

6. Engine Wear

As mentioned above, the oil pressure decreases as the engine gets older. Mostly, older engines use these lubricants faster as compared to the new engines, and that’s why older engines require frequent oil change as compared to the new ones. If a new engine requires an oil change after every 7000 miles, this value will decrease to 3000 for older engines.

Engine wear and tear is the biggest reason behind this. It doesn’t matter how rigid the metal is; it will wear off eventually. Moreover, chemicals and the effects of heat and friction can lead to the engine wear off prematurely. For example, crankshaft bearings and camshaft bearing will wear off with time, and they will widen the hole through which they insert. This allows easy passage to the lubricants and decreases the pressure. 

7. Problems with the Oil Pressure Gauge 

Even if the oil is fine and there is no damage or leakage in other parts of the lubrication system. Still, the oil pressure can decrease because of a faulty oil pressure gauge. These devices are installed for monitoring the oil pressure, and when some engine parts fail with time, the oil pressure gauge may show incorrect oil pressure. It may give you a lower oil pressure, but the actual pressure can be different.

8. Problems with the Oil Filter

Clogging in the pickup filter can also reduce oil pressure. Similarly, blockage or obstruction in the oil filter can reduce the oil pressure as well. There is a pressure relief valve in the filter, which makes sure that the system pressure does not exceed the highest limit. Any damage to this valve will give the oil an easy passage through the filter and eventually lowering the oil pressure.

Symptoms of Low Oil Pressure

Motor oil plays a vital role in the proper functionality of a combustion engine, and any inadequacy in oil pressure can lead to different symptoms, including these:

1. Warning Light on the Instrument Panel indicating the oil pressure

The first sign of a lowered or reduced oil pressure is the warning light on the instrument panel as it is turned on if there is a problem in oil pressure. In modern cars, this warning system is already connected to engine oil system sensors. As soon as the pressure drops to a minimum level, the instrument panel will show a warning light. If this happens, we recommend you take your car to a service center.

2. Unusual Clunking Noise in the Engine

One of the primary functions of motor oil is properly lubricating different engine parts. When the oil pressure decreases, adequate lubrication of these parts becomes difficult.  This will result in knocking, grinding, or clunking sounds. If you experience these sounds in your vehicle’s engine, it is an indication that the engine has already started to fail.

3. The smell of Burning Oil

When the motor oil burns, it emits a characteristic smell, and it is a clear sign of external oil leakage. Any crack in pipes and hoses will allow the leakage of oil on hot metal surfaces producing that characteristic smell. This smell is so strong and obvious when the engine is running, and you can easily smell it. If you experience this, you must immediately pull over your vehicle. Don’t rush to check the oil level immediately; wait for the motor oil to cool down. In this case, you will find a reduced/decreased engine oil level on the dipstick.

4. Poor Engine Performance

One of the core purposes of lubricant/engine oil is to reduce the friction between the moving metallic parts of the engine. When there is minimal friction in the engine, it will generate more energy with maximum efficiency. But, if the oil pressure decreases, the friction in the engine parts will increase. This will add an extra burden/workload on the engine of your vehicle. In simpler words, there will be a work overload for your vehicle’s engine, and it will require more fuel to keep going.

5. Engine Overheating

It is needless to say that when the oil pressure decreases, the engine gets overheated. Although there is a cooling system in the vehicle to resolve this problem, the engine oil also controls the heating factor by minimizing the friction. When the motor oil fails to reduce friction, it will lead to heat generation. When the quantity of engine oil decreases, it creates more and more friction and thus causing more engine overheating.

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