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If your vehicle has a bad oil pressure sensor, you’ll encounter one or more of these symptoms:
Your vehicle’s oil pressure warning light usually turns on when the oil pressure sensor (or oil pressure switch) detects a high/low oil pressure and alerts the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) or PCM (Powertrain Control Module).
That’s standard practice.
However, say your engine oil level looks okay, but the oil pressure light on the dashboard cluster stays on or blinks constantly — that could mean your oil pressure sensor is about to go out, or worse, already defective.
An older vehicle with a mechanical oil pressure gauge may show inaccurate readings when the sensor is faulty. For example, a gauge reading “0” at the correct engine oil level can indicate a bad oil pressure sensor.
On the flip side, oil gauges in modern cars communicate with sensors via electrical signals.
If your modern car has a bad sensor, your oil pressure gauge will show strange, often extreme, readings — like full oil pressure or zero oil pressure.
The tensioners holding your engine’s timing chain in place are usually oil-fed.
When the oil pressure drops, the loosened chains whip around and get thrown against the pulleys and housings. That produces a deep, distinctive, metallic rattling noise from the engine block.
If you hear the noise, but the oil light doesn’t illuminate, your vehicle’s oil pressure sensor has likely gone bad.
Oil may leak from a faulty oil pressure sensor when your engine is idling.
Since your oil pressure sensor is seated in the oil system, oil sometimes leaks from the sensor’s threads or through its center.
If you notice an oil leak around the sensor or inside it, your sensor is damaged and needs replacing.
An oil pressure sensor replacement can cost around $100-$130.
This average cost splits into:
Keep in mind that this estimate doesn’t factor in your location and vehicle make. Moreover, if your mechanic recommends additional repairs or purchasing other car parts, the cost will increase.
As a general rule, never ignore any symptoms of a bad oil pressure sensor.
Ideally, you should stop driving the car and avoid restarting the engine until a professional mechanic diagnoses and resolves the issue.
That’s because a defective engine oil pressure sensor will fail to warn you of low oil pressure in the engine. If that happens, your engine may no longer be able to keep itself properly cooled or lubricated and can seize up.
The result is irreversible damage to critical components and increased future repair costs.
Let’s explore a bit more about oil pressure sensors through some commonly asked questions:
An oil pressure sensor (a.k.a. an oil pressure switch, oil pressure sender, or oil pressure sending unit) is a component that monitors the oil pressure inside your vehicle’s engine.
Based on the method of operation, there are two types of oil pressure monitoring devices:
When your engine oil pressure is low, the oil pressure sensor or oil pressure switch signals the vehicle’s ECU or PCM. Without the oil pressure sender, there’s no way of knowing if the oil flow is enough and if your engine gets appropriately lubricated.
In short, an oil pressure sending unit helps guarantee the safe operation of your vehicle.
An oil pressure sensor/switch has three parts:
Typically, your oil pressure sensor becomes faulty when the diaphragm gets damaged. For example, the rubber diaphragm can rupture over extended use, causing the oil to leak and flood the sensor or electrical contacts.
The pressure transducer or electrical contacts can sometimes fail even when the diaphragm stays intact.
When you take the car to a mechanic, suspecting an issue with the oil pressure sensor, they will:
The exact steps for replacing your defective engine oil pressure sensor will vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle.
While you may be able to replace the oil pressure sensor on your own, it’s not recommended. The risks associated with an improperly installed oil pressure sensor make it inadvisable as a DIY project.
That’s why we’ll provide a general walkthrough of the oil pressure sensor replacement process, as how a mechanic would perform it.
First, your mechanic will gather all the equipment/tools they’ll need for the job — a jack, jack stands, a special oil pressure sensor socket, safety glasses, a torque wrench, a ratchet, an oil pan, and so on.