Why is My Car Oil Light On?

When you regularly change the oil in your car or truck, it can help prolong the life of your vehicle. It may also help maintain your warranty. But sometimes, even a person dedicated to vehicle maintenance can encounter the dreaded car oil light. Here’s what to do if the oil light shows up on your dashboard display.

What Does My Car Oil Light Mean?

Anytime the car oil light appears on your dashboard, it can mean a lot of different things. While carmaker oil light icons differ, overall the color of the icon on your dash means one of three things:

Yellow: Get your oil changed soon.

Amber: You could be low on oil (due to a leak or issue with your engine), or your oil pressure is low.

Red: There could be a problem that requires your immediate attention.

Amber Oil Light

Red Oil Light

Oil lights will typically have an oil can as seen above.

What Causes My Oil Light to Be On?

There are a handful of reasons why your oil light might turn on. They include:

Dirty Oil: Over time and miles, the oil in your engine accumulates dirt, bits of rubber and flakes of metal. This can lessen the fluidity of the oil, making it less effective at lubricating and holding pressure. Dirty oil will look dark and slightly sludgy. Clean oil will look amber in color or nearly transparent.

Low Oil Level: When you don’t have enough oil in your vehicle, it can cause issues with the oil pressure. It can also cause engine problems or failure. Over time, you can lose oil due to a leak or engine issue that burns the oil. Check your owner’s manual to locate your oil dipstick and how to check fluid levels. If your oil is low, add the right amount and type of oil for your vehicle. Just don’t add too much, as that can be nearly as bad as driving with low oil levels.

Bad Oil Pump: If your oil levels and cleanliness look okay, the issue could be with the oil pump. This essential part keeps oil flowing and your engine running. If you hear strange noises coming from your engine, get your vehicle to a mechanic.

Worn Engine Bearings: Your car’s oil pressure and engine bearings work hand-in-hand. If those bearings start to go, it can cause a drastic reduction in oil pressure, triggering an oil light.

Bad Oil-pressure Sensor: If everything appears to be okay with your oil and there are no strange noises coming from the engine, it could be a bad oil-pressure sensor.

Ways to Diagnose Why the Oil Light is On

When the oil engine light appears on your dash, don’t panic. That indicator could just mean you need to change your oil soon. But it can also indicate other issues. To diagnose the problem, ask yourself the following questions.

Is your car oil low?

For the answer, simply pull over, open the hood of your vehicle, and check the oil. If you don’t know where the dipstick is on your car or truck, or how to safely check the oil levels when the engine is hot or cold, consult your owner’s manual.

Is your car leaking oil?

If the oil levels are okay, you recently got an oil change, or if the vehicle seems to be driving fine, you could have a leak. An oil leak near the drain plug or oil pan can leave drips of oil on your driveway. If the leak is in your engine, that oil will likely burn and create a smell. Either way, let your mechanic know.

Is your car oil dirty?

Dirty oil, packed with dirt, dust, and more, can cause oil pressure to drop. To check your oil cleanliness, simply check your oil level with your vehicle’s dipstick. Clean oil will appear transparent and amber in color while dirty oil will be thick and dark.

My Car Oil isn’t Low. Why is My Light Still On?

That oil engine light could mean that your oil pump has an issue or the oil pressure sensor needs to be replaced. Either way, you’ll need to go to a certified mechanic or the service center where you bought the vehicle. If you’re sure there are no issues, you can also try to reset the oil light indicator. You’ll find instructions in your owner’s manual. If the light reappears after you’ve reset it, get to a mechanic for help.

Check if Your Nearby Les Schwab Offers Oil Services

Doing the job right the first time is at the heart of what we do at Les Schwab. Over the decades, we’ve gotten rather good at it. From tires and wheels to brakes, alignment, batteries, and suspension, we’re here when you need our expert advice and services. That includes oil changes at some Les Schwab Tires locations. Check on availability and schedule your next, quality, manufacturer-recommended oil change at Les Schwab.