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Engine oil warning light on: What should I do?

Engine oil warning light

Has the engine oil warning light just come on on your vehicle’s dashboard? When this light comes on, it usually means that there is an oil pressure problem or that the engine oil level is too low. It is then advisable to act quickly to avoid damaging the engine.

What does the engine oil warning light mean?

Orange oil warning lightThe engine oil warning light on your dashboard should alert you, regardless of its colour (orange, yellow or red). Before we explain what each colour means, let’s make sure it’s the engine oil symbol.

How do you recognise the oil sight glass? It’s very simple: it looks like a small watering can (or cruet) from which a drop of liquid is escaping. It’s a warning light, in the same way as the AdBlue light or the one dedicated to the particulate filter.

Now that you’re sure you’re dealing with the right warning light, let’s look at its colour, which plays an important role:

  • If the engine oil warning light is orange or yellow: this means that your oil level is low. In general, simply topping up the engine oil in the dedicated tank will solve this problem. It’s a quick and easy procedure to do. All you need is a can of engine oil suitable for your vehicle.
  • If the engine oil warning light is red or flashing: this means that the engine oil pressure is too low. Your first instinct should be to stop the engine, as its parts are no longer properly lubricated and risk premature wear or breakage. You should then check the oil level and top it up if necessary. After topping up, if the red engine oil warning light turns on again, there is probably a faulty part. You should then visit your garage as soon as possible.

Note: on recent vehicles, the engine oil warning light may be associated with an informative message: quantity of oil to be added, excess engine oil, oil pressure fault, sensor fault, number of miles remaining before an oil shortage, etc.

Why does the engine oil warning light appear?

There are several possible causes for the engine oil warning light. As mentioned previously, the engine oil warning light is caused by a lack of oil or a problem with engine oil pressure.

If topping up the oil level is not enough to extinguish the light, there are several possible reasons:

  • an oil pump fault: used to inject oil into the engine circuit, the oil pump can be made to malfunction. This can lead to a loss of engine power, an increase in engine temperature and premature wear of engine parts.
  • a failure of the pressure sensors: supposed to detect the oil pressure level, the sensors may be faulty and no longer able to perform their function. As a result, the pressure can no longer be controlled, which can generate a leak at the sensor and wear on the timing chain.
  • an oil leak: this can come from the fuel filler cap, oil filter, seals, crankcase, head gasket, or drain plug. If your vehicle suffers an oil leak, you’ll probably find a thick black streak of oil under the car or on the bodywork.

In any case, if the engine oil warning light does not go out after you’ve topped up the tank, make an appointment with your garage as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the greater the risk to your engine.

How do I turn off the oil warning light?

To extinguish the engine oil warning light, it is usually sufficient to perform a refill of the oil tank.

Although this operation is easy to carry out, it does require you to take a few precautions beforehand. You’ll need to :

  • Park your vehicle on a flat surface
  • Wait 30 to 45 min after stopping the vehicle, so that the engine has time to cool down
  • You’ll need a clean, light-coloured cloth, a can of oil compatible with your vehicle, and a funnel.

Before topping up the engine oil, first check the oil level.

Check the oil level: your first reflex!

The oil level check is carried out as follows:

  1. Raise the bonnet of your vehicle and secure it using the metal pin attached to the bonnet.
  2. Locate the dipstick, which usually takes the form of a yellow or brightly coloured ring/hook.
  3. Remove the gauge completely and wipe it with the cloth.
  4. Return it to the oil reservoir
  5. Remove it again and check that the oil level is between the “min” and “max” marks.
  6. If the oil level is below the “min” mark, you need to top it up as soon as possible.

Add oil to extinguish the light

To add engine oil, simply follow a few steps:

  1. Locate the oil filler cap: it has the same symbol as the one on your dashboard.
  2. Unscrew the cap and pour a small quantity of engine oil into the hole (ideally using a long-necked funnel).
  3. Wait 2 minutes for the oil to reach the crankcase.
  4. Remove the dipstick to check the oil level: make sure it is just below the “max” mark.
  5. Reposition the dipstick and add more oil if necessary.

Once this procedure is complete, you’ll be able to restart your engine and check whether the engine oil light is off. If it isn’t, the oil pressure is altered. Only a mechanic will then be able to resolve this fault.

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