What Causes High Oil Pressure

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Oil is the blood of an engine. It circulates through the system, carrying heat away from the combustion process and lubricating moving parts. Without oil, an engine would quickly cease to function.

One of the most important factors in keeping your engine running smoothly is maintaining proper oil pressure. When oil pressure gets too high, it can cause serious damage to the engine. Normally engine oil pressure is supposed to be at a certain level, between 20 and 60 psi.

Once the engine is started from the ignition, oil pressure will begin to sit at the normal operating range. If it starts to exceed that range, it’s an indication that something is wrong.

What Causes High Oil Pressure
What Causes High Oil Pressure

Indeed, this can be very bad news for the engine as a multitude of problems can arise when the oil pressure gets too high and even in a worst-case scenario, eventually lead to the engine seizing or blowing up. However, don’t start fretting just yet as if you recognize the signs early on, there are a few things that you can do to help reduce the oil pressure before it gets too high and causes any damage. 

In this article, we will take a look at what can cause high oil pressure in an engine so that you know issues that require your attention in order to regulate the oil pressure and save your engine.

Also Read: How to Fix Low Engine Compression

What Is High Oil Pressure?

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So, what is high oil pressure in the first case you might be wondering from the title of this article? Simply put, oil pressure is too high when it exceeds the safe limit for your engine. When the engine oil is at high-pressure values, the engine will feel strain, restrictions in its flow, and resistance will increase when rotating. 

This makes the engine work harder than normal and in some cases, it will eventually lead to engine damage. The reason being is that oil is responsible for lubricating the internals of the engine while also cooling it down. When pressure exceeds the safe limit, it can create a lot of heat and this heat will eventually overwork the engine

What Is Low Oil Pressure?

In adverse to high oil pressure, low oil pressure is when the engine doesn’t have enough force or pressure to push the oil throughout the engine. The lack of lubrication will cause an increase in wear and tear on the engine, which can eventually lead to a breakdown.

A car with low oil pressure may have trouble starting or even running at all and is very prone to engine seizure which can have devastating consequences and lead to a very costly repair which may even lead to you needing an entirely new engine

Also Read: What does it mean when your Oil smells like Gas

What Is Normal Oil Pressure?

So, what even is considered normal oil pressure? Normal oil pressure is typically defined as the oil pressure range in which your engine runs best and usually falls between 20 and 60 psi being the optimal pressure for smooth flow. Anything outside of this range can be indicative of a problem that should be addressed as soon as possible to prevent any damage from being done to the engine

What are the causes of high oil pressure?

As engines age over the years through wear and tear, they tend to accumulate carbon deposits on the pistons, valve stems, and other moving parts. These carbon deposits can create excessive friction and heat. This is what’s commonly referred to as engine sludge. These deposits can restrict and interfere with the free flow of oil and cause it to build up and create high pressure. Now that you know the concepts of high and low oil pressure, you can begin to understand the possible causes of high oil pressure in more detail.

What Is Low Oil Pressure?
What Causes High Oil Pressure

1. Dirty or contaminated oil filter

If the oil filter is not clean or if it’s clogged with dirt, metal shavings, or other debris, it can prevent the oil from flowing freely and cause it to build up and create high pressure. The filter’s job is to remove contaminants from the oil to flow smoothly and without interruption. If the filter has all of its mesh blocked, the oil will not be able to flow through it properly and will cause high pressure.

2. Relief valve malfunction

The relief valve is responsible for releasing excess oil back into the crankcase when the pressure gets too high. If the relief valve is stuck or malfunctioning in any way, it will not release the excess oil, and this will cause the pressure to continue to build. This is because the relief valve is the only way for the excess oil to be released and if it’s not working properly, the pressure will continue to rise.

3. Oil quality and viscosity

Another common reason behind this problem is the quality and viscosity of the oil itself. If the oil is too thick or too light, it will not be able to flow smoothly and can cause irregular pressure. It’s important to use the correct type of oil specified for your car’s engine and to change it according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. If the oil is not replaced often enough, it will start to break down and begin to build up carbon, then thicken which in turn increases its viscosity leading to increased pressure.

Also Read: How much does it Cost to Replace an Oil Pump


Can you drive with high oil pressure?

Yes, you can drive with slightly higher oil pressure but not for long as it will eventually overheat the engine and damage it. You should take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible to have it looked at if you’re experiencing high oil pressure.

What do I do if my oil pressure is high?

When oil pressure is high, an immediate temporary solution is to reduce the engine speed and load. In the meantime, you should be taking your car to a mechanic to have it looked at for the above-mentioned causes for repairs or changes.

Will a blown head gasket cause high oil pressure?

The answer to this is a bit complicated and depends on the specific situation. Generally speaking, if the head gasket is blown, it will cause a loss of compression and the engine will not run properly. This in turn may lead to high oil pressure as well as other problems. However, this isn’t always the case and each engine is unique so you should have your car inspected by a mechanic to determine the root cause of the high oil pressure.

Is it normal for oil pressure to rise when you accelerate?

It is quite normal for oil pressure to rise when you accelerate. In fact, it should increase as the engine RPMs increase. However, if it increases too much and stays outside of functional parameters, then this may be a sign that there is a problem.

Also Read: Why is my Car Sputters When Accelerating

Related Codes


The most common causes of high oil pressure are dirty or contaminated oil filters, malfunctioning relief valves, oil quality and viscosity issues, and deposits on the engine. Now that you know the most common causes of this issue, you can be more aware of the problem and address it sooner.

It’s important to have your car inspected by a mechanic if you’re experiencing these symptoms so that the root cause can be determined and repairs can be made as necessary. High oil pressure can lead to serious engine damage if left untreated, so don’t hesitate to take action if you think something may be wrong. Thanks for reading!

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