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What does the oil light mean?

What does the oil light mean?

Depending on the vehicle model, one or two engine oil warning lights may appear on the dashboard. The engine oil light alerts you to a problem with the oil level or pressure, which is a serious fault.

If it is amber, it usually means the oil level is low, but if it is red, it could indicate a more serious problem, such as an oil pressure fault. So what are the different cases in which my engine oil light comes on: we'll explain it all to you.

Where is the oil light located?

The engine oil light is a warning light that appears on your dashboard. It's easy to spot: it's shaped like an oil can. Depending on your vehicle, the light may be yellow or red. Other vehicles don't have these two light colors. In this case, the engine oil light will be red only. In these cases, the engine oil warning light will only illuminate red, so you must treat it as a warning to avoid engine failure, wear, or breakage.

Engine oil light on: how to interpret the color?

Depending on the type of vehicle you own, you may have one or two different engine oil warning lights on your dashboard. Their color indicates two different situations.

Yellow engine oil light: caution light

If you see a yellow oil light on your dashboard, it's a caution light.

A small wave appears below the oil can symbol. This means that your car's engine oil level is low.

This engine oil warning indicates that it's time to top off the engine oil tank.

To do this, let the engine cool down, waiting a few minutes if you've just driven. Then open the hood and locate the engine oil tank. Use the dipstick to check the oil level in the tank. If it's low, top it off with fresh oil. Observe the minimum and maximum markings.

Red engine oil light on: warning light

This red light illuminates automatically each time the ignition is turned on. The same red oil light will turn off once the engine has started.

If this is not the case and the light does not go out after the engine has started, or if the light comes on while driving, this means that the engine oil pressure is too low. You must stop as soon as possible or risk damaging the engine.

Then you need to:

  • Wait a few minutes for the engine compartment and oil to cool down;
  • Open the hood, remove the dipstick, wipe it clean, and check the oil level;
  • Top off the oil if it's below the lower mark;
  • Replace the dipstick in the tank and check that the level is between the minimum and maximum marks.

If the level is between the two marks and the light has gone out, you can start the engine. If not, check the oil level again. If the light doesn't go out, it's probably a pressure problem: if it's too low, the oil isn't circulating properly in the engine.

There are several possible causes for a red low oil pressure warning light:

  • An oil leak: This can be caused by a number of factors. To detect this, look for a puddle under your car or a burning smell.
  • An oil pump failure: since its role is to inject oil into the engine circuit, a pump failure is serious. An oil change is necessary, and the pump may need to be replaced.
  • A clogged oil filter: If the filter is too dirty and does not allow enough oil to pass through, the engine will be under-supplied with engine oil.
  • A faulty pressure sensor: As the name implies, the pressure sensor indicates the oil pressure in the engine. If the sensor is faulty, it may give a false indication of oil pressure. Take your vehicle to a service center where the pressure sensor can be checked and replaced if necessary.

The engine oil light comes on, but the levels are okay. What does this mean?

If the low oil warning light illuminates when the oil level is correct, it may indicate a problem with the oil pressure sensor or the oil supply system.

Is it safe to drive with a low oil level, and for how many km?

Riding with low engine oil can have serious consequences for your engine and is strongly discouraged. The distance you can safely drive depends on a number of factors, including the condition of your engine and the type of oil you are using. In general, you can still go a few miles, but it's best to check the engine oil level immediately and top it up if necessary.

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