What are symptoms of a bad oil pump?

Oil is the lifeblood of your engine, lubricating all the moving parts to prevent premature wear and tear, increase efficiency and provide optimal performance. It’s a well-known fact that regular oil and filter changes are an easy and important way to keep your engine reliable over the long term, but what about the oil pump?

If your car is having trouble running it could be your oil pump, because the oil pump is responsible for moving the oil around the engine to the areas where lubrication is required. A failing oil pump will not send enough oil to those areas and the engine could experience catastrophic failure if the problem isn’t addressed soon enough.

Learn to recognize the symptoms of a bad oil pump, and how to fix it.

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Common Symptoms

The good news is that you may be able to catch a failing oil pump before it goes completely, especially if you pay attention to these common symptoms of a failing oil pump.

Low Oil Pressure Light

Engines are designed with an oil pressure monitoring system that is designed to monitor the oil pressure of the running engine and warn the driver if the pressure is too low for optimal engine operation.

You’ll see an indicator on your dash that looks like an old-timey oil can, usually in red. If this warning light pops up on your dash, you should safely pull over and add some oil to the engine. If the light goes away, then you’ve solved your problem. If it stays, then you should avoid running the engine before checking the oil pump to ensure that it is functioning.

Increased Engine Temperature

If oil is lubricating your engine properly it vastly reduces the friction in all the moving parts. Increased friction results in increased heat production, so if your oil pressure is too low, it will cause the engine temperature to increase, and could even lead to overheating. If your engine temperature warning light illuminates on your dash, it could be as a result of a bad oil pump. Some vehicles even have an oil temperature gauge that you can monitor to stay on top of engine temperatures.

Noise from the Valve Train

The top of your engine contains the valve train, which can include lifters, pushrods, seals, valve guides and other fast-moving components. A lack of lubrication will cause these parts to rub against each other, metal to metal, and that will create ticking or rubbing noises that aren’t normally present on a properly functioning engine. It will also reduce the lifespan of these components drastically.

A Noisy Oil Pump

A good oil pump should be mostly quiet when the vehicle is running, so if you hear unusual whining or whirring sounds coming from the location of the oil pump, you may need to replace it. These sounds are the result of the gears in the pump wearing out.

Where to find the oil pump

Your oil pump will usually be situated inside the oil pan of the vehicle and your oil pan will be on the underside of the car, where you remove the bolt to drain the oil during oil changes.

Oil pumps are normally driven from the crankshaft or a camshaft but can also be belt or timing chain driven. Accessing the oil pump will involve removing the oil pan and possibly covers on the side of the engine too, depending on the design of your engine. If the pump is driven by the timing chain or belt you will need to be aware of crankshaft location before removing it, so that your engine timing stays true.

Testing oil pump operation

Check your oil dipstick and add oil if it’s low

If you notice any of the symptoms in the article above, you should test to ensure that the oil pump is functioning as intended. The easiest and fastest method of testing is to check your oil dipstick and add oil if it’s low. That may solve your problems on the spot, but if that doesn’t work, you can try the following procedures.

  • Check the Oil Pressure Level Sensor on the engine. Your engine should have a sending unit that measures the pressure and sends that information to your vehicle’s computer. Check the wires to make sure there are no breaks or cracks and check the connections for contamination. These sensors can also fail, so it can be good preventative maintenance to replace them every 100,000 miles.
  • Use an Oil Pressure Gauge to test the pressure. Start by removing the oil pressure or temperature sending unit, which should be screwed into the block of the engine. Use an oil pressure test kit to measure the oil pressure, consulting with your owner’s manual for the correct RPMs and pressure required for your make and model.

Note that reduced oil pressure can also result from a blocked filter or using the incorrect grade of oil. Regular oil changes, with your vehicle’s recommended oil grade and a new filter every time, will help to prevent some of these issues from occurring in the first place. Check you owner’s manual for the recommended oil change interval for your vehicle.

The cost to replace the oil pump

The cost to replace an oil pump can vary extensively. The cost of an oil pump can range from less than $100 to almost $500, but you will also need to replace gaskets that are removed to access the pump.

The labor cost to replace an oil pump can vary wildly, depending on how deep into the engine the mechanic needs to dive to access the pump. Expect to see prices ranging from a low of $250 for an easily accessible oil pump to $1,000 or more for a pump that is buried inside the engine. When it’s time to replace this essential engine component, get your oil pump at AutoZone. You’ll also find all the gaskets, gasket sealants, fluids, and tools that you need to get the job done right. If the job is too big for you, seek out one of our Preferred Shops to help you do the job.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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