3 Common Oil Pressure Gauge Problems

The oil pressure gauge reads high in a Jeep.

Have you noticed that your oil pressure gauge is not working properly? Often, the oil pressure sensor and the oil pressure gauge are the first things to break. While a broken oil pressure gauge is not a threat to your vehicle, it is too important a tool for you to lose. It alerts you when there's a real problem going on in your engine. It is your indicator when your engine is running low on oil or when it is overheating, and if these problems go unaddressed, it could mean engine failure and hefty repair costs. That's why it is important to understand when your oil pressure gauge is faulty.

1. Oil Pressure Gauge Not Working

You will notice your gauge not working at all when it stays bottomed out whether the engine is turned off, idle, or running. Try to step on the gas to rev up the engine. If the oil pressure gauge still doesn't change its reading, your gauge is busted. It's best to replace it as soon as possible because you won't have any idea if your car is already low on oil overheating.

2. Oil Pressure Gauge Reading Too Low

When your engine is idle or when you’ve just started your car, the oil pressure gauge will have a low reading. When the engine starts running and heating up or when you're already cruising on the freeway, your gauge's reading should increase. If it stays on a low reading, then you know your oil pressure gauge is broken.

3. Oil Pressure Gauge Reading Too High

Another common oil pressure gauge problem is a reading that’s too high when your engine is idle or when it's turned off. The gauge should never read very high when you’re not driving because the engine should be fairly cool due to inactivity. If you park or idle your car after driving and your pressure gauge reading does not return to a lower number, the gauge is defective.

There are many reasons why an oil pressure gauge may be broken. Replacing the gauge itself should be the first thing to try, but if your issues continue even after a new one has been installed, check for other problems. Make sure the wiring in your dash is not shorted or faulty, and consider taking your car to a mechanic to get your oil pressure sending unit checked or replaced. Or, if you’re an eager DIYer, you can even do it yourself.

Oil Pressure Gauge Problems FAQ

How do I know if my oil pressure gauge is bad?

When your oil pressure gauge is bad, it is likely to display an inaccurate reading and even turn your oil light on when no oil change is needed. The light may also blink on and off.

The oil gauge may also display low pressure while the vehicle is idling or display a pressure rating that is far too high. These readings are inaccurate because the gauge is not working.

What are the most common oil pressure problems?

Low oil pressure, when the oil level goes below the dipstick line, is the most common problem vehicle owners face when it comes to oil pressure. This can happen at any time because engines burn oil while they're running.

Can you drive a car with a bad oil pressure sensor?

You can drive with a bad oil pressure sensor because this piece of equipment's goal is to provide you with information about the oil level in the car. You will not get accurate readings while the sensor is bad, so it is definitely in your best interest to get this fixed as quickly as possible so you have the correct information and you will know when it is time for an oil change.

While driving without the sensor will not hurt you, driving without the right amount of oil pressure can cause irreversible damage to the engine.

How do you test an oil pressure sensor?

The easiest way to test an oil pressure sensor is to use a multimeter. Set the meter to read resistance or to test for a closed circuit if this feature is available.

Remove the cables that connect the oil pressure sensor and test it using the multimeter with the engine turned off and then with it turned on. This will tell you whether or not the oil pressure sensor is working properly.

What causes oil pressure sensor to go bad?

Many factors can contribute to making an oil pressure sensor go bad. There could be a short in the wiring or other wiring damage, such as a corroded plug, that renders the sensor inoperable.

Oil pressure sensors most typically go bad due to oil contamination, though simple wear and tear can also cause damage over time that causes this device to malfunction.