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Balance is key when it comes to car engines as it contributes to their longevity and performance. A change in oil pressure can disrupt this balance and lead to engine failure. Oil pressure plays a vital role in lubricating areas such as the camshaft and balance shaft bearings which in turn reduces the wear of these vital parts and prevents the engine from overheating. If the oil gauge in your dashboard is giving you a high reading, then it is time to find out the root of this problem in order to make the necessary repairs.

checking oil

What is High Oil Pressure?

An increase in oil pressure occurs when a high amount of pressure is needed to pump oil through the engine. The average car is equipped with an oil pressure gauge that indicates how much pressure is being used to transport this oil. The needle on this gauge should settle at the median point approximately twenty minutes after switching the engine. Ideally, oil pressure should be between 25 to 65 psi when the oil is warm. A reading of  80 psi or higher means that there is a serious issue that needs to be resolved.

The Effects of High and Low Oil Pressure

When checking oil lubrication, oil flowing through the various engine components is the one to watch out for, not the pressure. Low pressure can be a good thing up to a certain point. High pressure, on the other hand, is harmful for the engine. If you notice the pressure gauge giving you a high pressure reading, then you should be concerned about the wellbeing of your car engine. Since pressure is an indicator of flow resistance, oil with low viscosity paired with wide oil channels in an engine lead to faster flow rate and low oil pressure. This combination reduces engine wear and therefore it is considered a desirable outcome.

Smaller engine oils paired with high oil viscosity have the opposite effect, opening the doors to slow flow as well as high pressure. This has a negative impact on engine lubrication. In very extreme cases, wear of essential engine components may occur when the oil fails to reach these vital areas. In some engines, the oil may even flow through a valve only to be returned to the engine pump. This will prevent the moving engine parts from receiving the oil they need for proper lubrication.

High Oil Pressure Causes

Blocked Passage

A block in the oil passage is a serious issue that may be the culprit behind high pressure. In this case, engine lubrication becomes at risk the longer this blockage persists. An oil leak in the cam assembly is a symptom of a blocked oil passage and this leak is  known as lifter tap. Sludge or carbon deposits accumulate in the oil passages as a result of fuel combustion and they eventually merge with the oil itself and become thick in texture. This is known as debris and its presence inside those passages may cause bearing failure in the long run.

Cleaning  blocked  oil passages can be both difficult and expensive and will require specific tools and procedures that need to be followed down to the last detail.  During this process, the entire engine lubrication system is cleaned from top to bottom to make sure that all debris is removed. This includes the hoses, cooling jets, plugs and orifice dowels. Cleaning the auxiliary equipment  is also necessary during this step. Oil passages are also cleaned using professional  brushes alongside a petroleum base cleaning solvent. This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are more procedures and guidelines to follow.

Dirty Oil Filter

The job of an oil filter is to maintain the cleanliness of the engine oil by filtering out the impurities so that it provides proper lubrication to the engine parts.  Overtime, dust and other particles start clogging the filter, and when this happens, the oil starts flowing at a slower rate, and this, in turn, causes the temperature to rise. An increase in temperature will then trigger a rise in oil pressure.

The warning signs below could be telling you that it is time to change the oil filter:

  • Performance -wise, if your car is not picking up speed like it normally does and the accelerator is not functioning properly, then something within the engine is putting a wrench in the performance of your vehicle.
  • Sputtering is another symptom brought to you by a dirty oil filter. This symptom occurs due to insufficient oil in the system and will prevent your car from picking up speed. The sputtering may be minimal at first before gradually becoming worse. Replacing the filter should put an end to this problem.
  • Metallic sounds also occur as a result of insufficient oil in the engine. Friction occurs when the engine is on, prompting the metallic parts to rub against one another. Less oil means more friction, which triggers these grating sounds that you will be able to hear while driving. If you do hear them, then you must pull over immediately before more damage befalls your vehicle.
  • Sooty, black exhaust coming out of the car is another warning sign to consider. The unclean exhaust is accompanied by the distinctive smell of burning oil as it passes through the exhaust pipe. This smell means that it is time to bring your vehicle to the auto repair shop where the service technician will proceed to replace the oil filter and fix any clogs residing within the oil system.

Nowadays, reusable filters made of stainless steel mesh elements are available as an alternative to standard single use filters. These filters are usually used in high performance cars to filter out finer particles and are cleaned during the car’s scheduled oil change appointment.

