Low Engine Oil Pressure: Causes, Symptoms, and How to Fix the Problem

Learn the causes of low engine oil pressure and how it affects your car's performance.

One of the most important fluids a car needs is engine oil. Engine oil lubricates different components of the engine and reduces friction, ensuring that your car runs smoothly. Maintaining proper oil pressure is also one of the most important elements for the health of a car’s engine.

Low engine oil pressure can cause damage to different engine components, creating nothing but trouble for your car. But what does low engine oil pressure do to your vehicle and how do you know what to look for? 

In order to take the necessary steps to maintain the right engine oil pressure, check out the following list of some causes and symptoms of low oil pressure and how to address the problem.

What causes low engine oil pressure?

There are several variables that can cause low engine oil pressure. Here are a few of them.

  • Low engine oil. Although this may be obvious, low engine oil is the number one cause of low engine oil pressure. Many drivers simply forget to change their engine oil, while others don’t fully realize the importance of regular oil changes to ensure seamless operation of their vehicles.

    Another common factor for why you may have insufficient engine oil is a possible leak in the supply lines. Even if it’s the tiniest of holes, motor oil can seep through. If you suspect low engine oil pressure due to a leak, ask your mechanic to thoroughly check your car’s engine and look for signs of worn oil seals and plugs.

  • Incorrect oil viscosity. Not all motor oils are created equal, so it’s important to choose the right engine oil for your car.  Using an oil with a lower viscosity will produce less resistance to flow, while using a lubricant with a higher viscosity will generate more resistance to flow than required.
  • Damaged oil pump. A car’s oil pump plays a very important role in the operation of your car, and is designed to facilitate the movement of engine oil throughout the system. When a car’s engine pump fails—whether from incorrect installation or poor oil maintenance—the oil pressure drops.

What are symptoms of low engine oil pressure?

While you may not be able to immediately identify the cause of low engine oil pressure in your vehicle, there are a few telltale signs that something’s not right.

  • Drop in engine performance. When engine oil pressure drops, friction between different parts increases. This results in a steep decline in engine performance. Watch out for common signs of decreased engine performance such as a reduction in fuel economy, loss of power, and engine stalling.
  • Warning light on the instrument panel turns on. This is one of the first and most common signs of low engine oil pressure. The latest car models have sensors connected to a warning light. So when there’s a drop in pressure, the sensors are triggered, activating the warning light.

Tips to fix the problem

A drop in engine oil pressure is detrimental to your car’s health. To steer clear of expensive repairs, check and top up your engine oil regularly. Use oil with the correct viscosity rating—one that’s recommended by your manufacturer.

Additionally, look for signs of external oil leaks. More often than not, external oil leaks can be fixed by simply replacing hoses and pipes. If you suspect an internal oil leak, consult your mechanic. If your pressure gauge or oil pump is damaged beyond repair, your service technician can replace the part.

Looking for an auto repair center that will take good care of your car? Request an appointment at any of the AAA Owned Auto Repair Centers near you. Or, find a AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility in your neighborhood. AAA Members receive a 10% discount on labor and a 24-month, 24,000-mile warranty. Not a Member? Not a problem! All are welcome.