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Can You Drive With a Bad Oil Pressure Sensor?

Can You Drive With a Bad Oil Pressure Sensor?
Photo: DepositPhotos.com

A sensor in your vehicle indicates that the oil pressure is sufficient to lubricate an internal combustion engine. A working sensor will illuminate the oil pressure warning light on the dash when the engine is at risk of damage, while a faulty part could inaccurately report pressure levels. Find out whether you can drive if the oil pressure or check engine warning lights in your car or truck stay on while the engine is running.

Understanding the Importance of an Oil Pressure Sensor

Car manufacturers have used several types of sensors to check oil pressure over the years. Older vehicles might use a spring-loaded switch and diaphragm, while newer models often have sensors that send data to the engine computer. The on-board diagnostic trouble codes related to oil pressure range from P0520 to P0523.

Some vehicles have a separate switch and oil pressure sending unit, while other makes and models combine these components into a single unit. Basic switches only detect low pressure, while more advanced sensors take precise readings. A bad sensor could falsely indicate or fail to report a problem.

Potential Consequences of Ignoring the Issue

The consequences of ignoring an oil sensor issue depend on the actual oil pressure. Engine damage is unlikely to occur at a normal level of pressure even if a bad sensor activates the oil pressure warning light. 

It is not safe to drive a vehicle with low oil pressure. A bad sensor could make it unclear whether the oil pressure light is on due to a real problem. You could risk costly engine damage by ignoring the issue.

How To Replace an Oil Pressure Sensor

It is relatively easy to replace most types of oil pressure sensors or switches. Start by disconnecting the negative battery cable, raising your vehicle and locating the component. Disconnect any connectors and use tools, such as a ratchet and socket, to loosen and remove the sensor. Apply sealant to the tread of a new sensor or use a pre-coated part to prevent oil leaks.

After you install the new sensor, you can reset the warning light by turning on the ignition without starting the engine. Press the gas pedal three times within 10 seconds to reset the system. The oil pressure warning light may turn on when you start your vehicle, but it should turn off once the engine is running.

When You Should Replace an Oil Pressure Sensor

Oil pressure sensors in modern cars should last for the operating life of the vehicle. These components could still fail and require replacement. Regularly changing the oil filter in your vehicle every two oil changes or once a year can also prevent a common cause of low oil pressure.

It can be easier and faster to replace an oil pressure sensor than to use an oil pressure gauge and multimeter to test the sensor. Buy a replacement sensor for your vehicle make and model at the nearest auto parts store or order parts online for in-store pickup or home delivery.

Published by: Martin De Juan

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