Low Oil Pressure Light
If you've noticed the low oil pressure light illuminated on your vehicle's dashboard, you might be wondering whether it's safe to drive. Consisting of an oil canister icon, the low oil pressure light is designed to notify drivers about problems with the vehicle's engine oil. Specifically, it triggers in response to either insufficient oil pressure or an insufficient amount of oil.
Why You Shouldn't Drive With the Low Oil Pressure Light On
Even if your vehicle sounds and handles fine, you shouldn't drive it if the low oil pressure light is on. Oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle's engine. Its primary function is to lubricate the engine's internal parts, allowing them to glide against each other more freely and with less friction. Oil also moves particulate matter, such as soot, from inside the combustion chamber to the bottom of the oil pan. Furthermore, oil offers supplemental cooling to help keep engine temperatures in check.
When the low oil pressure light is illuminated, it means there's a serious problem with the engine oil. The lack of oil or oil pressure will restrict your engine of this vital liquid. In turn, your engine's internal components won't have proper lubrication, resulting in faster wear and tear.
Depending on the severity of the problem, it may cause blown rods or other catastrophic forms of engine damage. Unless you're willing to take this risk -- which you shouldn't -- it's recommended that you don't drive your vehicle until fixing the underlying problem that initially triggered the low oil pressure light.
What Causes the Low Oil Pressure Light to Turn On?
As previously mentioned, the low oil pressure light is triggered by either insufficient oil pressure or an insufficient amount of oil. The easiest thing to check for, of course, is a leak. Without turning on the engine, get underneath your vehicle with a flashlight to look for puddles of oil. If you see oil directly underneath the engine, it's safe to assume a leak is to blame for the low oil pressure light.
Worn piston rings can also cause the low oil pressure light to turn on. If the piston rings fail to create a seal, they'll leak oil. Eventually, an otherwise small leak can cause the low oil pressure light to turn on.
Some indicator lights are relatively harmless, whereas others are more concerning. The low oil pressure light falls under the latter category. When illuminated, it indicates a serious problem with the engine oil. If left unaddressed, it could lead to catastrophic engine failure, so don't drive your vehicle with the low oil pressure light illuminated.