Engine oil is the very lifeblood of your vehicle. Without sufficient oil or oil pressure, the engine can wear itself out in a matter of seconds. Besides lubrication, engine oil helps with cooling, sealing, cleaning, and protecting engine components from repeated impacts.
Auto manufacturers use an oil pressure warning light on the dashboard to warn the driver if the oil pressure gets too low. Some vehicles are able to distinguish between low oil levels and insufficient oil pressure so you’ll know if the pump is malfunctioning or if you just need to add some more oil.
What the oil pressure warning light means
When you start the engine, the light should turn on for a second or two to test the bulb. Once the engine has turned over, the light will turn off if everything is okay. If the light remains illuminated, immediately shut off the engine and check the dipstick.
Whenever you check your oil, always remember to wipe the dipstick clean, reinsert it back into the engine, and then read the level. Otherwise, your reading will be inaccurate. The same thing applies if you are driving and the light comes on. Pull over as quickly and safely as possible and check the oil level. If the overall level is correct, it is likely that the fuel pump or oil pressure gauge are malfunctioning. Replacing the pump or whatever is malfunctioning should turn the light off.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What Does the Oil Pressure Warning Light Mean? and was authored by Spencer Cates.