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Why is the oil light orange in my car?

Seeing an orange oil light come on in your car can be worrying. This important warning light indicates issues with your vehicle’s engine oil system that need attention. In this article, we’ll discuss what an orange oil light means, what causes it to turn on, and what you should do when you see it.

What Does an Orange Oil Light Mean?

An orange oil light, sometimes called an amber oil light, indicates that there is low oil pressure in your engine. The oil pressure warning light turns on when the oil pressure drops below the minimum level needed to properly lubricate the engine components. Driving with low oil pressure can cause severe engine damage.

On dashboards with a red oil light, it may illuminate orange initially when the oil level is getting low. This serves as an early warning to add oil before the situation becomes critical. Ignoring this warning by continuing to drive can lead to the red oil pressure light coming on when pressure gets dangerously low.

Common Causes of Low Oil Pressure

There are a few common issues that can trigger an orange oil light in your vehicle:

  • Low oil level – Oil levels that are too low can’t maintain adequate pressure. This is the most common reason for low oil pressure.
  • Worn engine parts – Over time, normal wear on engine bearings, pumps and other parts reduces oil pressure.
  • Faulty oil pump – Problems with the oil pump or clogging debris can prevent it from circulating oil properly.
  • Thick, sludgy oil – Oil that is overdue for a change can thicken and lose its lubricating properties.
  • Oil leaks – External or internal leaks can cause oil loss over time, resulting in low pressure.

Driving With an Orange Oil Light

If the orange oil light comes on, you should not continue driving as normal. Here’s what to do:

  1. Pull over and turn off the engine as soon as it is safe to do so. Driving with low oil pressure causes extreme wear and can lead to engine seizure.
  2. Check the oil level using the dipstick. Top off the oil if needed.
  3. If the light remains on, have your vehicle towed to a mechanic for diagnosis and repair.
  4. Be prepared for potential engine repairs like an oil pump replacement.

Preventing Low Oil Pressure

You can help avoid issues with low oil pressure by:

  • Checking oil level regularly and topping off when needed
  • Changing the oil and filter at proper intervals
  • Using the manufacturer recommended weight and type of oil
  • Watching for oil leaks and having repairs done promptly
  • Listening for noises from worn engine bearings
  • Having engine components inspected at tune ups

How Oil Pressure Works

To understand what causes low oil pressure, it helps to review how the oil system works:

  • The oil pump pulls oil from the sump and pushes it through the oil filter.
  • Clean, pressurized oil travels to the main oil gallery channel.
  • From there, oil flows through small passages to vital components like bearings, cams, and pistons.
  • Oil lubricates and cools the moving engine parts.
  • Oil returns to the sump, and the cycle repeats.

When oil level is too low, the pump can’t pull in enough oil. If the pump is damaged or passages clogged, adequate oil can’t circulate. Oil pressure drops if bearings wear out over time. That’s why maintaining proper oil level and changing oil regularly is so important.

How the Oil Pressure Light Works

Vehicles have an oil pressure sensor located near the engine’s oil gallery. This sensor monitors real-time oil pressure. It sends signals to an electronic control module that activates the oil pressure warning light on your dashboard if pressure drops too low for safe operation.

The light is designed to come on before lack of oil causes engine damage. But remember, waiting until you see the light risks expensive repairs. Routinely checking oil level yourself gives advance warning so you can add oil at the first sign of usage between changes.

Oil Pressure Light vs. Oil Change Light

The orange oil light indicates a critical issue happening now that requires immediate attention. This is different than the maintenance reminder light that comes on based on mileage or time since your last oil change. The maintenance light is typically yellow or says “Change Oil Soon.” It means you’re due for a scheduled oil change but doesn’t indicate emergency low pressure.


Seeing an orange oil warning light come on means there is a dangerous lack of oil pressure inside your engine. This requires safely pulling over as soon as possible and turning off the vehicle to prevent catastrophic damage. Try topping off the oil level first and have the vehicle serviced if the light stays on. With proper care and maintenance, you can help keep your oil light from ever having to turn orange in the first place.

Oil Light Color Meaning Required Action
Orange Low oil pressure Safely pull over, turn off engine, check oil level
Yellow/Amber Oil change due Schedule oil change
Red Dangerously low pressure Immediately turn off engine, tow vehicle to mechanic