High Oil Pressure - Main Causes and Treatment [Simple Guide]

We all know the feeling of running out of gas.

The low fuel light flashed, several warning bells rang, and we panicked as the needle moved closer and closer to red.

The solution?

Well, go to the gas station and fill the tank, of course. But what about your oil pressure gauge? Do you remember the last time you saw him? Do you even know you have it?

The oil pressure gauge should read somewhere between 25 to 65 PSI while the engine is running. If it starts to creep higher (think 80+ PSI), then you’re in trouble yourself high oil pressure. When this happens, it interferes with your machine’s ability to function properly.

What causes high oil pressure? The main actors include:

  • Defective Sending Unit
  • Relief Valve Damage
  • Oil Line Blocked
  • Dirty Oil Filter
  • Oil Quality/Grade

Luckily, in this guide, we’ll be going over each one in detail. We’ll also cover what high oil pressure is and why it’s important.

Next, we’ll look at why frequent oil changes are so important for proper engine balance, as well as answer some common questions about high oil pressure.

But first, let’s examine the basics behind how an engine lubrication system works.

Let’s start now!

The Basics Behind Engine Lubrication Systems


The oil pan is located near the bottom of the engine. It serves as a reservoir for the oil before it is pumped throughout the engine. Most hold between 4 to 6 liters of oil.

pick-up tube

Your engine needs oil immediately, and when you turn the key, the pickup tube carries it from the pan to the oil pump.

Oil pump

As the name suggests, the oil pump is in charge of “pumping” oil throughout the system. This ensures that all moving parts are properly lubricated and do not create too much friction.

Pressure relief valve

The oil pressure relief valve consists of three parts, the piston, the spring and the plug. Under normal conditions, the valve is fully extended, regulating oil flow.

As the pressure increases, it forces the piston against the spring, allowing more to pass through, thereby reducing the pressure.

Oil filter

As the oil circulates throughout the system, it picks up harmful contaminants such as dirt, dust and metal debris. This is where the oil filter comes in. When the oil passes through (under pressure), unwanted particles, don’t.

Blowhole and Gallery

The blowholes and galleries are small exit points located throughout the system where the oil is allowed to seep. They ensure proper lubrication of many moving parts, including pistons, rings, pins, bearings and cylinders.

At this point, the oil has finished its journey and is returning to the oil pan.

What Is High Oil Pressure And Why Is It Important?

High oil pressure means that oil flow is restricted in some way.

This could be the result of a blockage, a damaged part, or a problem with the oil itself. As we mentioned earlier, the typical pressure range lies between 25 and 65 PSI. When this range is exceeded, something goes wrong and needs to be fixed before any damage occurs.

Proper lubrication is critical to the health of any engine. Without it, friction builds up and causes overheating. When this happens, the risk of a crack in the engine block, or a head gasket leak increases.

Each of these scenarios is very expensive to complete (if repairs are even possible). For this reason, your best bet is to take action at the first signs that you have high oil pressure.

What Causes High Oil Pressure?

High Oil Pressure 1

Defective Sending Unit

The oil pressure sending unit is what controls the gauge on your vehicle’s dashboard. If it breaks for one reason or another, you will receive an erroneous reading. The only way to check for this failure is to check the oil pressure manually.

For this you will need an oil pressure gauge and an adapter to fit your vehicle (we recommend using oil pressure tester).

First, check if the engine is cool enough to run. Then, put the transmission in neutral or park and apply the handbrake. Next, look for the sending unit (usually found near the oil pan). Be sure to prepare a drip pan, as when you remove the sending unit, you may encounter some drips.

Connect the pressure gauge, start the car, and press the gas pedal and hold it between 2,500 to 4,000 RPM for about 15 to 20 seconds.

Be sure to consult your manual for the correct operating range for your vehicle. If the gauge shows pressure within a healthy range, then the problem is elsewhere. Otherwise, the problem is a faulty sending unit.

If you prefer to pay a professional to diagnose the problem, expect to spend around $100.

Relief Valve Damage

If you remember earlier, the relief valve is not a complicated component, it just consists of a piston, a spring and a plug. This not only protects the engine from damage caused by high pressure, but also regulates the flow of oil through the block.

How do you know if the relief valve is the problem?

There’s no way to be sure without checking it. In fact, if you start your car, drive it for a while, and the pressure does not reach the expected level, this may indicate a relief valve malfunction.

Fortunately, a simple cleaning should suffice.

Oil Line Blocked

As mentioned earlier, one of the main reasons behind high oil pressure is restriction of oil flow. This may be due to a blockage, which is a serious problem. This is usually the result of a build-up of sludge or carbon deposits somewhere along the oil path.

Removing the blockage is time consuming, which makes it a bit expensive. This requires specialized tools and in-depth knowledge of how to disassemble the system. The process involves cleaning the lubrication system. Includes cooling jets, drain lines, hole pegs, hoses and plugs, as well as any additional components.

Your best bet is to hire a professional for the service, though, oil system flushing products do exist, ranging from around $30 to $60.

Dirty Oil Filter

Most oil filters last about 3,000 miles, at which point You have to replace it. As they collect debris, they become less effective. When too much has been collected, the flow of oil is limited.

Some of the symptoms of a dirty oil filter include a stuttering or metallic sound, decreased engine performance, or black and soot exhaust. You can change the oil filter yourself at home relatively easily, or you can hire a store to do it for anywhere from $35 to $75.

If your engine requires synthetic oil, expect to spend a little more, as much as $125.

Oil Quality/Grade

In case you didn’t know, motor oil has different levels of viscosity, which refers to how thick it is (also known as oil weight).

The thinner it is, the easier it will flow through the system. The thicker it is, the more pressure it needs to circulate.

Your best bet is to consult your manual to determine what the manufacturer recommends regarding viscosity grades. Then, you have to take into account where you live.

The warmer the climate you live in, the thicker your oil will be. In cold weather, a thinner oil is ideal, such as 5W. You also have a choice between regular mineral oil, fully synthetic, or a mixture of the two.

Synthetic is known for its ability to machine health supplementthough, not all machines can handle it.

The Importance of Changing Your Engine Oil

Changing Engine Oil

Most mechanics recommend changing your oil every 3,000 miles or so. However, modern cars, trucks, and SUVs are built to last 10,000 miles before needing new oil.

After all, consistency is paramount. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to cause engine damage.

As we age, the oil begins to break down and thicken. As you know, the thicker your oil, the more pressure it needs to circulate through the system. It also picks up more contaminants, such as dirt, dust, or metal shavings, causing them to thicken, as well as increasing wear and tear on your engine.

High Oil Pressure FAQ

Final Thoughts

Car repair is never fun, but it’s better to tackle it early before it gets worse.

If your oil pressure gauge starts to rise, diagnose the problem before it becomes a significant problem. Better to spend a few hundred dollars now, then a few thousand later.

To make sure your lubrication system can do its job. Be sure to follow a maintenance routine that includes frequent oil changes, as well as oil filter changes.

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