How to React When Your Oil Light Is On

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.


Next Step

Schedule Warning Light is on Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Warning Light is on Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Warning Light is on Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating

(238)

Rating Summary
224
5
4
0
5
224
5
4
0
5

Jason

15 years of experience
344 reviews
Jason
15 years of experience
Nissan Armada V8-5.6L - Warning Light is on - Mineola, New York
Excelente. Jason es todo un profesional con mucho conocimiento en la mecanica, buena persona educado y amigable. Gracias Jason.
Ford Taurus - Warning Light is on - Jamaica, New York
Very Professional definitely takes his time to find out exactly what’s the problem with the car! I was up and running in no time ! Will definitely recommend Him to anyone having issues with cars!!!

Nicholas

11 years of experience
585 reviews
Nicholas
11 years of experience
Chrysler 300 V6-2.7L - Warning Light is on - Durham, North Carolina
Excellent diagnostician. Knowledgeable and caring. Created a desire for him specifically, to do the job. Hope we get him every time!
Honda Accord - Warning Light is on - Garner, North Carolina
I was very happy with Nicholas and his knowledge and expertise about diagnosing the issues with my car. He is honest, reliable and professional. He is now my Mechanic that I will call on for all my car's needs.I will also recommend him to my friends whom have been taken advantage of by other car shops as I have been, and are looking for someone honest , that will not take advantage of them Thank you so much Nicholas for resolving my issue with my car. I feel relieved and happy with the outcome

Tony

40 years of experience
12 reviews
Tony
40 years of experience
Cadillac Escalade EXT V8-6.2L - Warning Light is on - Stockton, California
Good,mechanic helpful ,smooth move but quick, friendly patience and deep experience as a mechanic,as a customer I recommend Tony Crockett if you need a mechanic.

Brent

8 years of experience
56 reviews
Brent
8 years of experience
Jeep Grand Cherokee V6-3.7L - Warning Light is on - Lithonia, Georgia
On time for appointment. Knowledgeable, he explained what he was doing & then explained his findings to me. Later he sent a text with the diagnostic findings,

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How Long Does an Oil Filter Housing Gasket Last?
Oil Oil is one of the most important parts of any engine due to the lubrication that it can provide. The internal parts of the engine need a lot of lubrication in order to stay working as they are supposed...
How Long Does an Oil Pan Gasket Last?
Maintaining Maintaining a car is a bit easier said than done to all of the parts that are contained within your engine. One of the things that helps to keep the parts in an engine running like they should is...
How Long Does an Oil Pump Cover Gasket Last?
In In order for the oil in your car to get to where it needs to go, it will need the right amount of pressure. There are a number of different systems and parts on a car that help to...

Related questions

Timing chain problem
Hello. This can be caused by a variety of things, timing chain (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/timing-chain-replacement) being one of them. However, there are many other reasons this may also happen, such as a faulty mass air flow sensor (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/mass-airflow-sensor-replacement), fuel injection problems (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/fuel-injector-replacement),...
Oil light goes off and on.
This light will usually come on when one of two things are happening. Either the motor is in fact low on oil or the oil pressure sending unit (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/oil-pressure-sensor-replacement) is not working properly and may be producing a faulty reading....
My oil pressure low light comes oil and I replaced the sensor several times but it still comes on
Hello, thank you for writing in. Particularly having the check engine light on, the vehicle will have set off diagnostic troubleshooting codes that pertain to whatever component has set off the warning lights. You will want to start by having...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com