Low Oil Pressure

The majority of motorists know how pivotal oil is when it comes to maintaining their vehicle, but in addition to oil level, oil pressure must also be considered. Low oil pressure can be majorly devastating to the performance of your engine and can even damage it.

Symptoms of Low Oil Pressure

So how can you tell if your engine’s oil pressure is low? Keep an eye out for any of the following warning signs:

  1. Oil pressure gauge or oil warning light—As soon as the oil pressure in the vehicle drops below the optimal level, you will see a light on your dashboard.
  2. Noisy engine—If your oil level is too low, the crankcase may not be able to properly lubricate all your essential components, which can lead to grinding, ticking, clunking, knocking, or whining noises.
  3. Smell of burning oil—This smell usually means that you have an oil leak somewhere that is landing on hot metal surfaces. 
  4. Impacted engine performance—An engine is unable to reduce friction and provide adequate lubrication if the oil pressure is too low, which makes the engine work harder and wear, or even fail, more quickly.
  5. Overheating of the engine—If your engine overheats, it could be because the oil is not able to reduce friction as well. Another reason for engine overheating could be a head gasket oil leak into the coolant, reducing the ability to move heat through the cooling system.


Low Oil Pressure—Why Does it Happen and How Can I Fix It?

There are a number of things that can result in low oil pressure, including:

Low oil level

This is the most common cause of low oil pressure, but luckily, it’s also the simplest to fix. It’s important to oil change regularly, and it’s just as important to check your motor oil level regularly in between oil changes and add to the level if necessary. It’s especially vital to maintain regular oil changes and top-offs with older vehicles with more miles, because they tend to get more leaks.

Incorrect oil viscosity

Manufacturers of vehicles specify recommended viscosities for motor oil in the owner’s guide, and it’s not without reason. Stick to this recommendation for best results—lower viscosity than what the manufacturer recommends can produce less flow resistance, and your sensor could interpret it as being low oil pressure. A higher viscosity can create more flow resistance, which can also result in low oil pressure and insufficient lubrication. Fuel dilution can also present potential issues.

Debris, dirt or sludge in pickup pipe

Another reason you could have low oil pressure is dirt, sludge or debris accumulating in the pickup pipe that goes from the oil pan to the oil pump. If the buildup prevents a certain level of oil from going up the pipe, low pressure happens. AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil is exceptional when it comes to preventing sludge and keeping the oil pickup tube screen free of debris and the oil moving correctly.

Oil pump damage

Failure of your oil pump can be a result of improper installation, oil contamination, inadequate oil maintenance or running the engine with too little oil. An oil pump can be subject to wear with usage and time. If an oil pump problem is discovered, it’s vital to replace it. 

Internal oil leak

The vehicle’s oil passages can also leak, leading to low pressure. Oil leaks internally can be caused by several factors, like piston rings that are worn and PVC valve seal or valve failure. Though external oil leaks are pretty simple to fix, internal oil leaks usually require a professional mechanic.

Wear on engine

Heat and friction expose engine components to serious wear. As crankshaft and camshaft bearings become subject to wear with use and time, the “holes” they insert through can get bigger, leading to easier oil flow and lower oil pressure.

Problem with oil-pressure gauge

The oil pressure gauge can be an issue itself when it shows an incorrect reading. The gauge is capable of failing and will need to be replaced just like any other engine part.

Oil filter issue

An oil filter blockage or obstruction can also lead to decreased oil pressure. Oil filters comprise pressure relief valves, and if this valve is damage, oil will pass easily through it, decreasing pressure. It’s important to be sure you change the oil filter when you get your oil changed.


It’s important to address these changes as soon as possible to avoid expensive and serious engine issues.