There is not a driver on the road today who doesn’t know the feeling of being low on gas.
When that low-fuel light illuminates, you get those warning chimes, and you start to panic as the needle edges its way towards that dreaded red zone, and we frantically try to find our way to a gas station.
So, what about your oil pressure gauge. You can’t fix your oil pressure much like you can with your gas being low. We pay so much attention to our gas meter, why do we not focus so much on the oil pressure. When did you last look at yours? Are you even aware of where it is?
Well, your oil pressure gauge should read between 25-65 psi when the engine is running. If you find it creeping it’s way higher, up to 80 psi, then you are looking at a high oil pressure problem. If this happens, it will disrupt your engines appropriate functioning.
We know many of the causes of this problem, what causes it and how to fix. That is why we have put together this handy guide for you, so we can help you to understand what high oil pressure is, why it matters, how to avoid it, and if it happens how to fix it.
But, before we dive head first into the heavy stuff, lets take a quick look at what the basics are of an engine lubrication system, so we can all get a better feel of what we are looking at here.
The Basics of an Engine Lubrication System
First, the oil pan. This part is located near to the bottom of the engine. It acts as a reservoir for the oil before it is pumped throughout the engine. Most of these will hold between 4-6 quarts of oil.
The Pickup Tube
Your engine will need oil right away, the moment that you turn on the key, this pickup tube carries the oil from the pan and to the pump.
The Oil Pump
As it suggests, an oil pump is the part in charge of ‘pumping’ the oil through the system. It ensures that all the moving parts of the engine are well lubricated and there is not too much friction.
The Pressure Relief Valve
The oil pressure relief valve is made up of three parts, a piston, a spring, and also a plug. Under normal conditions this valve is fully extended, and regulates the flow of oil.
As pressure begins to accumulate, it forces the piston against the spring, which in turn allows more to pass through, in turn this decreases pressure.
The Oil Filter
As oil travels through the system, it will often pick up damaging contaminants such as dirt dust, or metal flakes. The oil filter participates here, as the oil passes through under pressure, any of these unwanted and harmful particles don’t.
The Spurt Holes and Galleries
Spurt holes and galleries are small exits points located throughout the system where the oil is allowed to seep through.
They make sure that there is adequate lubrication for the multiple moving parts, this includes the pistons, rings, pins, bearings, and cylinders.
Then after this the oil has completed its full journey and returns to the oil pan.
Oil Pressure: The What and Why?
High oil pressure indicates that the rate of oil flow is being restricted somehow.
This can be a result of a blockage, a faulty part, or even the oil itself. As previously noted, the ideal pressure should lay between 25 and 65 psi. When the pressure exceeds this range, this means that something is wrong, and it needs to be corrected before damage occurs to the system.
Adequate lubrication is imperative to the health of any engine on any motor operated mechanism. Without proper lubrication friction can build, and you run the risk of overheating. When this happens, there is a risk of a crack developing in the engine block, or even blowing a head gasket increase.
Each of these scenarios is very costly to fix, that is if it is not too far gone and repair is still an option. For this reason, you should take action at the first signs that you are experiencing high oil pressure.
Reasons for High Oil Pressure
Faulty Sending Unit
The oil pressure unit is what controls the gauge in the dash of your vehicle. If this is faulty you will get false readings, the only way to check in this case for a failure is to manually check the oil pressure yourself.
To do this you will need an oil pressure gauge and an adapter to fit your vehicle, you can get oil pressure test kits for this.
First of all, you should check that the engine has cooled enough for you to work on, then put the transmission in neutral or park and apply the handbrake.
Now you should locate the sending unit that is often found near the oil pan. Be sure to have an oil drip pan ready, since you will get a few drips when you remove the sending unit.
Next, you need to connect the pressure gauge, turn the car on, and press the gas pedal, hold it between 2,500 to 4,000 revs per minute for up to 20 seconds.
You should take a look in your vehicle manual for the suitable operating range for your vehicle. If the gauge shows that the pressure if in a healthy range then you can search for the problem elsewhere.
Otherwise, the issue is typically a faulty sending unit. You could pay a professional to diagnose the issue, but if so you should expect to pay a fee of around $100.
Relief Valve Malfunction
The relief valve is not a complex component, it is simply a piston, spring, and plug as we previously mentioned. It protects the engine from damage that can be caused by high pressure, however it also regulates the flow of oil through the block.
How can you know if it is the issue? You have got to inspect it. Although, if you start up your car, take it for a drive, and you find that the pressure is not reaching the levels you expect then it may be a sign of a relief valve malfunction.
Thankfully, simply cleaning this should be all that is required to fix this issue.
Blocked Oil Passage
As we have previously mentioned, and as obvious as it may be, one of the primary reasons behind a high oil pressure is the air flow becoming restricted.
This could be due to a blockage, which can be a very serious problem. It is usually the result of a buildup of sludge, or sometimes a carbon deposit somewhere within the oil passage.
To remove a blockage in the oil passage is very time-consuming, which can make it very costly. It requires specific tools and knowledge of how one should dismantle the system. The process involves cleaning the lubrication system, including the cooling jets, passage lines, orifice dowels, hoses, plugs, as well as any auxiliary components.
The best thing you can do is to simply hire a professional to complete this, although you can get an oil system flushing product, these range in price from $30 to $60.
Dirty Oil Filter
A majority of oil filters will last for around 3,000 miles, by this point you will usually need to replace it. This is because they accumulate debris, and as they do this they become less and less effective. When too much has collected, the flow of oil will become restricted.
A few signs that your oil filter is dirty will include, sputters or metallic sounds, a black sooty exhaust, or a reductive in the performance of your engine.
It is not too difficult to replace your oil filter at home yourself, but you can also hire a shop to do the job for you, this usually costs between $35 to $75.
This being said, if your engine requires a synthetic oil, you should expect to spend more, which can cost up to $125.
Motor oil comes in varying levels of viscosity, these refer to how thick it is and how much it weighs. The thinner the oil is the easier it will flow through the system. The thicker it is, the more pressure it will require to circulate.
The best bet you have is to consult your manual in order to determine what the manufacturer suggests concerning the viscosity level for your engine. Then, you will need to take your location into account also.
If you live in a warm climate, your oil should be thicker. In colder climates a thinner oil is best. You can also choose between regular mineral oils, fully synthetic oils, or a mixture of them both.
Synthetic oils are known for their ability to supplement engine health, although not all engines are capable of handling them.
Changing Your Engine Oil: The Importance of Regularity
A majority of mechanics would suggest changing your engine oil every 3,000 miles. That being said, modern cars, trucks, and other vehicles are generally built to last as long as 10,000 miles before you need new oil.
The main thing you should remember is that consistency is what matters. The longer that you wait, the better a change you have of your engine getting harmed.
As oil begins to age, it will break down and thicken. As you probably know, the thicker your oil is the more pressure it will require to circulate through the system. It will also pick up more contaminants and particles, which will cause it to thicken, as well as increasing the wear on your engine.
So it is best to change your engine oil regularly enough that you avoid this happening, and if it does happen, you should solve the issue as soon as possible before it becomes a bigger problem.
Can I drive my car with a high oil pressure?
It isn’t advisable to drive with a high oil pressure. When the oil pressure gauge shows that the pressure is above average, then it is telling you that there is a problem internally.
You should take care of the issue immediately, as it is the best way for you to avoid any significant repair costs later on.
Is it normal for oil pressure to fluctuate?
It is completely normal for this to happen. Note that it will take some time for the pressure to build once you have started the car.
It should begin building slowly and then settle in the middle.