Auto manufacturers are adding more and more bells and whistles to car dashboards these days. Even so, a few critical indicator lights have held on to center stage. One of the most misinterpreted among those is the oil light.
Let’s talk about what the oil light means and what to do if it starts to glow on your dashboard.
Your dashboard oil light may look like an oil can, often with a dripping spout, or it simply may be the word “OIL.” Whatever form it takes, the most important thing to know is that when it comes on, your car must be stopped as soon as it’s physically safe to do so.
This surprises plenty of drivers. Many assume that the oil light is only a reminder to get an oil change for your car or even to add a little extra oil. Unfortunately, neither of those is a correct understanding. In fact, both are unsafe assumptions on which to continue driving.
What Does a Glowing Oil Light Mean?
That glowing oil light indicates an engine malfunction that you must treat as a driving emergency. Once it’s on, there’s no time for dawdling. Don’t pause to finish your conversation, much less your trip. Immediately look for the nearest safe place to pull off the road and turn off the car.
What’s the rush? It all has to do with the engine parameter to which that oil light is tied. The light comes on when the engine’s oil-pressure sensor is tripped, which in turn is caused by an oil-pressure reading below safe levels.
Under normal conditions, proper oil pressure ensures enough oil circulating through the engine to prevent excessive wear and tear on the engine’s internals. Once oil pressure has fallen to those unsafe levels, continuing to run the vehicle forces the engine components to run nearly or fully dry, a state which causes the machinery’s destruction from the inside out.
This hazardous and mechanically catastrophic process takes just seconds or minutes after the oil light begins to glow. Stopping the car’s engine quickly is the only sure way to head off such permanent engine damage.
Big Risks with Low Oil Pressure
Your engine’s low oil pressure may have several causes, all of which require professional attention. The engine oil may be excessively hot or cold, making it either too thin or too sluggish to lubricate the mechanism sufficiently. There may be leaks or blockages in the oil system, reducing the amount of oil available and thus the oil pressure too.
Malfunctions in other components also may be responsible. A faulty engine-oil pump may be failing to distribute oil adequately throughout the system. The oil-pressure sensor itself may be broken, giving a false reading when in fact the pressure is just fine. Of course, when that light comes on, it’s unwise to gamble that a faulty sensor is the only reason!
Get a Diagnostic Assessment When Your Oil Light Goes On
Have a professional mechanic check the car for the problem that tripped your oil-pressure sensor. Remember, it’s not safe to drive it until you know what the issue is. The safest course of action for you and the engine is to have a tow truck transport your vehicle the rest of the way to the mechanic. If you’re in the Aiken SC area, just give us a call or come by our shop to set up an appointment.
When you have trouble with your vehicle, Wayne’s Automotive is here to make your life easier. We can take care of towing your vehicle to our auto repair shop and diagnosis the problem indicated by your oil light. Every day our ASE Certified technicians conduct courtesy inspections on any trucks and cars that come to our auto repair shop.
Remember, the dashboard oil light is a crucial indicator of a car’s mechanical condition. If yours starts to glow, treat the warning seriously. A little extra caution can save you the time and expense of buying a new car.
Wayne’s Automotive is a family owned, independent truck and auto repair shop with extensive experience with all domestic and import makes and model, including diesel engines and trucks. Since 1980, we’ve been proudly providing truck and auto repair, towing and vehicle maintenance to Aiken SC and surrounding communities. Come visit us at Wayne’s Automotive, where “We Take Pride in Your Ride.”