Warning lights on the dashboard can be disconcerting, especially when they are relentlessly flashing. The important thing is to remain calm, even if you see something as frightening as the check engine light or the oil light. That said, knowing what these indicators mean may be the difference in knowing when to pull over or keep going. Wondering, “Why is my oil light flashing?” You have come to the right place. Here is what you need to know about your vehicle’s oil light, including what could set it off.

**Note** – A quick hello to anyone reading this, I’m Alastair and this is my site Synthetic oil.me. I started this site to help people with their oil questions, and hopefully what you’re about to read will help answer your questions. This page may include affiliate links to the likes of Amazon, which if you make a purchase I qualify to earn a (typically small) commission. Don’t worry as this won’t cost you anything, the likes of Amazon pay any commissions. Thank you in advance for your support as this helps bring you more (hopefully) helpful content.

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Why is My Oil Light Flashing?

Whether the oil light is red, orange, or yellow or flashing on your vehicle, it is important to take immediate action. Oil lights, which are often in the shape of an oil-fashioned oil can or spelled OIL, can mean a couple of things. Here are some reasons why the oil light has begun to flash, as well as what you should do if any of these are the case:

You Need to Change Your Oil

Ideally, you should be changing your vehicle’s oil every 5,000-7,500 miles, depending on the make, model, and year. Older vehicles with over 75,000 miles may need to have their oil changed more frequently. Those cars still running on conventional—not synthetic—oil will also need their oil changed every 3,000 miles. If you haven’t driven your car within 6 months, it’s going to need an oil change before it hits the road again, because sedentary oil goes bad, too. And if you have gone over 10,000 miles without an oil change? Your car is going to need one soon.

You see, the oil light starts flashing when your engine’s oil is getting old. It’s a sign that your car needs new oil NOW; there is no more time to wait.

Even if you top off the engine oil, any old, dirty oil that remains is going to foul it up. So get your car to the nearest shop or to your home as soon as you can to change the oil. The oil light should shut off immediately.

Low Oil Level

This is the primary cause to begin flashing. As you know, motor oil is needed to reduce heat and friction within the engine. Should there be a lack of oil, your engine may start to burn up and, eventually, seize.

Obviously, you do not want to kill the engine that way. If you suspect the oil level is low, check. The easiest way to do that is by using the dipstick.

Keep in mind that low oil levels are not merely caused by use. If you have let your engine oil get too low before, there could be damages done that went undetected, such as cracked valves, broken engine block, or leaks coming from the oil pan. Be sure to check your engine for any sign of leaking oil whenever you pop the hood.

Oil Pressure or Pump Failure

While few drivers ever have to worry about their oil pump failing, it could happen. Your oil pump is an essential piece of the engine, one that helps circulate oil by pulling it from the oil pan. Usually, the first symptom that your oil pump is dying is that the oil light indicator pops on. In this case, the glow is usually sustained, not flashing. However, if you also notice that the oil pressure has dropped, and you see the engine temperature rise, it could be a sign that the oil pump is going. Ignore this issue for too long, and the oil light may just start flashing.

Faulty Oil Pressure Sensor

In most vehicles, the oil pressure sensor is generally located on the side or bottom of the engine, between the oil pan and oil filter. Over time, the electronics in your vehicle will start to get worn down. Your oil pressure sensor is no different. Faulty oil pressure sensors will cause the light to flicker randomly, even when nothing is wrong with your oil. Double-check the consistency and level of your oil. If that’s not the cause, then your oil pressure sensor may need to be replaced.

Wiring Issues

Damaged or loose wires from frontal collisions can sometimes lead to uncontrollable dashboard lights. If you recently got into a front fender bender and suspect that wiring issues are the culprit, there is not much you can do on your own, however. A qualified mechanic will need to take a look.

Blown Fuse

Why is the oil light flashing? It could be a fuse that needs to be replaced. Fortunately, blown fuses are not difficult to replace and are also reasonably priced. You may even be able to switch out a blown fuse without any assistance.

The fuse box is, in most cases, located underneath the dashboard on the driver’s side. Sometimes a second fuse box is under the hood. You can consult the owner’s manual for the location.

Other symptoms of a blown ruse include other missing or malfunctioning lights on the dashboard, not being able to turn on the radio, dysfunctional climate controls, and interior lights failing.

The Oil Filter is Clogged

Have you been changing the oil filter when you change the oil? If not, you could end up with a clogged oil filter that is mucking up the flow. When the oil filter is caked with grime, the pressure of your engine oil can start to increase or the filter is totally bypassed because it can no longer pass through the filter easily. The best course of action is to change your oil and the oil filter out as soon as you can. Keeping an old oil filter even when you change the oil will only dirty the new oil much faster.

Once you install a brand new oil filter, the oil pressure will stabilize, and your vehicle will return to peak performance.

What Should I Do When My Oil Light is Flashing?

When you see a flashing oil light, it means that your engine is not properly lubricated. In the event you do not correct the issue right away, your vehicle’s engine could be damaged. The first thing you should do is pull over and check the oil level. You will need to wait about 15 minutes for the oil levels to fall back to normal before removing the dipstick from the oil reservoir. If the oil level is low, top it off (so long as you are carrying around an extra bottle or two). Should the oil light remain flashing, then you need to bring your car to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Taking prompt action can save you from expensive repairs later on.

How Can I Prevent a Flashing Oil Light?

Seeing a flickering light on the dashboard is no doubt alarming. You may think your engine is about to blow. Certainly, any flashing light is a sign that something is wrong and needs immediate attention. If the check oil light comes on suddenly, here are some steps you can take to ensure you make it home or to the nearest lube shop:

  • Check your oil levels. Let your engine cool for 5-15 minutes after use before popping the hood and lifting out the dipstick.
  • If you changed your oil recently but the oil light comes on, it could mean that you have used the wrong viscosity or your oil sump plug isn’t fitted correctly.
  • Clean off the engine regularly. Dirty engines can sometimes trip up the sensor system.
  • Perform routine maintenance on your vehicle to spot looming problems before they become too major to fix on your own.
  • If there is an oil pressure gauge, check it often. You may be able to identify certain issues. Otherwise, take your vehicle to a certified mechanic.

Final Thoughts on a Flashing Oil Light

“Why is my oil light flashing?” you asked. Well, now you know the answer: there is a problem. Diagnosing the issue may not always be as cut and dry as checking the oil level with the dipstick. Sometimes, you will need to have electrical problems repaired. Keeping up with oil changes and ensuring your engine has enough routine maintenance should keep any flashing oil lights at bay, but if it happens entirely at random, be ready to head to the mechanic.


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