What Are The Causes of Low Oil Pressure At Idle?

Low oil pressure in the engine is a terrible situation for any car and it can lead to the engine damaging within seconds which can even be permanent damage. But most people are not sure how low oil pressure at idle is caused and how to diagnose it. This article tries and explains the different symptoms and causes of low engine oil pressure at idle so read on!

What Symptoms Help You Identify Low Oil Pressure?

There are mainly 4 symptoms that help us diagnose low engine oil pressure. If your car is showing any of these symptoms, you have to know that your car is having the issue, low oil pressure at idle. 

1. Oil pressure Light On Dashboard

Most modern cars come with several warning LED lights on the dashboard that ignite according to the issue your car is facing. These warning lights are attached with sensors to monitor the respective parts which send the signal and ignite the warning light when something goes wrong. 

One such warning light is the low engine oil pressure light. If your car is having the issue, low oil pressure at idle, this warning light will ignite on the dashboard. 

The oil pressure sensor is live-monitoring the oil pressure at all times If the oil pressure in the engine gets too low or too high, the warning light will ignite on the dashboard. But there can be instances of false signals too which happen when the oil pressor sensor is faulty. 

2. Bad Noises From Engine

Another common symptom that one can notice when there is low engine oil pressure at idle is strange noises from the engine. The oil pressure prevents the engine parts from rubbing against each other. But when the pressure is low it won’t be capable of stopping this from happening. The rubbing of metal against metal is the cause of the strange sound. You should switch off the engine as soon as you notice such strange sounds in your car. 

3. Check Engine Light


The oil pressure is also responsible for control tensioners like the timing belt or timing chain tensioner. It is also responsible for controlling different pumps like the fuel pump in case you have a diesel engine. 

However, if the oil pressure is low and the chain tensioner won’t tension the timing chain which results in the switching off of the camshaft which in turn switches off the check engine light on the dashboard. 

4. Seized Engine

This last symptom is probably the worst symptom of all. This symptom comes when you ignored the rattling noise from your engine and the low oil pressure warning sign on the dashboard and continued driving. A car engine that got seized due to the issue, low oil pressure at idle is in most cases, impossible to repair. An engine replacement is the only fix at this point. 

What Are The Causes of Low Oil Pressure At Idle?

Several reasons cause the issue, low oil pressure at idle in your car. These are.

1. Low Engine Oil Level

If you are noticing that your car is having a low engine oil pressure at idle, you have to check whether the engine oil level is correct and not under the ‘MIN’ mark. Modern cars do often have an oil level sensor. If you see a yellow oil can light on your dashboard, it means that your oil pressure is light. When the oil level is low, the pump will suck the air instead which makes a low and fluctuating oil pressure. 

2. Wrong Type Of Engine Oil For Your Engine

The oil you use in your engine can result in low oil pressure at idle. If you are using 0w-20 oil in an engine that requires 5w-50 oil, you could get a low oil pressure when the engine is hot. Some engines are equipped with bigger bearing play. They require thicker oil to get the correct oil pressure. If you have low oil pressure and suspect that you have the wrong oil in your car, check your repair manual of what oil you should have and make an oil and oil filter change.

3. Dirty Pickup To The Oil Pump

If you notice that the oil level and the oil type is correct, then the most common cause will be low oil pressure is too much dirt in the pickup to the oil pump. In normal circumstances, the oil pump takes the oil from the bottom of the oil pan from a pipe. Before that pipe, there is often a net that will prevent any big metal pieces from going through the oil pump.

That filter/net could catch a lot of dirt and may have to be cleaned. To check this, you have to remove the oil pan from your vehicle and inspect the oil pickup.

4. Damaged Oil Pump

Damage in the oil pump can cause low engine oil pressure especially at idle. Diagnosing damage in an oil pump is not very easy and replacing or fixing the oil pump can also be very hard. 

It is better to let your mechanic diagnose and repair your oil pump if you are not familiar with car parts and the ways to fix them. Ask your authorized dealer or check your repair manual to find where the oil pump is located and how hard it is to replace it.

5. An Internal Oil Leak Or Damaged Bearings

An internal oil leak inside the engine is caused in some rare cases. Such leaks can cause oil pressure low and it could leak from a crack or a bad internal gasket. 

Another issue could be that the crankshaft bearings are already gone. In such a situation, you will hear a nasty noise from the engine if the bearings are gone. These issues are not very easy to diagnose yourself if you are not a very skilled mechanic. 


The issue of low pressure at idle is not at all a desirable situation for a car. If ignored, the problem will get worse and even cause irreversible engine damage. The only possible fix is then only by replacing the engine. The symptoms and causes of this issue are discussed in the article. Hope you found it helpful!

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