What if the check engine light turns on or the engine is at idle and you’re getting a whining sound from the engine? Well, it indicates that the oil pressure drops to zero at idle. If the pressure drops too much, it can damage the core engine materials and put the engine in an emergency.
When there is an internal oil leakage or oil pressure sensor is damaged, the oil pressure may drop to zero. It may also occur because of dirty oil filters.
Today, the entire article will focus on the facts which cause low oil pressure and what to do when you face low oil pressure problems. These guidelines will help you to protect the engine and save yourself from a huge repair bill.
Why Does Oil Pressure Drop To Zero At Idle??
There are certain reasons for why the oil pressure drops to zero at idle. Here are 7 of the most possible causes of why oil pressure drops to zero in your engine.
- Low oil level
- Clogged or dirty oil filter
- Worn out oil pump
- Old engine
- Damaged oil pressure sensor
- Internal oil leakage
- Mismatched engine oil
7 Solutions For Oil Pressure Drops To Zero At Idle
By now, we know about the reasons why oil pressure drops to zero at idle. So, now here are the easy solutions of the 7 most common causes of an oil pressure drop.
1. Low Oil Level: Ensure Efficient Oil Circulation
If the oil level is too low, the oil pressure can drop at idle. It happens when the engine is very old and it burns oil very quickly. It also occurs if there is oil leaking or piston rings wearing.
So, if you have an old engine and you notice that the pressure is dropping so fast, the first thing is to check the oil level. If it is below the dipstick minimum line, fill it up. You should also check for oil leaking.
To do so, look for oil drops on the floor. If you see any leakage like that, call the mechanic and fix it.
2. Clogged Oil Filter: Clean Or Change the Oil Filter
Oil filters are used to filter out dirt, debris and other microparticles from the oil. Over time, the filters become overlapped by these particles. Thus, when the filters start clogging up, less oil flows around the engine than needed. It causes oil pressure to drop at idle.
So, when you discover less oil pressure, check for clogged oil filters and replace them as required. It’s a good idea to replace the oil filter every time you change the engine oil.
The labor cost of cleaning a clogged oil will run between $40 and $100, while the new filters are priced between $10 to $70.
3. Faulty Oil Pressure Gauge: Replace It as Required
An oil pressure gauge is usually located on the dashboard of the car. It allows the driver to monitor the oil pressure level while driving. When the pressure gauge is malfunctioning, it may give you wrong pressure readings. So, you may experience oil pressure drops because of a defective pressure gauge.
As the oil pressure gauges are mostly damaged because of electrical problems or short circuits, call for assistance to figure out the issue and solve it. In this case, the only way to fix this problem is to change the damaged oil pressure gauge.
The average cost for oil pressure gauge replacement is between $130 and $160. The parts will cost around $60, while the labor cost will be between $70 and $90.
4. Worn Out Oil Pump: Replace the Faulty Oil Pump
An oil pump is present to control the correct amount of oil pressure in the engine. The way this pump works is that it takes oil from the sump and pressurizes the oil to distribute it around the engine.
Like other components of a car, this pump also has a life span. Over time, it worn-out causing low oil pressure.
So, when the oil pressure drops at idle, check the oil pump if this is worn-out. If the pump fails, change it as necessary.
The cost of replacing a faulty oil pump will run between $300 or $2500. As for labor costs, it will be around $150 or $300 and the parts will cost between $150 and $2200.
5. Old Engine: Rebuild or Replace It as Necessary
An old engine can often be the reason for oil pressure dropping at idle. Like other car components, an engine has an end of life. The core components of an engine such as bearings, shafts, bolts etc. become wear out because of high mileage over the years.
When these components are damaged, the oil can’t flow freely throughout the engine. More specifically, if the engine bearings are faulty, it can cause a drop in oil pressure.
There are two ways to solve engine wear problems. You can either rebuild or replace it. When a specific part of the engine wears out, you can rebuild the engine by replacing it. Otherwise it’s good to change the old engine completely. Because you can just rebuild it, but you can’t make it new again.
The prices of new engines can start from $2,500 to $4,000. These prices can increase up to $7,000 depending on your car’s type. If your engine requires rebuilding, the cost will be less than installing a new one. The labor cost, in general, will be between $250 and $400.
