Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Oil light on — WARNING

Oil light on — what to do

Notice your oil light on? STOP! I mean pull over IMMEDIATELY and turn of your engine. Yes, it’s that important. Keep driving and you risk catastrophic engine failure that could cost well over $5,000.

Why is it so important to pull over immediately?

Some luxury cars are equipped with an oil LEVEL

low oil level light versus low oil pressure light

Know the difference between a low oil level and low oil pressure. You have a little time to correct a low oil level situation. You have to pull over IMMEDIATELY and shut off the engine with a low oil pressure warning light

warning light. When that light comes on, it means you should pull over at the next exit and refill. If your car has one of those, it will have an oil level icon (see the image on the right) or the display panel will say “OIL LEVEL.” But most cars don’t have that kind of warning light. They just have an oil PRESSURE warning light. When that comes on, it means your engine has lost oil pressure and that means you must pull over IMMEDIATELY and shut off your engine. Driving with no oil pressure will destroy your engine. I mean, we’re talking a new engine here.

What to do when your oil light comes on

Pull over IMMEDIATELY. Not the next exit. Not the next gas station. NOW! Pull over. Shut off your engine. Turn on your hazard blinker lights. Then grab a rag and check your oil level. Follow this procedure or find your owner’s manual and follow the procedure shown there.

Step 1 to check your oil level

Locate the oil dipstick. It usually has a yellow handle, although older vehicles sometimes have a black handled dipstick.

Step 2: Remove dipstick and wipe it off with a rag.

The oil level on the dipstick when you first pull it out isn’t the correct level. So wipe off all the oil and reinsert it fully into the dipstick tube. Pull it out again and read the oil level.

Step 3: Remove the dipstick and read the oil level

How to read an oil dipstick

What to do next

If you’re seriously low on oil or have no oil

You must add more oil before proceeding. Do NOT DRIVE the vehicle to get more oil. Call a friend. Call a roadside assistance provider for a tow. Walk to the nearest exit. Driving can destroy your engine!

Which oil should you buy?

Refer to the oil filler cap on your engine or

consult your owner’s manual. Purchase 3-4-qts. of the recommended oil and add 1-qt.to the oil filler opening. Wait 5-mins for the oil to drain down into the crankcase. Then check the dipstick. If it’s still low, add a second quart. Repeat until the oil level reaches the full mark. Don’t forget to reinstall the oil filler cap before starting up again.

owners manual oil type

What if you can’t find the right oil?

The wrong oil is better than no oil. If you can’t find the exact oil shown in your owner’s manual, refill your engine with whatever the store has. Your main goal is to get enough oil into the engine so the oil pump can create enough pressure to circulate the oil through the engine.

After you refill the engine

Start the engine.

If the oil light is off, you can continue your drive. Even though you’ve added several quarts of new oil, you should still get your oil changed soon because you’ve stressed whatever oil was left in the crankcase.

If the oil level is full and your oil light is still on

Call a tow truck because your problem is far more serious than just oil level.

©, 2019 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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