How to React When Your Oil Light Is On

Schedule Warning Light is on Inspection
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You’re driving along and you notice your oil light come on. You’re on your way to work and you don’t want to be late, but you wonder what you should do and how serious the situation is.

Many modern vehicles have two lights on the dash related to the oil system. The first is an indicator that it’s time to change the oil. This light is designed to come on whenever it’s been a certain length of time since the oil has been changed or when you’ve driven a certain number of miles.

The second oil light has been used in vehicles for a long time, and requires serious attention. It indicates you have a low oil pressure level. When your vehicle runs out of oil pressure, it can cause extensive damage to the engine. The light may have an image of an oil can or the word OIL.

By following the information listed here, you can prevent a major expense and protect your car.

Part 1 of 2: Check the oil level

You should take this light seriously and stop your car as quickly as possible.

Step 1: Park your vehicle safely. Find a parking lot or other designated area where you can drive your car.

If you’re on the highway, you can pull off to the shoulder and turn on your hazard lights.

Step 2: Shut off the engine. This will allow you to check your oil safely.

Step 3: Open up the hood and locate the oil dipstick. It’s often a bright yellow handle that you pull straight out or it will have the word OIL or an oil can on the handle.

person checking dipstick

Step 4: Remove dipstick. Pull out the dipstick and wipe it off with a clean cloth.

Step 5: Reinsert dipstick. Reinsert the dipstick all of the way and pull it out again.

Step 6: Determine oil level. Check the reading to see where the oil level is.

Step 7: Add oil if needed. Add oil if the level is below the line where it says to add oil or indicates a low oil level.

Part 2 of 2: When is it safe to drive

Once you have checked your oil, you must make a decision whether to drive your car or call for help. In certain conditions, your car may be safe for you to drive until you can have a mechanic look at it. If the engine is making noises when it is running, then it is not okay to drive and you should call for help.

Step 1: Check for noises. If you added oil so that the dipstick now shows an adequate oil level and the light is off, you can drive the car if engine is not making noise.

At times, it may not be safe to drive your car at all. If the oil dipstick showed no oil at all, you shouldn’t drive your vehicle even if you add oil and the engine is noisy.

Tip: Do not drive your car if the oil light doesn’t go off after adding oil. Some component in the oil system may be malfunctioning even if you have enough oil. Driving could cause further damage to your engine.

Anytime one of your console lights comes on, it can be a scary moment, especially if you are not close to a service station or a mechanic. There are, however, practical measures you can take to preserve your engine and make the best of the situation. Be sure to have your vehicle inspected by one of YourMechanic’s mobile professionals as soon as possible.


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YourMechanic Warning Light is on Inspection Service

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Number of Reviews

150

Rating Summary
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Matthew

32 years of experience
689 reviews
Matthew
32 years of experience
Chevrolet Impala - Warning Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
First off he was on time....actually 30 mins early which was great. Everything he described was what I was going through and he knew exactly what I needed before he even looked at the car. Other mechanics i feel were trying to take advantage because I am a woman but he made me feel comfortable. Still have to get work done on it but at least I know exactly what the problem was.
Chevrolet Tahoe - Warning Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
Very detailed and takes the time to explain what is being done. Willing to answer any questions you may have. I would definitely use his services again and have already been telling my coworkers about this site. I have a unique electrical situation going on with my truck that none of the dealers could assess. Just by Matt doing some general maintenance , my truck is already driving smoother. Matt asked that I monitor things to make sure we don't need to troubleshoot anything else. I feel quite confident.

Quentin

18 years of experience
12 reviews
Quentin
18 years of experience
Volkswagen Tiguan - Warning Light is on - Nottingham, Maryland
Quentin was very professional and meticulous with locating the issues with my car. Great spirit and explained and answered all of my questions.

Travis

12 years of experience
65 reviews
Travis
12 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz C230 - Warning Light is on - Charlotte, North Carolina
Travis came out to determine cause for the Check Engine light. He did so and told me what needed to be done and the cost.

Juan

8 years of experience
35 reviews
Juan
8 years of experience
Suzuki Grand Vitara - Warning Light is on - Durham, North Carolina
I won't go into details about the actual work performed - the result was completely satisfactory. Juan is knowledgeable about how these computerized engines work . He's very personable, polite, patient with my questions, and when I need service again, I'll request Juan. He put in more time than originally scheduled and seems to want to see things through and honest enough to tell you if the job is beyond his expertise and suggests taking car to dealer for more extensive diagnostic tests. I am well pleased.

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