Oil is the blood that keeps your engine running strong for hundreds of thousands of miles. Regardless of the type of motor, all combustion engines require a specific amount of oil that will circulate through the engine to keep metal parts properly lubricated. Without it, metal components will heat, break and eventually cause enough damage inside the motor to render it useless. To avoid this problem, the oil level sensor is utilized to alert drivers that their engines require additional motor oil in order to function correctly.
The oil level sensor is located inside the oil pan. Its primary job is to measure the amount of oil inside the pan prior to the engine being started. If the oil is low, it will trigger a warning light indicator on the dashboard, or will illuminate the check engine light. However, since it's exposed to intense heat and harsh conditions, it can wear out or send faulty data to the engine control unit (ECU).
Like any other sensor, when the oil level sensor fails , it will commonly trigger an alert or error code inside the ECU and tell the driver that a problem exists. However, there are other warning signs that an issue with the oil level sensor may exist. Noted below are a few of the symptoms of a bad or failing oil level sensor.
1. Inaccurate oil reading
The oil level sensor will alert the driver that the engine is low on oil inside the crank case. However, when the sensor is damaged, it may trigger this information inaccurately. Most car owners will check their oil level manually after the alert is indicated on the dashboard. If they check the oil on the dipstick and it's full or above the "add" line, this could indicate that the oil sensor is broken or that another problem with the sensor system exists.
2. Oil Light comes on frequently
Another indicator of a potential issue with your oil level sensor is when the light comes on sporadically. The oil level sensor is supposed to come on as soon as you start your motor, as the data is collected while the motor is turned off. However, if this warning light comes on while the vehicle in in motion and has been started for a while, it is a potential indicator that the sensor is damaged. However, this symptom should not be avoided. This warning sign could indicate a problem with the engine’s oil pressure or that the oil lines are blocked by debris.
If this symptom comes up, it should be taken very seriously, as low oil pressure or blockage in the lines can result in complete engine failure. Contact a local mechanic as soon as you notice this issue to avoid further damage to internal engine components.
3. Car does not start
The oil level sensor is designed to be an alert only device. However, if the sensor is sending faulty data, it may trigger the incorrect error code and cause the engine’s ECU to not permit the engine to start. Since it's likely that you'll call a mechanic to diagnose the reason why your engine won't start, they should be able to download this error code and fix the issue by replacing the oil level sensor.
4. Check Engine Light comes on
If the oil level sensor is working correctly, it will trigger the oil light to come on your car, truck or SUV when the oil level is low. It's also common for it to trigger the check engine light if the sensor is damaged or faulty in any way. The check engine light is the default warning indicator that should inspire you to contact a local ASE certified mechanic anytime it is illuminated.
Making sure that your engine has proper oil levels, pressure and the oil is clean is something that any responsible car owner should verify every time the engine is started. If you notice any of the above symptoms, make sure you contact an experienced mechanic from YourMechanic.com so they can fix these issues before they cause additional damage to your engine.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Low Oil Level Sensor and was authored by Timothy Charlet.