Related Post: Best Oil Filter

Engine Temperature

The most common reason for high oil pressure is none other than engine temperature. Pressure becomes high during startup and while idling and this is due to the temperature of the engine. The temperature begins to increase when you start the car . This action heats up the oil to a certain level that allows it to flow easily through the engine, and this increase in temperature continues until it reaches an optimal level.  The opposite happens when you switch off  the engine, prompting the oil to cool down while the engine does the same.

check engine lights

 Oil Quality

The quality of oil used for the engine also influences oil pressure. Thin, lightweight motor oil is a low pressure type of oil and can flow easily through the engine. Thicker oils, on the other hand, need high pressure in order to do their job. Generally speaking, if you notice an increase in pressure after switching to a different oil brand, then this means that the previous oil was too thin to offer optimum performance.

You can choose the right engine oil by following a few simple guidelines. First, you need to check the  owner manual in order to find out the suggested oil weight for your vehicle. Next, you need to alter this weight according to the weather. A motor oil that has been tested and meets the standards set by the American Petroleum Institute is the type of oil you should be looking for in terms of quality.

When it comes to options, you have a choice between synthetic and standard motor oil. All reputable brands sell service level (SL) oils, each with a different viscosity. The 5W-20 oil is meant for lower temperatures while the optional 10W-30 oil is designed for higher ambient temperatures. Full synthetic oils were made for high performance engines and are known for being long lasting oils. These synthetic oils protect the engine against deposits,  have better flow during low temperatures and they also provide top notch lubrication during high temperatures.

Oil Sending Unit Malfunction

The oil pressure sending unit is responsible for controlling the gauge in your dashboard.  A defective oil pressure sending unit causes inaccurate pressure readings and needs to be either repaired or replaced. Inaccurate readings may be accompanied by other warning signs such as repeated blinking from the oil pressure light. The blinking light usually means that the oil levels are low and this can cause panic due to fear of engine failure.

Manually checking the oil levels is necessary before moving on to the oil sending unit. Troubleshooting the unit is done using a digital multimeter, a scan tool and a mechanical oil pressure gauge. When using the multimeter, make sure to turn it to the resistance range. The reading you should get is 240 Ohms, meaning that the sending unit is functioning normally. If the screen displays a different reading, then the sending unit is indeed the reason behind those inaccurate high oil pressure readings.

Relief Valve Problems

The relief valve protects both the piping and vessels from getting damaged by  high pressure. It also plays a vital role in the combustion engine since it helps regulate oil pressure as well. If you start the engine and start driving yet the oil pressure fails to reach optimal levels, then this may indicate a problem in the relief valve. In this case, the valve will need to be removed and cleaned before installing it again. If the pressure goes back to normal, then the problem was indeed caused by the relief valve.

Changing Oil Grade

Buying different oil grades to see which one works best for your engine is not a sound decision when it comes to your car. Each oil grade has a different level of viscosity that is specifically designed to meet the needs of certain engine types. Therefore, it is best to either consult an expert on the matter or read the  owner’s manual to find out the recommended oil grade for your engine.

Many factors come into play when it comes to oil viscosity recommendations, but the general rule of thumb is that the oil must have the ability to flow freely between the moving parts of the engine while adequately filling the space between those aforementioned parts like two pieces of the same puzzle. Thinner oils do a better job of flowing freely through the engine as long as the space between the engine parts was designed specifically for this type of oil. In contrast, thick oils were manufactured for the sole purpose of filling bigger spaces. This, however, was years ago. Nowadays, these bigger spaces are no longer in business. Both the oil flow volume and the oil pressure are impacted when thick oil is introduced into an engine that lacks the wider spaces to accommodate it.

Thick oil is known to increase oil pressure, which is considered a bad thing if this happens at the expense of oil flow volume. A domino effect takes place in the presence of thicker oil. First, the oil pump is forced to double its efforts in order to pump this dense oil which ,in turn, causes the oil pressure to rise and the oil volume to decrease.

car oil

The Importance of Engine Oil Replacement

Lack of maintenance when it comes to the lubrication system  can open the door to many engine related problems, and that is why periodical oil change is a must. Oil is known to break down and thicken over time, causing it to lose its viscosity and this can lead to low pressure. High pressure, on the other hand, occurs when the oil thickens due to cold temperature, and this can happen in colder regions. The oil may also thicken due to residues that accumulate as a result of metal rubbing against metal. These residues may also take part in clogging the oil filter.

In summary, it is important to keep an eye on any significant increase or decrease in oil pressure. Drastic changes pose a risk to the engine and they need to be taken care of as soon as possible. It is also important to note that proper flow should always take precedence  over pressure when it comes to proper lubrication. As for oil, choosing a premium brand that has the American Petroleum Institute stamp of approval is highly recommended.

Related Post: How Much Does an Oil Change Cost

Sources:

  1. How to Respond When Your Car’s Oil Light Goes On – wikiHow
  2. How do oil and air filters affect your engine? – howstuffworks
  3. How Dashboard Displays Work – howstuffworks

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