9 Main Causes of High Oil Pressure & How to Fix

Written by

Charles Bolte


Vernon Hoppe 

causes of high oil pressure

Is it bad to have high oil pressure? If this question is on your mind, know that higher than normal oil pressure can lead to serious engine problems. Easy-to-resolve issues like using the wrong oil grade can cause them.

However, the causes of high oil pressure can be more diverse than that. For instance, a damaged oil pump can be the underlying issue. Whatever the reason for your car’s high oil pressure, you must address it before it causes engine failure.

What Are the Reasons for High Oil Pressure?

To understand the reasons for high oil pressure in cars, you must know this first: what does high oil pressure mean?


The ideal oil pressure is between 25 to 65 PSI. Thus, high oil pressure meaning is generally readings that are above 65 PSI.

So, given that information, is 60 PSI high oil pressure? As it’s within the range, it’s easy to think it’s a good oil pressure reading. However, it depends on the vehicle.

Some cars require a lower or higher number than the median or average oil pressure. Thus, to know the exact normal oil PSI for your vehicle, it’s best to refer to its manual.

Then, once you’ve identified what’s normal for your car and found out that your current engine oil pressure is higher than it should be, here are the possible reasons:

1. Buildup of dirt, sludge, and other materials

The most likely reason your car has too high oil pressure is because of the buildup in these engine components:


2. Filthy oil filter


Oil filters keep running engine oil clean by removing soot, dirt, and grime from it. Over time, those particles accumulate, making the filter dirty. This makes it harder for oil to flow through, and the filter becomes more inefficient in cleaning.

3. Clogged oil passageways


The filter should help in keeping the oil clear and, thereby, the passageways clear, too. However, if the filter is dirty or inefficient, the circulating engine oil will carry particles that can be deposited along and clog the passages.

4. Wrong oil grade and type


The correct oil grade and type depend on your car’s make, model, and climate (thinner oils suit cooler climates better, for example). Adding the wrong one to your engine can lead to abnormal oil pressure readings and inefficiency, as the engine parts aren’t lubricated well.

5. Damaged or malfunctioning engine components

Here are the parts that, when damaged or malfunctioned, can cause the engine’s reading to have a higher than standard oil pressure:


6. Oil pressure relief valve


The pressure relief valve is crucial for regulating the force with which the oil flows. If it senses the oil pressure running high, it returns some of the circulating oil to the pan or reservoir.

Thus, if the relief valve is malfunctioning, there’s nothing to limit the pressure buildup inside the engine.

7. Oil pump


After passing through the oil filter, the engine goes to the oil pump to be circulated. If the pump is damaged, the oil won’t be able to flow through passageways and reach the engine parts that need lubrication. This eventually leads to oil pressure higher than normal.

8. Sending unit, oil pressure sensor, or oil gauge


There’s a slight chance that although you’ve been getting a high oil pressure reading, your car’s engine is actually at proper oil pressure. The problem is with the sending unit, oil pressure sensor, or oil gauge.

These parts are responsible for detecting the oil in the engine and transmitting corresponding signals through the dashboard. If they’re damaged, they could give off the wrong reading.

Besides incorrect readings, the signals may even fluctuate. For instance, if the oil gauge is damaged, the oil gauge reading might be going up and down from your perspective.

9. Cold engine

Cold-engine -cause-high-oil-pressure

Temperature is also a significant factor in oil pressure readings because it affects engine oil viscosity. At cold temperatures, the engine oil is thicker. This leads to a reading that is higher than regular oil pressure.

Thus, if your car gets off on cold start, you’ll likely get a high oil pressure reading. After the engine oil has warmed up for around twenty minutes, it will thin out and turn back to normal.

Symptoms of High Oil Pressure

These are high oil pressure symptoms:


  • Oil Leak

Blocked oil passages or a malfunctioning oil pressure relief valve can lead to high pressure that blows up components and results in an oil leak. That leak can also burn up when it ends up on an overheated engine, emitting a distinctive burnt oil smell.

  • Overheating

Does high oil pressure cause overheating? Yes. When engine parts are unlubricated due to high pressure, this allows them to knock against each other, resulting in more friction and overheating.

  • Dashboard Signals

Your check engine light could turn on with too much oil pressure. If other dashboard components help you monitor oil pressure – like a gauge – you can check them now and then to see if there’s a high reading.

Typically, an oil pressure of 80 PSI or above is considered abnormal. If the dashboard or oil pressure gauge indicates that, you must resolve the underlying cause immediately.

  • Inability to Accelerate

When accelerating and the car is still not going as fast as it should, it may be due to high oil pressure. Moreover, if the vehicle accelerates and the pressure rises abnormally without going back down, that is also another indication of an oil problem.

  • Dark Exhaust Smoke 

When the oil filter is highly contaminated, it can cause the car to produce dark exhaust smoke.

  • Sputtering, Knocking, and Grinding Sounds

When engine parts are unlubricated due to high pressure, you’ll hear knocking, grinding, or sputtering sounds from them.

How to Troubleshoot and Address the High Oil Pressure Issue

Here are tips on how to fix your high oil pressure issue:

1. If cold, allow the engine to warm up


As mentioned, cold temperatures and engines can lead to a higher oil pressure reading. If your car is in such conditions, let the engine warm up for 20 minutes. Then, retake an oil pressure reading and see if there has been a decrease.

2. Replace the oil and oil filter


If the pressure is still high after letting the oil warm up, then it could be that the oil and oil filter is too dirty or you added the wrong grade or type of engine oil.

