Have you experienced the engine light on your dashboard lighting up when you step on the brakes? It’s difficult not to be disturbed if this happens unexpectedly while driving. In this article, I’ll discuss why the oil light comes on when braking – causes and fix.
If the engine oil light flickers and stays on when you are braking, it could be because the motor oil inside the engine is already low. Since oil is a liquid, and if it is already low, it can slosh away from the oil pressure sensor when you step on your brakes.
When the oil moves forward, and away from the oil pressure sensor, it causes the engine oil light to turn on. It is a sure sign that your car engine is low on motor oil. This happens when you stop your car or even when you accelerate abruptly. The engine oil light will turn off when it returns to a level acceptable to the sensor.
Read on to learn more about why the oil light on your dash will turn on each time you hit the brakes and what you can do to fix it.
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Oil Light Comes on When Braking
Low Motor Oil Level
Seeing the engine oil light suddenly turning on as you step on the brakes is disturbing. This can happen if the level of motor oil inside the engine is already low. What usually happens is that when you hit the brakes, the oil can slosh forward and away from the oil pressure sensor.
While oil is thicker than water, it is still a liquid that can easily change its position when you move it. As it moves away from the oil pressure sensor, the action will trigger the engine oil light on your dash, and the light will come on.
However, when your car is at a stop, or even when you accelerate, the engine will come to a level that will become acceptable to the pressure sensor. So, the engine oil light on your dash will go out.
Top Up the Motor Oil
The most probable reason for this is that the engine oil level of your car is close to being empty. You need to check if it is. And if it is really low, you either have to top it up or change it entirely if it’s already time for your engine for an oil change.
Can You Keep Driving If Oil Light Comes on?
Will it be ok for you to keep on driving while the oil light is on? I’m afraid it’s not. If this light turns on anytime you are driving, take it seriously. It is telling you that it is unsafe to continue driving your car.
The correct oil pressure is no longer present inside the engine. When you see this light, stop as soon as possible in a safe place where you can park. Allow your engine to rest for a while. Do it if you can call a mechanic or tow truck. If not, you might cause more damage to the engine.
Check the Oil Filter
Aside from checking the motor oil, you can also check the oil filter. If it’s already clogged or dirty with sludge, replace it with a new filter of the same type and size. You can also drain the existing motor oil inside the engine and change it with the same type and grade of motor oil.
Hopefully, after doing this, the engine light will go out by itself the next time you start the engine. If it does, then you can again drive your car without worrying that you can damage the engine.
Why Does Oil Light Turn On When You Brake?
When the engine oil light on your dashboard suddenly comes on when you are braking, it could signal that the engine oil inside is already low. Oil is a liquid, and since it is already at a low level inside your engine, it will slosh away from the oil pressure sensor when you brake.
That is the probable reason the engine oil light on the dash turns on. However, that is not the only possible reason. There are other causes why this oil light can turn on while braking:
1. Clogged or Dirty Filter
If the oil filter is dirty, clogged, or leaking, the oil light will also come on each time you brake. The apparent fix if the filter is dirty or clogged is to clean it thoroughly. Then put it back in its place and see if it does the trick. If it does not, you have to replace the filter entirely.
2. Oil Momentarily Loses Contact with the Sensor
How can the oil pressure sensor detect the oil if the oil inside the engine is close to none? When you step on the brakes, the remaining oil pan goes to the front of the pan.
This will briefly expose the oil pick-up tube and causes oil starvation momentarily, which then will cause the oil light to flicker.
3. Low Engine Oil Pressure
When your engine is idle, its oil pressure is at its lowest. If the oil light flickers while the engine is idle, the oil pressure is lower than recommended. That’s not a good sign.
This might be due to the following:
- Too thin oil,
- A faulty oil pressure sensor, or
- Engine wear.
Using a gauge to determine if the oil sensor sends the correct pressure reading, you need to check the oil pressure.
If its reading is correct, the motor oil is too thin. You need to replace it with oil of higher viscosity. For instance, if you are using 5W-30 oil, replace it with 10W-30. Or you can add an oil thickener to the existing oil.
