Engine Oil Light Basics: What Every Driver Should Know

For many car owners, seeing the engine oil light come on on the dashboard triggers little more than the thought that they should add more oil to the engine. What a lot of car owners don't realize is that the engine oil light can actually illuminate for many reasons — not just because the engine is low on oil. Here's a look at what you need to know so that you can address your needed auto repairs.

Oil Level Issue

The most common cause of an oil light indicator illuminating in your car is a low oil level in the engine. This is usually the result of an oil leak somewhere in the engine. As a result, your engine's oil level is the first thing that you should check when the oil light comes on. Make sure that you wipe the dipstick and then reinsert it to get an accurate reading. 

If the engine oil level is below the full mark on the dipstick, add some until the oil level is full. You should have your car checked out by an auto repair technician to find the source of the leak as well. However, if the oil is full, it's likely another problem that's triggering the engine oil light.

Oil Age And Condition

Waiting too long to have your engine oil changed can cause the oil to degrade. When this happens, the oil will thin out. Thin oil doesn't create as much pressure as healthy, new oil. The lower pressure can trigger the engine oil light as well. When you check the oil level in your engine, you should also examine the oil's condition. If the oil appears thin, dark, or smells burnt, it's important that you have your auto repair technician do an oil change right away.

Oil Pump Malfunction

The oil pump in your car is responsible for maintaining the pressure and circulation of the oil in the engine. When the oil pump isn't working as it's supposed to, the oil won't circulate properly. Your engine may experience insufficient oil pressure due to the malfunctioning pump. Your auto repair technician can inspect and test the pump to determine if it's the source of the problem. If it is, he or she can replace it to ensure proper oil circulation and pressure.

Your engine's oil light is a significant warning indicator, and it is one that shouldn't be overlooked. Make sure that you take time to talk with your auto repair technician if you have any reason to be concerned about your car's engine oil.