What Makes a Car’s Oil Light Flash?

Published: 09/14/22 •  7 min read

The engine is the main component of a car. Many features make it run smoothly. All these parts must work in an environment with high temperatures. Constant, ample lubrication is necessary to ensure that they are working correctly. 

An oil pump supplies lubricant to all engine parts. The vehicle’s Electronic Control Unit records any oil problems and stores them in a database. In most cases, the oil light indicator on the dashboard will either flash or illuminate continuously when there is an oil problem.

The low oil pressure warning lamp may turn on and off as you drive. This happens when your car’s oil pressure drops below 5-10 PSI at idle. You may hear a clicking sound unless the oil pressure drops suddenly. Whether your vehicle is stationary or moving can affect the cause of the light turning on or off.

What Makes a Car’s Oil Light Flash

Reasons for a Car’s Oil Light Flash

There may be numerous reasons why your car’s oil light flashes. The most common are:

  1. Low oil pressure 
  2. Unsafe oil pump
  3. Using an inferior or incorrect oil for your engine
  4. Clogged or bad oil filter
  5. Oil loss through oil seals and gaskets
  6. Issues with the wiring and oil pressure sensor
  7. Problematic pressure reducing valve

The color of the oil light for newer cars is different from older models. When the engine crankcase oil pressure is low, the oil light will turn on. A red indicator signifies low oil pressure, whereas the yellow oil indicator on the dashboard indicates low oil levels.

The oil light errors can be activated independently because they are triggered by data from two sensors (engine oil pressure and level sensors). It all depends on the levels. The oil pump can provide enough pressure even if the oil level drops to a low level. 

If the oil level is not within the normal range (e.g., with a clogged filter), the system pressure is too low to allow efficient lubrication. This example of a crankcase breaking triggers the low-pressure oil light and the low oil level indicator. If the level is very low, there will not be any pressure. However, there will still be pressure if it has fallen slightly below the minimum mark.

Let’s now discuss the most common reasons that cause the oil light to flash on the dashboard. Keep reading!

What Makes a Car’s Oil Light Flash?

There are many reasons why the oil light will not flash but remain on. We will concentrate on those that cause an oil light to flash.

Use of a Low-Quality or an Incorrect Engine Oil

Using incorrect or low-quality engine oil can be the main reason why the oil light blinks. A lack of interest by the car owner can lead to a wrong viscosity. 

Problematic Oil Pump

The oil pump will fail if the pressure is not maintained. This will cause the oil light to flash.

Another cause is a clogged mesh on the oil pump. This is similar to an oil filter that blocks oil flow. It causes a drop in oil pressure and a decrease in oil level. This will also harm the oil pump as it will accelerate its wear.

Leaking Oil

Wear-out seals, gaskets, and o-rings can allow oil to leak, as well as through broken pipes or oil channels. A significant oil leak can cause oil to ooze from the seals, gaskets, o-rings, and pipes. This will result in a flashing oil light or constant on.

Use of a Clogged or Low-Quality Oil Filter

The oil filter aims to keep the engine clean by preventing foreign material, dust, and other debris from entering the engine. It also keeps the engine running while it is off and prevent oil starvation after the engine has been turned on for a while.

If the oil filter is not working correctly or is low quality, you can drain the oil from the pan and start the engine. After that, friction will occur for a few seconds. This

could cause increased wear to the engine’s internal parts.

The low oil error light will flash briefly and turn on in this instance. However, it will eventually turn off after a few seconds. A blocked oil filter will cause the “check oil pressure” light to go on most of the time. It can also have unusual behavior such as staying on, blinking, or turning on and off.

Clogged oil filters will prevent engine oil from flowing as it should. This may cause a drop in the oil pressure and reduce engine oil resources.

Problem With Oil Pressure Sensor and Wiring

The incorrect operation of oil sensors, particularly the low-pressure ones, could also be a reason. This sensor could fail and need to be replaced. Pay attention to the sensor’s wiring, as there may be a few faulty wires.

Problem With Pressure Reducing Valve

The oil pump has a pressure-reducing valve that maintains the oil pressure at the correct level. If it fails, the oil will not be evenly distributed between parts of the engine. This can lead to an oil level decrease. This can cause a flashing oil light to appear.

Solutions for a Car’s Oil Light Flash

The oil light on or off while the vehicle is stationary or idle may indicate a problem with the oil sensor or too low pressure. The engine should be able to produce 5 PSI when it is not in motion. The oil light will flicker if the PSI falls below 5. The oil levels could be too low if the light flashes when the vehicle moves. 

If necessary, check the oil level and add oil to the vehicle. Then, continue to watch for the light. The light should go off if the oil level is low. It could be that the engine bearings have worn. This can cause engine oil to leak from the place it was previously contained. It will be repaired or inspected by a technician immediately.

The dashboard may display a blinking oil light error indication when the engine is running or when the car is being driven. Depending on the atmospheric temperature outside, it is possible to simply turn off the engine and let it cool down for 10 minutes or 25-30 minutes. This will cool down the engine and allow you to see how much oil is inside.

If you see low oil levels on the dipstick, you can add oil to the engine. You can use the same oil as the engine. WHEELSCRIBE does not recommend mixing different oil viscosities. You can mix oil viscosities in a critical situation until the repair shop is available. After that, you will need to flush the engine thoroughly, change the oil filter, and add new oil.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, you can stop using a flashing oil lamp. Other damage can occur to the engine, leading to costly repairs. We recommend towing your car to the mechanic shop to ensure a thorough inspection.

Also read: What Does Wrench Light Mean?

Final Words

Routine maintenance, including regular oil changes, is the best way to keep your oil pressure light from flashing. If your engine has difficulty sending oil through the engine, you will notice the engine knocking and the oil pressure gauge low at idle. Neglecting oil pressure issues can cause severe damage to the engine block. Get in touch with a certified professional to keep your engine running smoothly.