4. Defective Oil Pump
The oil pump can also degrade over time. One of the causes of the oil light turning on unexpectedly is an oil pump that is already worn out. Check the condition of the oil pump, and replace it if it is already malfunctioning.
Some of the signs that the oil pump is malfunctioning are the following:
- Motor oil pressure is low
- Strange noise coming from the pump
- Overheating engine
- Strange noise coming from the valve train
- Grinding noise created by the hydraulic lifters
5. Bad Oil Pressure Sensor
I’ve already mentioned the oil pressure sensor not reporting the correct oil pressure. This can also cause your oil light to come on even if the oil pressure is correct. Over time, this sensor will also wear out and will not function as before. You should replace it with a new sensor.
Again, why is the oil light come on when braking? When your oil light comes on when braking, it might mean your car’s oil level is low. With an almost empty tank, oil can slosh away while braking.
6. Bad Fuel Injector
If there is a problem with your car’s fuel injection system, it will also cause the oil light to come on. On vehicles using carburetors, flooding problems will also cause the oil light to turn on.
If the fuel injection system is not working correctly, excess fuel will go into the oil pan and may thin the oil inside.
When you step on the brakes, the thinned motor oil will surge every which way quickly. If that happens, the oil light on your dash will turn on. You can pull out the engine oil dipstick and smell it if it contains sniffs of gasoline.
If it does, ask a mechanic to fix the problem as soon as possible. Issues like this can damage your engine because of insufficient efficient lubrication.
7. Bad Electrical Wiring
If the electrical wiring that leads to the oil pressure sensor is faulty or loose, it will also cause the oil light to flicker when you step on the gas or the brakes. Ensure that the sensor’s wiring is correct, not loose or corroded, and you will not experience this problem.
What Should You Do If the Low Oil Pressure Light Activates While Driving?
There are several fixes to the issue of the oil light turning on when the brakes are applied. If you are not sure of the real cause of the problem, you can still use the following fixes. Hopefully, they will prevent the oil light from coming on when you hit the brakes:
These are the things you can do to determine what’s causing an activated oil light:
Check for Leaks
If there are oil leaks in your car, it could be one reason for the low oil pressure. Trace the origin of the leak. Or ask a competent mechanic to do it and fix the leak as soon as possible. This leak is probably one reason the engine has low oil pressure.
Check the Oil Filter
Inspect the oil filter. If it is too dirty or clogged, try to clean it and put it back. If it doesn’t do the trick, you have to replace it. A dirty or clogged oil filter will limit motor oil flow inside the engine, leading to low oil pressure and other issues.
Check the Oil Level
See if the oil level is not below the minimum mark. If it is, top it up with the same oil grade prescribed by the manufacturer.
Read the operator’s manual of your car to see the correct motor oil grade that your vehicle needs. For instance, if you are using 5W-30 oil, replace it with 10W-30. Or you can add an oil thickener to the existing oil.
2. Fix the Low Engine Oil Pressure
If the oil pressure is giving the correct oil pressure reading, and yet the oil light comes on when braking, you need to correct the oil grade of the motor oil inside the engine. If the oil is too thin, replace it with higher-viscosity motor oil.
However, it is defective if the sensor does not report the correct oil pressure. As it ages, this sensor will wear out. When this happens, you need to replace it with a new sensor.
You can also use an OBD2 scanner to check if the sensor is still working. This scanner will not only show if the sensor is already bad, but it will also tell you about other issues with the motor oil, the fuel pressure, and other things.
If the motor oil inside your engine is already low, it can cause the engine oil light to come on when you apply the brakes.
The reason is: motor oil is a liquid, and if its quantity inside your engine is already low, it will slosh away from the oil pressure sensor every time you brake. As a result, the engine oil light on the dash will turn on.
It is a sign that the amount of engine oil is already low. When the oil moves forward, and away from the oil pressure sensor, the light will flicker when you hit the brakes.
When the oil level returns to a level acceptable to the sensor, the light will go out. You need to check your engine oil and top it up or change it if necessary.