Low Oil Pressure Symptoms – How To Recognize Low Oil Pressure?

Low Oil Pressure Symptoms – How To Recognize Low Oil Pressure?

August 15, 2021 0 By CarGuy

So, your oil pressure gauge needle doesn’t like to move up and you are also experiencing some loss of power and your engine runs poorly? You are probably experiencing some low oil pressure symptoms.

Oil pressure is important in order for internal combustion to work. If there is no oil pressure, it means that there is no compression in the engine or not enough oil. Loss of compression means that the valves don’t seal or your piston rings are too far gone.

All this can lead to the inevitable engine rebuild. The engine that has worn out and was taken from its former glory is destined for a rebuild.

You have to learn how to recognize these low oil pressure symptoms on time.

Because most of these symptoms, if treated on time it will not exacerbate and ruin your engine. You will basically extend your engine’s life if you act on time. That’s why is important to recognize the symptoms and act quickly.

In this article, we are going to cover precisely that, the low oil pressure symptoms. These symptoms have to be shared so more people will learn and will help avoid some serious outcomes. Then we are going to cover the possible solutions when you are experiencing low oil pressure symptoms. What you can do in order to save your engine. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

How Does The Lubrication System work?

The lubrication system is fairly simple. The oil is located at the bottom of the engine inside of the oil pan. This system is called wet sump since the oil is collected by the oil pickup tube and then dispersed inside of the engine components. We wrote how a wet sump system works in detail and if you are interested you can check out our article on wet sump vs dry sump.

The oil is picked up with the help of the pickup tube with the help of the oil pump. The oil pump makes all the magic of circulating the oil around the engine and properly lubricating all the components.

There is also an oil filter which is located usually on the side of the block. This oil filter collects all the impurities and debris that are created during the daily work of the engine. If there wasn’t an oil filter the damage that gets the engine would be too big and the engine’s lifespan would be extremely short.

What Is Low Oil Pressure?

When you start the engine the lubrication system becomes pressurized and this pressure indicates the time for the oil needs to reach the particular engine components. If there is no oil pressure, the engine will not be lubricated and the engine will possibly stall and destroy its internal components. That’s why oil pressure is so important. Every oil pump works differently and delivers the oil at different pressure. Good oil pressure is considered everything between 25 psi and 60 psi.

What is considered as low oil pressure? Everything below 20 psi is considered as low oil pressure. The needle is visualizing this pressure level and the driver has an instrument to observe the oil pressure. High pressure is also not good. This can be caused by overfilling your engine with oil or the oil is not able to pass in the internal components of the engine. This can be caused by extreme sludge buildup.

Low Oil Pressure Symptoms

Since we have covered the basics when it comes to the vehicle lubrication system. Now let’s see the low oil pressure symptoms. Which are these symptoms and how should we know if our car has low oil pressure? And what are the reasons behind this oil low pressure? Because after all if we don’t know the reasons for the low oil pressure how should we fix the problem? So, let’s dive into the low oil pressure symptoms.

  1. Poor Engine Performance
  2. Burnt Oil Smell
  3. Noises Coming From The Engine
  4. Oil Gauge Light On
  5. Engine Overheats

Poor Engine Performance

If you have a low oil pressure your engine will start to run poorly and you will experience some strange work from the engine. Since there will be no oil inside of the engine, the components will start to create a lot of friction among them and the engine will run slower and will start to create damage on the inside. It will start to eat through the bearings and piston rings. Resulting in catastrophic damage to the engine and complete loss of compression.

Burnt Oil Smell

If you start smelling some burnt oil inside of your cabin you are probably having some issues with your oil pump. This oil is burning because is laying down in the crankshaft and as the crankshaft is spinning it doesn’t allow the oil to cool.

As the oil is not disbursed around the engine. Cooling the oil is almost impossible. With this type of work, the life of the oil will be reduced from 7,000 miles down to 1,000 or even less. The more miles you drive with bad oil pressure the more the condition of the oil becomes worse and worse. Resulting in sludge that is going to seize the whole engine at the end.

Ticking Sound Coming From The Engine

One of the first symptoms, when there is no enough oil in the head of the engine, is the lifter tick. The lifters will start to tick and also the other components like the rocker arms will start to rattle.

The longer you drive your engine like this, the noises will be stronger and stronger. Also, the engine will start to vibrate and will become extremely unhappy with these circumstances.

This is going to end your engine life extremely quickly since the oil is used to lube the internals and make sure that everything is nice and properly oiled.

Oil Gauge Or Oil Light Turned On

It is a good idea to pay attention to your cluster and observe the oil levels when you are driving the car. These indicators are created specifically for this purpose to tell us everything we need to know when it comes to our engine.

