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

Last Updated on July 12, 2021

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.

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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.

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. 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.

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.


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