There are many useful gauges found within the vehicles, boats, and equipment you own or manufacture, which help monitor and improve performance. There is one instrument in particular — the oil pressure gauge — that can even warn you of larger issues before they happen.

Continue reading to learn more about what an oil pressure gauge is and how it works.

What Is an Oil Pressure Gauge?

An oil pressure gauge is an instrument that monitors the oil pressure in your vehicle. This instrument not only tells you how much oil remains in your vehicle, but it is also an indicator of the general health of your engine. For instance, an oil pressure gauge can warn you of an oil pump failure, broken hose, or a leaking gasket. It is important to monitor your oil gauge on a regular basis.

Different Types of Oil Pressure Gauges

There are two types of oil pressure gauges: Digital & mechanical. It is increasingly common to find digital oil pressure gauges installed in modern commercial vehicles and recreational boats, including NMEA 2000 gauges. 

Digital Oil Pressure Gauges

Digital oil pressure gauges use a digital display. They are powered by the electrical system of the vehicle, marine vessel, or equipment in which they are used. Digital oil pressure gauges are reliable and may provide a wider range of information than their mechanical counterparts.

Mechanical Oil Pressure Gauges

Alternatively, mechanical oil pressure gauges use pipes instead of wires to measure oil pressure. These types of gauges use a needle display and actually funnel oil into the pipes to sample the pressure at any given time. Mechanical oil pressure gauges are accurate and cost effective.

Oil Pressure Gauge Applications

You can find an oil pressure gauge in almost any vehicle, marine vessel, or piece of equipment that has an engine and uses oil. Some of the potential use cases include measuring engine performance in commercial vehicles, recreational boats, and industrial equipment. The benefit of an oil pressure gauge is that they function similarly across applications. However, some oil pressure gauges will provide you with more detailed information than others.

How to Read an Oil Pressure Gauge

If your vehicle, marine vessel, or equipment has an oil pressure gauge then it is most likely located on your dashboard or main panel display next to your other primary gauges. Usually an oil pressure gauge will have a label, such as the word “oil” that identifies it as an oil pressure gauge.

Most oil pressure gauges display numbers ranging from 1-80 or 1-100 on either a digital display or a dial with an indicator needle. Some oil pressure gauges use an “H” or an “L” to indicate high or low pressure. It is helpful to establish a baseline oil pressure reading as a point of comparison.

If your oil pressure gauge reads low, high, or is behaving erratically — this could signal an issue.

Troubleshooting Oil Pressure Gauge Issues

There are some oil pressure gauge readings that you shouldn’t ignore. Here are three common readings that indicate a problem with the oil pressure or a larger engine problem.

Oil Pressure Gauge Drops to Zero

The only time your oil pressure gauge should read a zero is when the engine you are using is idling. If you see a zero reading while the engine is running, you should take notice. This could indicate an oil pressure gauge failure, low oil, or a broken oil pump.

No matter the issue, when your oil pressure gauge reads zero, make sure to get the vehicle, marine vessel, or equipment you are using examined as soon as possible to avoid damage.

Oil Pressure Gauge Stuck on High

A high oil pressure gauge reading occurs when your needle or display settles at the high point of the pressure meter after the engine has been running for around 15 to 20 minutes. Under normal conditions your oil pressure gauge should settle at the midpoint of the pressure meter.

A high oil pressure reading could be a sign of a relief valve issue or blockage in the oil delivery lines. Sustained high pressure could actually cause your oil filter to burst. If you encounter a high pressure reading on your oil pressure gauge, shut off the engine as soon as it is safe to do so.

Oil Pressure Gauge Bounces

A jumpy oil gauge could indicate a few different issues. A low oil level could cause the gauge to drop out when turning or accelerating, if driving a vehicle or marine vessel. This could also signal the use of low quality oil or that your oil has become diluted or contaminated somehow.

Sometimes a problem with the liquid level sending unit will also lead to erratic oil pressure gauge behavior. The good news is that this issue isn’t always the sign of a serious engine problem. That being said, we still recommend you to get a bouncing gauge checked out as soon as possible.

Where Can I Purchase the Best Quality Oil Pressure Gauge?

Whether you are a manufacturer, parts supplier, or consumer, we recommend you seek out gauges from a company that has a reputation of delivering high-quality components. KUS has many years of experience manufacturing gauges and liquid level senders all under warranty. 

No matter your use case, KUS can help connect you with the parts you need. For single part or small order we recommend visiting the KUS online shop. For large orders, contact us here.

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