Car Advice

The Meaning of the Oil Light

The oil light can indicate a problem with either the oil pressure or oil level—sometimes both.  Should the engine lose oil pressure, the oil light will come on.  This light will be red because you need to shut the engine down quickly.  When the oil pressure is too low, there will be internal damage to the engine if you continue to drive.  The damage would be about the same as driving without any oil in the engine.

Just to be clear, your engine can be low on oil and still maintain oil pressure.  The oil light may not let you know that you are low on oil—in some cars, the only way to tell if you are low on oil is to check it with the dipstick.  (One new technology in some of the higher end cars like some BMW and Mercedes models don’t use a dipstick.  Instead an internal sensor in the engine monitors the oil level and indicates this level. Most cars still have a dipstick.)

Even when you are a quart or two low on oil, you still have enough oil in the engine for it to produce pressure.  In that case, the oil light might not come on because substantial pressure exists.  However the lower the oil level, the more wear and damage to your engine may occur.  It’s possible you could have a low oil level and no indicator light to warn you.  This is why routine oil changes are so important.

Maintaining the correct oil level provides multiple benefits.  Engine lubrication is the oil’s primary job, but it also assists with cooling the engine.  Most people don’t consider the cooling properties of motor oil but that is an important function as well.  The oil moves heat from critical moving components as it circulates through the engine. 

Using the correct oil type is important to maximize fuel economy as well as using the wrong oil can lower your fuel mileage.

Call the experts at Express Auto/RV Care Center for your next oil change in our quick lube facility, (928)305-0767. We take care of all your vehicle  maintenance needs.