And the oil pressure gauge is one of them. With this gauge, many engines are saved on time and many people saved a lot of money by detecting low oil pressure symptoms on time.

The low oil pressure symptoms are helping people with their cars and save their engines, so we should not ignore them.

If the needle does not want to go up, you are in trouble. You need to diagnose the issue as soon as possible.

Another thing is the oil light, the oil light usually turns on, on some cars that do not have an oil gauge. When this light turns on, the best thing to do is to observe the oil level first. And if it smells like something burned or it is sludgy then the best thing is to diagnose this problem on time.

Recognizing low oil pressure symptoms will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Engine Overheating Issues

And the last symptom is overheating. Even though your cooling system is working properly. The engine could still overheat if the oil does not circulate around the engine.

The oil will stay in one place, usually the crankshaft and as the crankshaft spins it will heat up the oil too much, resulting in a burnt oil smell. Other engine components will start to friction as well since they are not getting enough oil and will develop issues like noises or cracking.

All in all, ignoring the low oil pressure symptoms and leaving the engine to work like this in these conditions is unacceptable. It will quickly eat up your engine components and the engine will be pretty much a junkyard motor. And you don’t want this for your engine. Make sure that you have one of these symptoms and follow our reasons why this is happening and the possible solutions to your problem in the next chapter.

Reasons Why This Is Happening To Me?

We have discussed all of the low oil pressure symptoms and now let’s see the reasons why this is happening to you and your engine and what are the possible outcomes of this problem. Because you want to fix the engine after all and you don’t want to leave it like this and end up trashing it.

  1. Rare Oil Changes
  2. Bad Oil Pump
  3. Bad Engine Compression
  4. Oil Leaks
  5. Bad Oil Filter

Rare Oil Changes

If you are doing rare oil changes on your engine you probably experiencing some low oil pressure symptoms on your vehicle.

The rare oil changes are creating sludge inside of the engine, and this sludge is basically ruining the plumbing inside of your engine. Not allowing the oil to pass freely and circulate the system.

This will result in low oil pressure and possible engine damage. Sludge is no good. If you have an engine that has developed a lot of sludge during its life it’s time to give it a good clean and save what can be saved.

In order to fix this problem, you will have to remove the heads and clean them up. Also, inspect the components for possible damage from all that friction. If they are damaged you are going to need new valves, seals, and rods.

Also, cleaning the oil pan manually and doing a few oil flushes in close intervals will make sure that all of the debris is cleaned off and your engine is looking nice and shiny on the inside.

Malfunctioning Oil Pump

Another reason that can cause low oil pressure symptoms is a malfunctioning oil pump. If your oil pump is not working and is not pumping the oil in the engine. You are going to experience some engine damage and low oil pressure.

In order to solve this issue, you will have to replace the oil pump. Oil pumps are not that expensive and are readily available at most parts stores around the country. Replace the pump and you are not going to experience more low oil pressure symptoms.

Loss Of Compression

Another reason for low oil pressure symptoms is low compression. Low compression means that your engine does not build enough compression to make the cylinders work.

This loss of compression will cause a lot of blowby and reduced oil pressure. In other words, this means that your engine is slowly dying and very soon it will be due to rebuilding.

In order to see if your engine has low compression, you have to do a DIY compression test. We wrote a full article on DIY compression test and how it’s done. It is a fairly simple process and when you are done you will have a clear idea of your engine health and how much compression your cylinders are making.

Oil Leaks Inside Of The Cylinder

Also, internal leaks can cause a loss of compression and low oil pressure. This is most pronounced when the O-rings on the pistons are not sealing, and the oil that is on the other side will go inside of the cylinder and cause the oil to lose pressure.

This will also result in clouds of black smoke at the exhaust if your oil is burning. So, when you are having this issue, it’s going to require some work in order to be solved and repaired properly.

Bad Oil Filter

If you are doing rare oil changes, probably your filter is completely clogged up with debris and this filter is not allowing proper flow of oil inside of the filter. This can cause low pressure or slow pressure buildup.

In order to solve this problem, you need to do regular oil changes. This way you will be safe from possible engine damage caused by oil sludge and low oil pressure symptoms.


In this article, we have covered everything you need to know when it comes to low oil pressure symptoms. We learned how the lubrication is working and then we learned what is moving the oil on the inside, and that is the oil pump.

Then we have covered all the low oil pressure symptoms and these were the oil pressure gauge and oil light, the increased heat inside of the engine, poor engine performance, ticking sound, and burnt oil smell.

Then we discussed the possible outcomes for these symptoms. And these were the low compression, rare oil changes, bad oil pump, and bad oil filter.

Low oil pressure mostly affects engines that were poorly maintained during their life. If you want to protect your engine and avoid low oil pressure symptoms do your oil changes regularly and your engine will thank you.