Oil Light Comes On When Idling [7 Easy Solutions]

If your car’s oil light comes on when idling, it’s a sign that the oil pressure is too low. Oil pressure can become low for many reasons such as low level of oil, worn-out oil, worn-out engine, faulty oil pressure gauge, clogged air filter, worn-out oil pump, and using oil of the wrong viscosity.

Oil light coming on at idle could be a serious problem. You need to take measures immediately to remedy the situation. Let’s understand the reasons which cause low oil pressure and how we can fix these issues in detail.

Oil Light Comes On When Idling [7 Easy Solutions]

We’ll discuss the most common issues that cause the oil light to come on when idling. We’ll also provide the appropriate solutions you can use to get your car back to normal.

01. Low Level Of Oil

You’ll have low oil pressure if the level of oil in your engine is too low. Your car’s engine cannot function properly if it has lesser oil than it needs. The oil pump won’t be able to pump oil back to the engine if the oil level is too low. 


The solution here is very simple. You should add more oil to your car engine. Make sure you add the right viscosity oil for your engine. The oil reading in the dipstick should be well above the “add”  line.

Note: You can also read how to fix Oil light flickering when braking.

02. Old And Worn-Out Oil

You should check your oil at regular intervals. It’s a good idea to check your car’s oil level every 3-5  months or after driving over 5000 miles. If you don’t do that, you’re not going to know if the oil you’re using has become too old.

Not maintaining your car can lead to a dirty engine. So you should check your oil level regularly. Make sure you have fresh and clean oil flowing through the engine at all times. A worn-out engine could be the reason why the oil light comes on when parked.


If you already have dirty oil in your engine,  you should drain it. Take your car to a level surface and drain the oil.  Be sure to drain the engine oil and not the transmission fluid by mistake. It’s a common mistake that a lot of people make when they drain the engine oil.

Once you’ve drained the old and dirty oil, add fresh oil to your car’s engine. Select the right viscosity oil as suggested by your car manufacturer.

03. Overheating And Worn-Out Engine

The oil pressure can become low if you have a worn-out engine. This is likely to be the case if you’ve been driving your car for a long time. The oil needs to move through the crankshaft to all parts of the entire engine. If the engine is worn-out, it’s not going to happen.

Engine parts broaden when they’re used for a long period. These faulty engine parts will not let sufficient oil pass through the engine. This will lead to low oil pressure.

An overheating engine can also cause low oil pressure. The oil becomes thinner when you have an overheating engine. This causes less oil to pass through the engine and the pressure becomes lower. That’s why the oil pressure light comes on when the engine is hot.


The best thing you can do here is to replace your car’s engine. It’s good news for you if just one of the parts is faulty. It won’t cost you much to replace a part of the engine as opposed to the whole engine.

You can get a little bit extra life from your engine if you choose a higher viscosity oil for a while. But eventually, you’d have to change your car’s engine to avoid any accidents.

04. Faulty Oil Pressure Gauge

It’s possible that your engine is fine but your oil pressure gauge is damaged. The oil pressure gauge can be damaged because of electrical and wiring issues. It won’t be able to show you the correct reading if it’s damaged.


Check the engine first and see if the level of oil is okay. If it’s alright, then a faulty pressure gauge may be the one that’s causing the problem. You need to have the faulty gauge replaced to fix your problem.

05. Clogged Air Filter

The air filter plays an important role in managing the oil pressure. The pressure of the engine oil can become low if the air filter becomes clogged or dirty.


Get the air filter replaced if you think that’s the problem. It’s not going to cost you a lot to get your air filter replaced.

06. Old And Worn-Out Oil Pump

If the oil light comes on at idle but goes off when driving, you probably have a faulty oil pump. It’s the oil pump’s job to flow oil to all parts of the engine. If the oil pump is damaged, it’s not going to do its job properly. It’ll create wider pathways and the rate of oil flow will decrease.

Your engine creates pressure when you’re driving. But when you stop driving, the engine is no longer creating any pressure. This is why the oil pressure light comes on when idling.


It’s common for components to become worn out after heavy usage. If your car’s oil pump is damaged or worn out, replace it with a new one. Doing this will solve your problem of oil light flickering when stopped.

07. Using Oil Of The Wrong Viscosity

Your car manufacturer recommends oil of a certain viscosity for a reason. They know which oil works best for your car as they spent countless hours building it. You shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that you know better than them.

It’s more important to realize this if you’re using multi-grade oil. Your manufacturer knows the limits of the car and the level of temperature change that your car can tolerate.

If your engine is capable of handling only single-grade oils, you probably need to use different oils in summer and winter. Check your manufacturer’s guide to know what’s best for your car.


Use the oil that your manufacturer recommends. If your manufacturer recommends using oil of 5w30 viscosity, use that. Don’t use oils of other viscosity and ruin the performance of your car.


How long can you drive with oil light on?

You can drive up to 500 miles with your oil light on before it becomes a serious problem. We still recommend you get it fixed as soon as you can.

What causes low oil pressure at idle after oil change?

Your oil pressure can become low after an oil change if you’re using the oil of the wrong viscosity.

What is the right oil pressure at idle?

At idle, it’s good to have your oil pressure between 20 to 30 Psi. If it’s less than that, you need to be concerned.


Now you know why your oil light comes on when idling. Identify which of the reasons apply to you and follow the solutions we’ve discussed to fix your issue. Get this engine oil situation fixed as early as possible. Ignoring it for too long may lead to a fully blown-out engine.

The best thing you can do to prevent this problem in the first place is to maintain your car properly. Inspect your car’s engine at regular intervals to avoid these things from happening.

If this post has helped you, please let us know by leaving a comment below. Reach out to us if you’ve any questions. We’d love to help you out!

About John M

John contributed as a technical head at an automobile company just 2 years after his post-graduation in Automobile Engineering. He loves to lead a free life, so he left his job & started blogging. Now, he does research on every automotive problem, part & product and seeks a better solution & best products & shares his findings with his readers to help them as well as to minimize their struggle.

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