Either way, you need to replace these components. These two tasks are usually done together, as you must drain the oil to replace the filter.

When replacing, ensure that the quality and specifications of your new engine oil and filter are suitable and compatible with your car’s engine. You’ll also need a car jack and stand to lift the vehicle, a wrench to loosen the drain plug, and a drip pan to catch the old oil.

3. Clean the oil pan


While replacing the oil and filter, consider also cleaning the oil pan. It is the recommended solution to clogged passageways, so if the latter is the cause of your high oil pressure, you’ll also fix it with this move.

You’ll need a brush and some extra water or oil to clean the oil pan. Brush away the dirt and particles, then rinse with engine oil or water.

4. Seek a mechanic’s help

Why is my oil pressure high after oil change, engine warmup, and oil pan cleanup? That may be because you are dealing with a more significant and technical issue that requires a mechanic’s assistance.


These are the issues that require a mechanic’s help:

  • Damaged relief valve
  • Damaged oil pump
  • Malfunctioning oil sensor or sending unit

Before you approach a mechanic, you can confirm if the sensor or sending unit is the underlying issue. To do that, you’ll need a multimeter, as sending unit wires that do not register 240 ohms usually have problems.

Using an oil pressure test kit, you can also confirm if your engine – indeed – has high oil pressure. It allows you to manually take the oil reading instead of relying on the gauge, sensors, or sending unit.

Prevention Tips for High Oil Pressure

The best way to prevent high oil pressure is to regularly and properly change the engine oil and oil filter. Here’s how you can do that:


  • Refer to your manual to find the engine oil and filter that best matches your car.
  • Also, use the manual to determine when you should change the engine oil or filter. However, the generally recommended schedule is every 10,000 miles for engine oil and 3,000 miles for the oil filter.
  • Follow the proper process of oil and filter changing.
  • When adding engine oil, ensure that the correct amount is added. The dipstick’s oil line should be between the minimum and maximum notches.
  • With proper and regular oil and filter changing, you can avoid overly contaminated filters, clogged passageways, and abnormal oil pressure levels.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is It OK To Drive With High Oil Pressure?

Driving your car while the engine is at high oil pressure is not recommended. When driving with high oil pressure, you’re allowing the underlying issues, like damaged components, to worsen.

Moreover, you leave the engine components unprotected as they knock against each other. All these can eventually lead to engine damage.

How Long Can I Drive With High Oil Pressure?

Depending on the problem, you can drive 15 to 500 miles with high oil pressure. However, it’s best not to reach the maximum, as it makes your car more prone to damage. Thus, address the problem as soon as possible.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix High Oil Pressure In A Car Engine?

Fixing high oil pressure can cost from tens to hundreds of dollars. The exact amount depends on the issue. If the solution is only to change the oil and filter, you’ll spend less than $100, especially if you do it yourself.

However, you’ll spend significantly more if there’s a damaged component. For instance, oil pressure sensors can cost up to $75. However, the mechanic can charge you $130 to $150 to replace them.

How Often Should I Check My Car’s Oil Pressure?

If you have an oil pressure gauge or a check engine light, check them often while driving to immediately catch any changes or irregularities.

However, if you want to do a manual oil pressure reading, it’s recommended to check the quality of the oil every month. That check also includes assessing the oil level, appearance, and other aspects.

Is High Oil Pressure Bad?

It is bad to have high oil pressure because it is usually a symptom of a significant issue, like a damaged oil pump or malfunctioning sending unit. Moreover, if the problem is unaddressed, it can lead to more concerning consequences like oil leaks, overheating, or engine damage.

Can Low Oil Cause High Oil Pressure?

Low oil levels usually do not cause high oil pressure. Instead, they are often associated with low oil pressure. Moreover, the common causes of high oil pressure are wrong oil grade, buildups, malfunctioning engine components, and cold engines.


There are four typical causes of high oil pressure: buildup of particles, wrong engine oil, damaged engine components, and cold engines. Some of these are easy to address, as you only have to replace the oil, clean the oil pan, or warm up the engine.

However, if the underlying issue is damaged components, you’ll need a mechanic’s help as the solution is complex and technical. Regardless of the cause of your car’s high oil pressure, you must address it immediately to avoid further issues or costly repairs.

5/5 - (3 votes)
Categories Oil

Magazine Latest Posts

can you mix 0w20 and 5w20

Can You Mix 0w20 and 5w20? Is It Safe?

For the proper functioning of your car, it is advisable to choose the correct type ...

What Does a Blown 30 Amp Fuse Look Like

What Does a Blown 30 Amp Fuse Look Like?

Fuses are protective components that do not come with a guaranteed lifespan. In automobiles, 30 ...

Merco V Alternatives

Mercon V Alternatives: A Comprehensive Guide

If your vehicle requires an automatic transmission fluid with the Ford-recommended Mercon V specifications, you ...

How to prove oil change for warranty

How to Prove Oil Change for Warranty? – 4 Things to Do

Owning a car has its benefits, but keeping it in top condition is another story. ...

Can You Mix 5W20 and 5W30

Can You Mix 5W20 and 5W30? Is It Safe?

Most people ask, can you mix 5w20 and 5w30 oil? The answer is, if it’s ...

Ruthenium vs Iridium

Ruthenium vs Iridium: Which is the Best Spark Plug?

When choosing the spark plug material, you might have encountered the 2 top contenders in ...