6 Reasons You Get Low Oil Pressure At Idle? (With Solutions)

The oil pressure gauge is there for a good reason as it shows you whether your engine’s oil pressure is either too high or too low.

So, if the oil pressure is low, this can end up damaging your engine because the pressure is needed for the oil to make its way through the rest of the engine so that all of the components are properly lubricated. But there are cases when the oil pressure seems to be low at idle.

What causes low oil pressure at idle?

When you have low oil pressure at idle, it could be due to factors such as low oil level, poor oil quality, a faulty oil pressure gauge, a worn-out oil pump, or by using the wrong type of oil for the type of engine or for the weather. Any of these factors can cause your oil pressure to be low on idle.

Low oil pressure is just as dangerous as high oil pressure.

That’s why it’s crucial to make sure that you keep your oil pressure at a normal level regardless of whether your car is idle or not.

Then again, it still is important to know more about why your oil pressure tends to be low whenever you are idle as this can be important at making sure your car is functioning at its best.

Why oil pressure is too low at idle?

One of the most important things you need to know while you are driving is how vital your oil pressure is.

You have to look at your oil pressure gauge from time to time to know whether or not your oil pressure is at a normal level. And you will understand this once you get to know more about what makes your car’s oil pressure very important.

The oil pressure of your car needs to stay at a normal level. That’s because oil is essential to the performance of your engine because all of those different moving parts need to be lubricated so that they won’t end up getting damaged from all of the friction and heat they produce while moving. 

In relation to that, when the oil pressure is too low, what happens is that the oil pump that is responsible for pumping oil into the engine isn’t working too hard to pump oil into the engine.

While that may sound like it’s good news because the oil pump no longer needs to work hard, that can be a problem especially because you have to understand that your engine needs to have a higher oil pressure when it is working harder.

But what about when your car is idle such as the engine is turned on but the car isn’t moving? Such an instance happens when you are in the middle of traffic and the car isn’t idle but the engine is working.

So, what should your oil pressure be at idle?

In most cases, the oil pressure at idle should be somewhere in the normal range because keep in mind that the engine is still working pretty hard even though the car is idle.

As such, it shouldn’t be high because the car doesn’t need to pump more oil into the engine. At the same time, it shouldn’t be too low because the engine is still working and is in need of oil.

As such, at idle, the oil pressure of your car should be low but not below the normal levels. It should be above 20 PSI because that is when the oil pressure is still normal but a bit lower than when it is working as your car is accelerating.

So, when the oil pressure drops below 20 PSI, that is when you might have to worry because that means that your engine probably isn’t getting enough oil.

What causes low oil pressure at idle?

So, when your oil pressure at idle suddenly drops to really low levels that are below 20 PSI such as 7 or 5 PSI, that is when you should be worried because that could mean that the engine is in dire need of oil but isn’t getting enough from your oil pump.

That’s why you have to always be aware of your oil pressure and that the high or low-pressure lights should be turned on whenever your oil pressure reaches critically low levels.

All that said, what exactly is the reason why your car may have low oil pressure at idle? In that regard, there are actually multiple reasons why that is happening as there really is no exact cause of low oil pressure at idle.

Here are some of the most common causes:

  1. Low oil level

Naturally, when the oil level in your car is low, that means that the oil pump won’t be able to pump enough oil into the engine.

This will lead to a very low oil pressure reading when your car is idle. And the same will follow when you do start to accelerate as the oil pump can’t really pump enough oil into the engine to lubricate it.   

  1. Poor car maintenance

Another reason why your car may have a low oil pressure even at idle is due to how you probably neglected car maintenance and you weren’t properly following the recommended oil change interval in your car.

As such, this will lead to a dirty engine due to the impurities that may have built up inside it when you weren’t properly maintaining the car.

Remember that the dirty and impure oil can end up clogging your engine.

  1. Worn-out oil pump

The oil pump is what’s responsible for pumping oil into the engine so that the engine and all of its components are properly lubricated.

So, when your car’s oil pressure is low at idle, it could mean that the oil pump has become too old or worn out due to the usual wear and tear that car components go through.

As such, the oil pump won’t be able to properly pump enough oil into your engine if it is already too old and too damaged to do so.

  1. Faulty pressure gauge

In some cases, your engine is actually getting enough oil, and your oil pressure is actually at a normal level.

However, because the oil pressure gauge is faulty or damaged, it won’t be able to display the proper oil pressure reading and will end up making the dashboard think that your oil pressure is low even if it isn’t.

This is an instance where everything is actually working well except for the oil pressure gauge. 

  1. Old and worn-out engine

In the same way as the oil pressure pump may be too old and too worn out to properly function, this could also happen to the engine especially when you are talking about an older car.

That’s because an older and more worn-out engine will struggle to allow the oil to pass through the different parts and components of the engine.

As such, insufficient oil will be pushed into the different channels of a worn-out engine. 

  1. Using the wrong oil

Finally, a possible reason why your car has a low oil pressure at idle is that you are probably not using the right oil.

There are different types of engines that use multigrade oils that can adjust to temperature changes.

As such, they will flow thin during the colder weather and will become thick when the weather becomes hotter.

However, if you don’t have a similar engine, you have to be careful with the type of oil you use because oil can vary in terms of its thickness or viscosity depending on the weather.

Oils that tend to have lower viscosity will be able to do well during the winter but will end up becoming too thin during the summer. Meanwhile, using a thicker oil during the summer will end up getting your engine clogged up during the winter when the oil gets a bit too thick.

How to fix low oil pressure at idle?

So, now that we know the possible causes of low oil pressure at idle, let’s look at the fixes:

  1. Put more oil. If the cause is due to the lack of oil as your oil pump could no longer pump enough oil into the engine, then the logical solution is to put more oil into it.
  2. Make sure that you always properly maintain your car and that you have your oil changed during the recommended oil change intervals for your car.
  3. Have your oil pump fixed or replaced if it is the cause of the low oil pressure at idle. Something as simple as this can be a good solution to a serious problem.
  4. Replace the pressure gauge on your car if this is the problem. You will know that the oil pressure gauge is the problem if the oil pressure changes on the gauge tend to be erratic and unpredictable.
  5. If you have an older or worn-out engine, you can still try to milk more life out of it by using engine oil with a higher viscosity because this can help make up for the larger spaces and increased bearing clearance in the engine.
  6. Always make sure that you are using the right oil for your engine by consulting the user’s manual. Also, you should try changing the type of oil you use when there are seasonal changes in your area.

What should my oil pressure gauge read at idle?

Now that you know the possible causes of low oil pressure when your car is idle and the possible fixes for those causes, what should be the normal reading on the oil pressure gauge on your car when it is idle?

This is essential so that you will know whether or not the oil pressure has gone back up to normal.

In that regard, the normal oil pressure gauge at idle should be somewhere between 20 to 30 PSI and should not fall below 20 PSI. That means that the oil pressure reading is at the lower levels but not too low.

Sources

Cash Car Buyers: Low oil pressure at idle

Cars Direct: Low oil pressure at idle