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5 Causes of High Oil Pressure (and Symptoms to Watch Out for)


Just as high blood pressure can cause a heart attack and cripple you, high oil pressure can cause a host of problems for your vehicle. Oil has a wide variety of functions for your vehicle, but they all require the correct oil pressure.

But what exactly is high oil pressure, what does it do, and how do you know what’s going on? We will answer all these questions and more here.

What is high oil pressure?

Throughout your vehicle, there are small passages and channels through which engine oil works to lubricate, clean, seal, protect, and cool your vehicle. But as these channels narrow, the pressure on the oil increases.

With too much pressure, various components can begin to wear and become damaged, which is why it is so important to keep your engine oil pressure at the correct level.

See also: Causes of low oil pressure warning light

Common Causes of High Oil Pressure

Although high oil pressure is a very serious problem, there are some specific areas you should check to try to find the cause. We’ve broken down the five most common here. So you can regain control of your vehicle’s oil pressure and get back on the road!

#1 – Clogged or blocked filter

clogged oil filter

One of the most common causes of high oil pressure is a blocked, damaged, or clogged oil filter. Although this usually only happens when your oil filter is particularly old, it can happen if something happens and hits your oil filter while driving.

The good news is that if this is your problem, it’s a pretty easy fix: just do an oil change and replace the filter, and you should be good to go!

#2 – Faulty pressure relief valve

Just because you don’t want your engine to reach a certain oil pressure doesn’t mean it will. That’s why your vehicle’s engine is equipped with a pressure relief valve to divert oil when the pressure gets too high.

But when that pressure relief valve is stuck, the oil pressure continues to rise and has nowhere to go.

#3 – Old Oil/Bad Oil

engine oil sludge

Over time, oil loses its viscosity, making it difficult to pass through the passages. This naturally increases oil pressure, which can cause problems in your vehicle.

Not only that but not all oils are created equal. Therefore, using oil that is thicker than your vehicle is supposed to be can result in high oil pressure. This should be noticeable shortly after an oil change, but the problem will worsen over time as the oil ages.

Either way, just do an oil change using the correct oil and replace the oil filter, and you should be good to go!

Related: Comparison of different types of motor oil

#4 – Blocked oil passages

Just as your oil filter can become blocked, your engine’s passages can collect dirt and other debris, causing a blockage. When this happens, there is no easy solution. You can try flushing the system several times to remove some of that gunk, but it’s not guaranteed.

The good news is that this is relatively rare if you perform regular oil changes.

#5 – Missing/Gauge Sending Unit

oil pressure sending unit

Your engine uses sensors to determine the current oil pressure throughout your vehicle. But if a sensor is giving an incorrect reading or the dipstick you’re looking at is faulty, you may think you have high oil pressure when you don’t.

Related: Code P0523

Symptoms of high oil pressure

Before you can begin to diagnose the cause of your vehicle’s high oil pressure, you need to make sure what is wrong with your vehicle.

That’s why we’ve taken the time to break down some of the most common symptoms of high oil pressure here.

#1 – High Oil Pressure Reading (Gauge)

causes high oil pressure

The most common way to identify high oil pressure in your vehicle is to use a dipstick. Not all vehicles have an oil pressure gauge, but most do. When this indicator starts to rise too high and into the red, it is a sure sign that you have a problem.

#2 – oil leak

The automaker has designed everything in its vehicle to operate at a specific pressure and temperature. So when oil pressure gets too high, it can burst seals and other components, causing leaks and damage.

Related: Causes of Oil in Spark Plug Wells

#3 – Engine overheating

radiator steam

If your vehicle has high oil pressure, chances are there is not enough oil flow to the engine. One of the first signs of this is engine overheating. The longer you drive with high oil pressure, the hotter your engine will run.

#4 – Engine Damage

The oil reduces friction throughout the engine and the high oil pressure limits the amount of oil that can flow through the engine. More friction not only generates heat but can also damage various components.

If left untreated long enough, high oil pressure can fill your engine.

Can high oil pressure damage my engine?

Absolutely! High oil pressure will damage your engine, it’s just a matter of time. The higher the oil pressure, the faster the damage will occur.

This is why it is so important to diagnose and repair an engine with high oil pressure as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up with more expensive repairs and may need a completely new engine.

Does the type of motor oil used affect oil pressure?

type of engine oil

Yes, the type of motor oil you use can affect oil pressure. This is one of the main reasons why car manufacturers recommend a specific type of oil for your vehicle.

If it has too much viscosity, your engine will have a hard time moving oil through all the different passages, which will increase oil pressure. Over time, the motor oil will become thinner.

This means that even if everything works fine immediately after an oil change, over time the oil pressure can increase even further and fall out of the normal operating range.

But if you start with an oil that doesn’t have enough viscosity (even if it’s a good oil), the engine can overheat. Not only that, but thinner oil doesn’t protect components as well and can leak.

Always use the type of oil recommended by auto manufacturers when performing an oil change in your vehicle.

See also: What happens when you put too much oil in your car?

Should I increase my oil pressure when I accelerate?

Yes, it is completely normal for oil pressure to rise when you accelerate. However, keep in mind that these jumps should not be erratic and should always remain within a normal operating range.

If the oil pressure continues to rise under acceleration, does not come back down, and rises outside of a standard operating range, then you should see a mechanic to determine what is happening.



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