The oil light will flicker when you brake or turn the car for several reasons. Low oil pressure, low oil level, and defective oil pressure sensor are some culprits that trigger the oil light to come on and off.
Therefore, a bad oil pump and loose or damaged wiring leading to the oil pressure sensor is responsible for this issue. Below, we will break down each of the issues. So, continue to read till the end of this guide.
Table of Contents
- Why Oil Light Flickering When Braking [Reasons + Solutions]
- 01. Low Oil Pressure
- 02. Low Oil Level
- 03. Defective Wire Connection
- 04. A Fuel Injection Problem
- 05. A Bad Oil Pump
- 06. A Faulty Oil Pressure Sensor
- 07. It Is A Normal Issue With Old Car
- Is It Safe To Drive With Oil Light Flickering?
- Why Does My Oil Pressure Drop When I Brake?
- How long can you drive on low oil pressure?
- Can you drive with low engine oil?
- How long do you have to get an oil change after the light comes on?
Why Oil Light Flickering When Braking [Reasons + Solutions]
Here are the seven culprits that cause the oil light to come on and off every now and then.
01. Low Oil Pressure
Low oil pressure is what causes oil light to flicker. The oil light will come on when the oil pressure is right on the edge of being too low. The oil pressure sensor detects it and turns the light on & off.
When you push the brake or hit it, the oil in the pan will move to the front of the pan and expose the oil pick-up tube. It causes oil starvation conditions for a moment, which causes the oil light to flicker. There are different reasons responsible for low oil pressure, including:
- Low on oil
- Oil is too thin
- A clogged screen on the end of the oil pick-up tube of the oil pump
- Dirty oil filter
Just address these issues, and it will solve the low oil pressure issue.
Note: You can also read how to fix the Oil pressure gauge bouncing problem.
02. Low Oil Level
The low oil level in the oil pan fails to supply the oil into the engine continuously. When there is not enough oil in the pan, the oil pressure sensor can’t identify the oil level, which causes the oil light to flash on & off.
Adding oil into the engine is an easy fix to this problem. We recommend you check the oil level regularly and put oil in when needed. It will help you run the car smoothly for a long time.
03. Defective Wire Connection
A damaged wire connection leading to the oil pressure sending unit is another caveat behind this issue. The faulty or loose wiring will cause the oil light to flicker when accelerating.
So, we recommend you inspect the wiring leading to the oil pressure sensor. Make sure the connector doesn’t get corroded. Also, ensure that there is no visible damage to the wiring.
04. A Fuel Injection Problem
It’s another issue that causes the oil light to come on. If you have an old carbureted engine, don’t forget to inspect if it has a flooding problem or not. Excess gasoline dumped into the engine will wind up in the oil pan, thin the oil down, and make it surge easily when you hit the brake. It also causes the low-pressure light to come on.
We suggest you take out the dipstick and smell the oil on it and see if it smells like gasoline. If yes, we bet you have a fuel injection problem. Regarding this, you must address this problem and fix it promptly. Otherwise, it will destroy the engine from lack of lubrication.
05. A Bad Oil Pump
A defective oil pump is also responsible for the oil light to flicker when braking and turning. Though the oil light will remain turned on due to a bad oil pump, the lower oil pressure may trigger the oil pressure light when braking.
The following symptoms are some indications of a defective oil pump.
- Lower oil pressure
- Hydraulic lifters make a grinding noise
- Noise coming out from the valve train
- Engine gets overheated
- Noise coming out from the oil pump
As soon as you notice those signs, we recommend you take your car to a mechanic to replace the oil pump. Keep in mind; it’s not a DIY project. So, it’s better to hire a car mechanic and spend $400-$500 bucks from your wallet to do this task.
06. A Faulty Oil Pressure Sensor
Lastly, a defective oil pressure sensor is also a caveat behind the oil light flickering issue. If you are in the mid-road and you don’t have the oil pressure gauge, follow the below steps to inspect the oil pressure sensor:
- Stop your car on a level spot and turn the engine off.
- Wait several minutes to let the oil settle down.
- Then, pull out the hood and find the dipstick & remove it.
- Take a clean paper towel and keep the dipstick on it. Wipe down the dipstick with the paper towel and make sure the oil on the paper towel is brown.
- Now, insert the dipstick into the oil bay and remove it again.
- Inspect the bottom of the dipstick to ensure the oil level is in an acceptable range.
If you find the oil level is in the right spot, we bet it’s the problem with the oil pressure sensor.
To fix this issue, just replace the oil pressure sensor. It doesn’t require you to spend over $20 to change it. Check out this video to learn how to change the oil pressure sensor.
07. It Is A Normal Issue With Old Car
Oil light flickering is a regular problem in an old car. If your car is automatic, you need to press the brake as you take your foot off the accelerator. On an older car, it will be responsible for an engine stumble to low RPMs. Because of this, oil pressure will drop momentarily and the light will flash.
Make sure the oil pump doesn’t get worn out. You may also need to tune up the engine, which is expensive.
Is It Safe To Drive With Oil Light Flickering?
No, it’s not safe to drive your car with oil light flickering. When the oil light comes on every now and then during normal operation, stop the car & shut the engine immediately.
Low oil pressure light is a sign of insufficient oil pressure. The lubrication of the engine will collapse due to the too low oil pressure. Besides lubricating the engine, the oil also cools the engine down. If the oil level is too low, it causes the engine to heat up. On top of this, it will lose the ability to lubricate the moving part of your engine.
In short, you should never drive the engine when the oil light flickers as it may damage the engine completely.
Why Does My Oil Pressure Drop When I Brake?
The oil pressure of your car will drop when you brake because your car doesn’t need extra oil when it’s not moving. So, it’s normal and will not pose damage to your car when the oil pressure drops down when braking.
However, it’s not a good sign if the oil pressure goes to zero or lower when you brake the car. It happens due to low oil levels or oil pickup tubes getting loose. In this case, you should stop the car and turn the engine off. Then, figure out the failure.
How long can you drive on low oil pressure?
Without oil pressure, you can run the engine for 30 minutes before complete failure. So, we don’t recommend you drive the car at low oil pressure until you top up engine oil.
Can you drive with low engine oil?
No, it’s not recommendable to drive your car with low engine oil. Otherwise, it will bring serious damage to your engine.
How long do you have to get an oil change after the light comes on?
You can drive a max of 500 miles to get an oil change after the light comes on. However, it will be better to put in oil right off the bat when the light comes on.
Oil light goes off when braking or accelerating is not a normal issue. Whenever you encounter this problem, try to figure out the reasons behind it. Fortunately, we broke down everything that caused the oil light to come on and off.
So, follow the troubleshooting steps we mentioned. If you fail to fix this issue by following this guideline, don’t hesitate to go to your local car mechanic.
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.