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How to Read Oil Pressure Gauges

by Jean Asta

The oil pressure gauge in your car's dashboard tells you more than just the level of oil currently in your engine. It is also an indicator of the general health of your engine. Just like when a person's blood pressure is too high or too low, your car's engine can suffer significant damage if the oil pressure is too high or too low. Therefore, the oil pressure gauge should not just be read occasionally but should be monitored on a regular basis.

Establish a baseline normal reading on your oil pressure gauge. Read the gauge just after you have had a tune up and an oil change. This is the normal, "healthy" oil pressure reading for your vehicle.

Watch the gauge as you make a turn and as you go up or down a steep hill. If the pressure drops significantly, it is a sign that you may need to add oil. If the problem continues after you add oil, you could have an oil leak.

Check for high oil pressure readings when the engine is warm. The oil pressure will normally be higher after running for awhile or when running at high RPMs. However, if you see a significant spike in oil pressure, you may have a problem with the oil pressure relief valve.


  • Be sure you are using the correct weight of motor oil that is recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer.


  • If the oil pressure drops significantly at any time, stop driving immediately and check the oil level. Running your car without significant oil in the engine can cause severe damage to the engine.

About the Author

Jean Asta has been a freelance writer for domestic and international clients since 2005. She also acts as a training consultant to businesses and nonprofit organizations in the southeast United States. Asta holds a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature, both from the University of Georgia.

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  • detail: glowing dashboard image by davidcrehner from