6. Mismatched Engine Oil: Ensure the Proper Viscosity of Oil
Oil viscosity refers to how easily the oil is delivered to the required areas at certain temperatures. High viscosity oil generates low oil pressure while low viscosity oil will produce high oil pressure.
Thus, high viscosity oil is recommended for hot temperatures while low viscosity oil is used in the cold temperatures. So, if the viscosity of oil you’re using doesn’t match with the grade and viscosity rating of the engine, it can cause dropped oil pressure.
Hence, if you notice the oil pressure of your engine starts dropping, make sure that you’re using the correct oil. To ensure it, check the recommendation of the manufacturer.
7. Internal Oil Leakage: Fix the Place Where the Oil Leaks Out
The oil flows throughout the engine within a long chain between the reservoir and engine head. The channels through which the oil is usually passed are sealed to prevent oil leaking. So, if somehow these seals worn-out, the oil will start leaking and cause low oil pressure.
Besides, if the components of the engine are loose or damaged, the oil can also leak out and oil pressure drops as well. The common practice when you have oil leakage in your engine is to change or tighten the seals or other components as necessary.
Generally, the average cost of oil leak repairs can be run from $200 to $2000 or more. It basically depends on the type of your car and the location of the leak.
How To Test Oil Pressure?
Checking the oil pressure is a very important part of an engine health test which is pretty easy. After all, you can easily do it using the tool Pro 12-Piece engine oil pressure test kit. Here are the steps you should go through.
Step-1: Prepare the jeep to work on
First of all, ensure that the engine is cool enough to work on. Then apply the handbrake, chop the wheels and put the transmission in neutral.
Step-2: Attach the oil pressure kit in the engine block and select the right adapter for your jeep
Now locate the oil pressure or temperature sender located in the engine block and often near the sump. Then remove the switch and be prepared with an oil drip tray to catch any oil.
The tool Pro 12-piece oil pressure test kit has a selection of adapters to suit a variety of thread patterns. So find the one that matches your engine and fix this into the block where the engine oil pressure center was removed.
Step-3: Check the engine oil level
Now attach the oil pressure gauge to the adapter and check the engine oil level before starting the car and allowing it to reach operating temperature.
Consult a service manual to determine what RPM the test should be performed at and what pressure your engine should maintain.
If necessary, have an assistant. Hold the engine at 1000 rpm while you take a reading.
A low reading could indicate a blocked oil filter, worn oil pump, restricted oil pickup or simply a greater oil that’s too thin to the engine. A high reading could be due to a faulty pressure relief valve or rather blockages.
Step-4: Remove the tester and reinstall the oil pressure sensor
Once you’ve taken the reading switch the engine off and allow it to cool before removing the oil pressure test gauge and reinstalling oil pressure sensor. top up the oil as necessary and the job is complete.
We have already discussed the reasons for low oil pressure and their easy fixes. But do you still have any questions? Well, here are the answers of the most common questions you may have.
Can You Drive The Car with an Oil Pressure Drop?
Sometimes you can. But this is not recommended. Driving a car with a low oil pressure level can damage the engine entirely. So, when you experience an oil pressure drop, stop driving and call the mechanic to solve the issue that causes low pressure.
How to Tell If Your Oil Pressure Is Low?
The most common symptoms of an oil pressure drop is that the check engine light comes on. The engine may also be overheated and problematic while starting. The other signs may include poor engine performance, whining noise and oil pressure light.
Why Are Your Oil Pressure Drops After Oil Changing?
Incorrect viscosity of oil can cause an oil; pressure drop after changing oil. The viscosity of oil depends on the temperature like summer or winter. So, use the correct oil depending on the season you’re going through.
What Is The Purpose Of An Oil Pressure Gauge?
An oil pressure gauge is usually installed into the dashboard of the car with the purpose of helping the driver to monitor the pressure level. The warning light turns on, when there the oil pressure drops indiscriminately.
The oil pressure dropping to zero at idle may not be a critical issue at all, but it may happen frequently. More specifically, when your car is getting old and the parts are wearing out, the oil pressure problems are visible.
So, to prevent this problem, make sure that your car is going through proper maintenance. You should also make sure that the engine has a correct water level and there is no blockage into the engine.
Even if you face an oil drop to zero, take help from a p[refessional mechanic and solve the problem as soon as possible. It will save your car from further damages.