Why Is My Oil Light On?

Types of Oil Warning Lights

Here are some oil warning signs you should know.

The Oil Temperature Indicator Symbol

This warning light, typically red, features an oil can with a single drop of oil from the spout and a thermometer image above the oil can. It is also an indicator of extreme heat in the vehicle.

Whenever you encounter this warning, you must shut down the car as soon as possible and allow it to cool down before operating it again. Ideally, the next port of call would be at an auto service center to help you diagnose and resolve the issue.

This indicator, typically an exclamation point beside a dial and a pointer, indicates that the oil pressure is too low.

Low Oil Level Warning Indicator

This indicator, an oil can with a wavy line below the symbol, indicates that the vehicle's oil is too low to operate safely. There may be an oil leak or the engine is burning oil as well.

What Can Trigger Oil Warning Lights?

Several operating conditions can cause the oil warning light to begin flashing. The most typical causes include the following:

1. Utilizing Low-quality or Wrong Motor Oil

Using the wrong oil specification can trigger the oil warning light. This is because the sensors that monitor oil levels look out for specific conditions in terms of viscosity, thermal stability, friction reduction, etc.

If the oil warning lights suddenly flash after an oil change, you may be using the wrong oil type.

2. Oil Pressure Sensor and Wiring Issues

The oil pressure sensor is a plug-like device that monitors the engine oil pressure of automobiles. They are calibrated to ensure that oil is well above specific thresholds inside the oil compartment.

However, normal wear and tear sometimes degrade these sensors to the point where they may send false alarms. A quick way to determine whether an oil sensor has reached the end of its useful life is to take the component out of the engine and analyze it with an oil pressure sensor socket.

Unless you have the requisite expertise and tools, an expert technician is best suited to troubleshoot and diagnose the issue.

3. Damaged or Clogged Oil Filter

The oil filter is a core component in the system that ensures that the engine receives the proper oil pressure.

It keeps your motor oil clean of particles and contaminants. So clogging the component could raise serious issues. A damaged or clogged oil filter can reduce the oil flow into the engine, which will, in turn, cause the oil warning light to activate.

Symptoms of a bad oil filter include:

  • Oil pressure warning on the dashboard
  • Low oil pressure
  • Friction between metal components, resulting in a noisy engine
  • High oil pressure
  • Low oil pressure, leading to a stalling engine
4. Low Oil Level or Worn Out Oil

One of the typical reasons why the oil warning light might start blinking is when the oil in the vehicle has gone below the optimal threshold or the oil has become contaminated to the point where it no longer imparts any protective effect on the moving parts it is meant to lubricate.

Without an adequate amount of oil in the vehicle, the engine cannot function properly; lack of lubrication can cause the engine to seize up; this is why it is advised that you stop the vehicle immediately or drive into a service station as soon as possible when the oil warning light, especially the red hue that indicates grave danger, comes on.

5. Overheating Engine

Another common reason the oil warning light might start flashing is overheating, particularly in older vehicles. If the oil light begins blinking, followed by popping sounds from the engine bay, oil lubrication likely has failed.

6. Faulty Oil Pump or Oil Pressure Gauge

Other reasons the oil light will begin flashing is a problem with the oil pressure gauge or pump. When this happens, you will find that the oil levels are normal, but the flashing will persist. Faulty wiring and other types of electrical issues can also be responsible for this.


Whenever you are driving and your oil warning lights begin to flash, you should pull over to a safe place and check your oil levels. However, make sure to give the engine 5-10 minutes to cool to get an accurate reading. You should also check around the car to ensure that oil is not leaking out. After that, consider taking your vehicle to Caliber Auto Care and letting our team of skilled technicians diagnose the problem.

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