High Oil Pressure: Symptoms, Causes, and Repairs
Pressure and heat make diamonds, but too much will kill a healthy engine.
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Your engine’s oil pressure is one of those things that needs to be just right. If it’s too high or too low, it can be indicative of other problems. This is especially true with high oil pressure, as it’s a good warning sign that there’s something very wrong with the pathways the oil needs to follow in order to properly lubricate the engine.
Like your uncle Jim who loves BBQ ribs, your car’s heart can get clogged over time, as dirt and debris that the oil picks up can gather and cause what are essentially plaques. It’s at this point that you might start noticing an uptick in the oil pressure, just like Jim’s blood pressure.
Thankfully, like blood pressure, oil pressure can be returned to normal levels, but you’ll first need to figure out what’s causing it. Don’t worry, The Drive’s editors are well-versed in what causes high oil pressure, the consequences of ignoring it, and what you can do to fix it. Ready to Roto-Root that blockage?
What Is High Oil Pressure?
Your car’s engine requires lubrication to operate properly, which in this case is engine or motor oil. That oil flows through various parts of the engine as it runs, and needs to be pressurized to move.
Every engine and vehicle has its own specific ideal operating range when it comes to oil pressure, but it’s usually somewhere between 25 and 65 psi when the oil has been warmed up. High oil pressure, as the name suggests, is when an obstruction or other issue causes the pressure needed to move oil around to rise.
What Is Low Oil Pressure?
If your engine is experiencing low oil pressure, the oil might not be able to reach the areas of the engine where it’s needed for lubrication. Pressure helps move the oil through the narrow passageways in the engine, and a lack of lubrication can cause the engine to seize.
What Is Normal Oil Pressure?
Normal oil pressure, when everything is working as intended, means that there’s enough pressure to move the oil through the engine to properly lubricate the moving parts.
What Causes High Oil Pressure?
Picture putting your thumb over the end of a water hose. The reduction in flow causes pressure to build in the rest of the hose, and the water that does escape does so in a broken manner. As the oil flows through the system, it can carry debris, which then piles up and slows the flow, similar to how your thumb blocks the water flow from a hose.
Other common causes include a dirty oil filter, which can happen if you don’t change your oil properly or if dust and other dirt build up over time.
The most common cause of high oil pressure is engine temperature, which is ultimately what dictates the temperature that the oil reaches. Malfunctioning engine components can also cause oil pressure to rise.
Will High Oil Pressure Damage My Car?
It can. If oil flow is constricted or slowed, parts of your engine may not receive adequate lubrication. A bigger issue with high oil pressure is that it can indicate other, more serious issues with your engine’s internals, so it’s best not to ignore the pressure gauge when you see it rising. In the worst-case scenarios, this can lead to engine failure.
All the Technical Terms You Need to Know
Engine oil, or motor oil, is a fluid that helps your vehicle’s engine stay lubricated and operate properly. Since engines are made from aluminum or another type of metal, there needs to be a viscous liquid to keep things from rubbing each other the wrong way. There are different oil grades and thicknesses for different types of vehicles and purposes.
Pressure, in this case, means the force it takes to move oil through the various parts of an engine. We used the term “PSI,” which means pounds per square inch. This is a measure of pressure.
Engine failure can mean many things, but here, we’re using the term to refer to damage or destruction of internal engine parts that is severe enough to cause the engine to stop functioning. This can be as simple as a small broken tab or clip to something as serious as a bent or thrown rod.
You’re probably familiar with this one. An oil change is a process through which old engine oil and dirty filters are removed and replaced with new oil and filters. This is an essential step to prevent engine damage with dirty oil and can help keep oil pressure levels reasonable.
Sometimes You Need a Certified Mechanic
As much as The Drive loves to put the "you" in do-it-yourself, we know that not everyone has the proper tools, a safe workspace, the spare time, or the confidence to tackle major automotive repairs. Sometimes, you just need quality repair work performed by professionals you can trust like our partners, the certified mechanics at Goodyear Tire & Service.
You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!
Q. Does The Type Of Oil I’m Using Affect Oil Pressure?
A. Absolutely. Synthetic oils and those with different SAE ratings (10w40, 5w30, etc) can affect the flow of oil in your engine. This is especially true with the SAE ratings, which are designed to indicate how viscous or thick oil is after it’s warmed up.
Q. How Do I Check My Oil Pressure?
A. Lucky for you, we already have a guide to this one. Check out our post on how to check oil pressure.
Q. Ok, Then How Often Do I Need to Check My Oil Pressure?
A. Not often as your car’s oil pressure gauge gives you constant readings. The only time you would test it is if, as is described above, the pressure gauge is fluctuating or has flatlined.
Q. Alright, So I Checked It And It’s Running High. What Should I Do?
A. Start with the basics. Have you had an oil change recently? If you did, can you verify that the oil used was the right type? Beyond that, high oil pressure is a good indicator of other, more serious issues with your engine. It’s a good idea to get things checked out to rule out anything big.
Q. Yeah, But Can I Drive a Car With High Oil Pressure?
A. Do you need a new coffee table?
A. Because that’s what will happen to your engine if you keep driving it with high oil pressure.
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