5 Causes of High Oil Pressure (and Symptoms to Watch For)

Just like high blood pressure can cause you to have a heart attack and cripple you, high oil pressure can create a litany of problems for your vehicle. Oil has a wide array of functions for your vehicle, but it all requires the proper oil pressure.

But what exactly is high oil pressure, what does it do, and how can you tell that’s what’s going on? We’ll answer all those questions and more here.

high oil pressure

What Is High Oil Pressure?

Throughout your vehicle, there are small passages and channels that the engine oil works through to lubricate, clean, seal, protect, and cool your vehicle. But as these channels constrict, the pressure it puts on the oil goes up.

With too much pressure, various components can start to wear out and get damaged, which is why keeping your engine’s oil pressure at the right level is so important.

See Also: Causes of Low Oil Pressure Light Coming On

Common Causes of High Oil Pressure

While high oil pressure is an extremely serious problem, there a few specific areas you check out to try and find the cause. We’ve broken down the five most common here. That way, you can get your vehicle’s oil pressure back under control and get back on the road!

#1 – Clogged or Blocked Filter

clogged oil filter

One of the most common causes of high oil pressure is a blocked, damaged, or clogged oil filter. While this typically only happens when your oil filter is particularly old, but it can happen if something comes up and hits your oil filter while driving.

The good news is that if this is your problem, it’s a relatively easy fix – just complete an oil change and replace the filter, and you should be good to go!

#2 – Faulty Pressure Relief Valve

Just because you don’t want your engine to reach a certain oil pressure doesn’t mean it won’t do it. That’s why your vehicle’s engine has a pressure relief valve to direct oil when the pressure gets too high.

But when this pressure relief valve is stuck closed, oil pressure will continue to rise without anywhere to go.

#3 – Old Oil/Wrong Oil

engine oil sludge

Over time oil loses its viscosity which makes it harder for it to travel through passages. It can even go bad after enough time. This naturally increases the oil pressure, which can lead to problems in your vehicle.

Not only that but not all oils are created equal. So, if you use a thicker oil than is supposed to be in your vehicle, high oil pressure can result. This should be noticeable shortly after an oil change, but the problem will worsen over time as the oil ages.

Either way, just complete an oil change using the right oil and replace the oil filter, and you should be good to go!

Related: Comparing Different Engine Oil Types

#4 – Blocked Oil Passages

Just as the oil filter can become blocked, the passages throughout your engine can build up grime and other debris, leading to a blockage. When this happens, there’s no easy fix. You can try flushing the system a few times to get some of that grime out, but it’s not guaranteed to work.

The good news is that this is relatively rare if you keep up with regular oil changes.

#5 – Faulty Sending Unit/Gauge

oil pressure sending unit

Your engine uses sensors to determine the current oil pressure throughout your vehicle. But if a sensor gives off an errant reading or the gauge you’re looking at is faulty, you might think you have high oil pressure when you really don’t.

Related: Code P0520, Code P0521, Code P0523, Code P06DD

Symptoms of High Oil Pressure

Before you can start diagnosing what’s causing your vehicle to have high oil pressure, you need to be sure that’s what is actually wrong with your vehicle.

That’s why we took the time to break down a few of the most common symptoms of high oil pressure here.

#1 – High Oil Pressure Reading (Gauge)

causes of high oil pressure

The most common way you’ll identify high oil pressure in your vehicle is through a gauge. Not every vehicle has an oil pressure gauge, but most do. When this gauge starts to creep too high and into the red, it’s a sure sign you have a problem.

#2 – Oil Leaks

The vehicle manufacturer designed everything in your vehicle to work at a specific pressure and temperature. So, when oil pressure gets too high, it can blow out seals and other components, leading to leaks and damage.

Related: Causes of Oil in Spark Plug Wells

#3 – Engine Overheating

steam from radiator

If your vehicle has high oil pressure, there’s a good chance it’s not getting enough oil flow throughout the engine. One of the first symptoms of this is an overheating engine. The longer you drive with high oil pressure, the hotter your engine will get.

#4 – Engine Damage

Oil reduces friction throughout your engine, and high oil pressure limits how much oil can travel through your engine. More friction not only creates heat but it can damage various components.

Left untreated long enough, high oil pressure can end up totaling your engine.

Can High Oil Pressure Damage My Engine?

Absolutely! High oil pressure WILL damage your engine, it’s just a matter of time. The higher the oil pressure, the faster damage will result.

This is why it’s so important to diagnose and repair an engine with high oil pressure as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up with more expensive repairs and potentially need a whole new engine!

Does the Type of Engine Oil Used Affect Oil Pressure?

engine oil types

Yes, the type of engine oil you use can affect oil pressure. This is one of the main reasons why vehicle manufacturers recommend a specific oil type for your vehicle.

If you have too much viscosity, your engine will struggle to move the oil throughout all the different passages, and this will raise the oil pressure. Over time the engine oil will thicken further.

This means that while everything might work just fine right after an oil change, over time the oil pressure can raise further and push outside the normal range of operation.

But if you go with an oil that doesn’t have enough viscosity (even if it’s a good oil), the engine can overheat. Not only that but the thinner oil won’t protect components as well and can leak.

Always use the vehicle manufacturers recommend oil type when completing an oil change on your vehicle.

See Also: What Happens When You Put Too Much Oil in Your Car

Should My Oil Pressure Go Up When I Accelerate?

Yes, it is completely normal for your oil pressure to go up when you accelerate. However, keep in mind that these jumps should not be erratic and should still stay in a normal range of operation.

If oil pressure continues to rise when accelerating, doesn’t go back down, and increases outside of a standard range of operation, then you need to see a mechanic to determine what’s going on.

Adam Mann


  1. my nissan Ad van of 2017 failed an oil pressure pump. it wash changed but now on starting the engine the oil filter seal is blown off what could be the problem? i replaced 3 times one after the other still the problem is there

    1. Could the PCV system be clogged? If you’re blowing out oil seals I’m wondering if there is too much crankcase pressure.

  2. Fiesta 1.4 tdci 2013 oil pump sized & stopped pump in I replaced the oil pump with new oil pump. Car did 40 miles and the same problem happened. I’ve checked all oil ways for problems but all clear . Could a faulty oil filter housing relief value cause pressure on the pump to cause the damage. Any help would be great

    1. I don’t know, that’s really strange for two oil pumps to seize. Have the oil and oil filter been changed regularly on that vehicle? I’m wondering if there could be contaminants or debris in the oil system that are causing the pumps to lock up.

  3. When I drive my oil pressure stays at high, but when I stop at a light it goes back to normal? Never seen this before? Any advise

    1. Most oil pumps are driven off of the crankshaft. When the engine slows down, your oil pressure will drop. What you’ve described sounds pretty normal to me. As long as you have more than 10 psi at idle you’re probably good.

    2. My oil pressure is high all the time it started stalling on me at lights an after driving around for a bit

      1. How do you know your oil pressure is high? What is the year, make, and model? Any check engine light?

  4. 2006 GMC Sierra, gauge pegged to 80 and stayed there, Chevy dealer diagnosed faulty sensor and replaced, did it again 200 miles later, any thoughts?

  5. I have a freshly rebuilt 1967 Pontiac 400 engine its idleing at 70lbs oil pressure goes to around 90 when driving could be the check valve? Oil pump?

    1. It depends on what the root cause of the issue is. It could be the sensor which is usually relatively easy to fix, or the oil pump, which could be more difficult.

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