Oil Pressure Sensor Malfunction (Symptoms + Solutions)

oil pressure sensor malfunction

If you’re a car owner, you know how important it is to keep your engine running smoothly. One crucial component that ensures the proper functioning of your engine is the engine oil pressure sensor, also known as the oil pressure switch or oil pressure sending unit.

This small yet vital component is installed between the oil filter and the oil pan of your car. Its primary function is to monitor the oil pressure in your car’s lubrication system and report any abnormalities to the Electronic Control Unit (ECU).

When the engine oil pressure sensor detects low oil pressure, it sends a signal to the ECU, which then triggers warning lights on your car’s dashboard.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the signs, diagnosis, and frequently asked questions related to a faulty engine oil pressure sensor.

By understanding the symptoms of a bad oil pressure sensor, you can save yourself time, money, and potentially prevent severe engine damage.

1. Understanding the Engine Oil Pressure Sensor

The engine oil pressure sensor, also referred to as the oil pressure switch or oil pressure sending unit, is a pressure transducer that monitors the oil pressure in your car’s lubrication system.

It is typically located between the oil filter and the oil pan. The sensor plays a crucial role in maintaining the proper functioning of your engine by ensuring that the oil pressure stays within the optimal range.

The oil pressure sensor is connected to the oil pressure gauge on your car’s instrument cluster. It measures the oil pressure and sends a signal to the gauge, which displays the reading on your dashboard.

Additionally, the sensor communicates with the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) of your car, allowing it to monitor the oil pressure and take appropriate actions if any abnormalities are detected.

2. Symptoms of a Bad Engine Oil Pressure Sensor

A faulty engine oil pressure sensor can lead to various warning signs that indicate a potential problem. Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for identifying and addressing issues with the oil pressure sensor or related components. Here are three common signs of a bad engine oil pressure sensor:

Inaccurate Reading From the Oil Pressure Gauge

One of the primary indications of a faulty oil pressure sensor is when the oil pressure gauge provides incorrect readings.

You may notice that the gauge’s pointer is stuck at one end of its range or that the gauge only works intermittently. This discrepancy in readings can be attributed to a malfunctioning oil pressure sensor.

Oil Pressure Warning Light is On or Blinking

If the oil pressure sensor is not functioning correctly, it can falsely trigger a low oil pressure condition, resulting in the illumination of the oil pressure warning light on your dashboard. In some cases, the warning light may blink on and off.

It is essential to differentiate between an actual low oil pressure issue and a faulty oil pressure switch by checking the engine oil level in the oil pan.

If the oil level is normal, there is a high chance that you need to replace the oil pressure sensor.

Illuminated Check Engine Light

The check engine light is a general warning light that illuminates when there is a problem with any engine component, including the engine oil pressure sensor.

To determine if a faulty oil pressure sensor is causing the illuminated check engine light, a diagnostic scan needs to be performed.

By connecting a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) scanner to the car’s ECU, a mechanic can identify specific trouble codes that indicate a faulty oil pressure sensor.

3. Diagnosing a Faulty Oil Pressure Sensor

Diagnosing a faulty oil pressure sensor involves a systematic approach to ruling out other potential causes of low oil pressure. Here are the steps to follow when diagnosing a bad oil pressure sensor:

Checking Engine Oil Level and Condition

Before examining the oil pressure sensor, it is crucial to verify the engine oil level and condition. Start by pulling out the dipstick from the oil tube, wiping it clean, and reinserting it.

Observe the markings on the dipstick to determine if the oil level is below the recommended range. Additionally, inspect the oil’s condition. Normal engine oil should be dark brown or black.

Any abnormal appearance, such as a milky or metallic appearance, may indicate a problem with the engine.

Inspecting the Wiring to the Sensor

If the engine oil level and condition are normal, the next step is to inspect the wiring connected to the oil pressure sensor.

Conduct a visual inspection to identify any damaged or poorly connected wiring. Damaged or loose wiring can disrupt the signal transmission between the sensor and the ECU, leading to inaccurate readings.

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Checking Actual Oil Pressure

To confirm whether the oil pressure sensor is faulty, it is necessary to check the actual oil pressure in the engine. This step requires the use of an oil pressure gauge. Remove the oil pressure switch and install the gauge with an adaptor to the engine.

Start the engine and let it reach a specific temperature while maintaining a steady RPM. Take a reading on the pressure gauge to determine if it falls within the expected range for your specific engine model.

If the gauge shows a low oil pressure reading while the engine is running, it could indicate internal issues with the engine’s lubrication system or a clogged oil filter.

On the other hand, if the oil pressure is within the expected range and there are no issues with the wiring, it is likely that the oil pressure sensor is faulty and needs to be replaced.

4. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Engine Oil Pressure Sensors

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about engine oil pressure sensors:

Can a Bad Oil Pressure Sensor Cause Low Oil Pressure?

A faulty oil pressure sensor can falsely trigger a low oil pressure warning light, but it does not directly cause low oil pressure.

Low oil pressure can be caused by various factors, such as a malfunctioning oil pump, clogged oil filter, or insufficient oil level.

It is essential to diagnose the root cause of low oil pressure before replacing the oil pressure sensor.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace an Oil Pressure Sensor?

The cost of replacing an oil pressure sensor can vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle and the labor rates in your area.

On average, the cost can range from $100 to $300, including the parts and labor. It is recommended to consult with a professional mechanic for an accurate cost estimate.

Can I Drive with a Faulty Oil Pressure Sensor?

It is not advisable to drive with a faulty oil pressure sensor. A malfunctioning sensor can lead to inaccurate readings, making it difficult to monitor the actual oil pressure in your engine.

This can potentially result in severe engine damage if the oil pressure drops to dangerous levels without proper warning.

How Often Should I Replace my Oil Pressure Sensor?

The lifespan of an oil pressure sensor can vary depending on various factors, including the quality of the sensor and the driving conditions.

As a general guideline, it is recommended to replace the oil pressure sensor every 60,000 to 70,000 miles or as specified in your vehicle’s maintenance schedule.

Regular inspections and maintenance can help identify any potential issues with the sensor before they cause significant problems.

SYMPTOMS OF A BAD OIL PRESSURE SENSOR >> Check out the video below:


Maintaining a properly functioning engine oil pressure sensor is crucial for the health and performance of your car’s engine.

By recognizing the signs of a bad oil pressure sensor and performing a thorough diagnosis, you can address any issues promptly and prevent severe engine damage. Remember to consult with a professional mechanic for accurate diagnosis and replacement of the oil pressure sensor.

Regular maintenance and inspections are key to ensuring the longevity of your engine and a smooth driving experience.

Steve P.

Steve is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Riviera. Steve is based in Boise, Idaho.

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