Why Does My Oil Light Come On When Braking? What Does That Mean?

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You may be wondering why the oil light comes on when braking. While this is not an unusual issue with car engines, you shouldn’t take it for granted. Three possible things are likely to cause the oil light to illuminate when you attempt to brake.

They include:

  • An Engine Leak
  • A Failing Oil Pump
  • A Defective Oil Pressure Sensor

Like you would to your body system, you should also take the car to a mechanic to ascertain the triggers to every symptom.

An illuminating oil light during braking may mean much more than what you see on the surface. A thorough inspection and proper diagnosis of the problem will put paid to any guesswork or mistreatment. I’ll walk you through all you have to know about why the oil light comes on when braking.

What Causes Illuminating Oil Light When Braking?

While you await the mechanic to conduct a thorough investigation, here are some things you can do in the interim. This will keep your car safe from any potential danger resulting from the illuminating oil light.

Park your car over in a safe place and carry out the following checks:

  • Check the oil level: Using the dipstick, check the oil level to know if it’s gauged. Simply pull out the dipstick, wipe it with a clean, soft cloth. Insert it back into the oil hose.
    Check the level to see if it needs to be topped. However, if it’s dry, it means the oil tank is almost empty and will need to be refilled with engine fluid.
  • In addition, check the oil pressure. If the oil pressure is low, the reason is that the oil pump isn’t distributing enough oil to the moving parts of the engine. Low oil means that there’s not enough fuel to get to all the parts and so there will be a lack of lubrication to the moving surfaces.
  • Alternatively, when checking the oil pressure level, try to also note if the oil is degraded. Degraded oil for replacement can cause the oil light to come on when braking.
    When the oil has outstayed its relevance in the oil tank, it cannot be pressurized. Consequently, you’ll see the oil light indicating that the oil needs to be immediately replaced.

To avoid damaging your car, do not turn on the engine if your findings show that the oil is low or there’s a low level of oil pressure. Wait for a few minutes before filling the oil tank or topping it to the recommended level.

As a general rule of thumb, an oil change is supposed to come when your car has hit the 3,000-mile mark. Some vehicle manufacturers recommend lower mileage.

Regardless, you should take note of the period the oil stays in your car. When the oil is losing its original color and turning darker, it’s time to get rid of it from the tank.

The older the oil, the less its power to lubricate and be pressurized becomes. Chances are also higher than the engine will overheat and lose its cooling. The long-term consequences can be very damaging to the engine, the components and the overall performance of the car.

These are immediate solutions to resolve the oil light that comes on each time you try to apply the brakes. However, your inspections might come out that neither the oil level nor the oil pressure is low. If it turns to be this way, then you’ll need to take further steps. Taking the car to a mechanic should be the next thing to do.

1. An Engine Leak

A leak in or around the engine occurs as the engine ages. This is a possibility and not so much of an issue to get anxious about. But it requires a quick fix. Now, let’s look at how the engine leak comes about.

Typically, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles are prone to all kinds of leaks. The oil plugs, gasket, or seal are areas that can easily be compromised when the engine either starts to wear or is exposed to elements, including cold weather.

Improper maintenance and age are also factors that can trigger leaks in the engine. Needless to add that high oil pressure can prematurely cause the oil to leak away in these areas.

Naturally, oil leaks will cause low oil pressure when you try to brake. In this instance, once the oil pressure is low, the oil light will come on when you try to brake or slow down the vehicle. The reason is simple: there’s not enough oil to lubricate the engine components that connect with the braking system.

How To Diagnose And Fix Engine Leaks

The good news is that a DIY procedure can help you to diagnose and test for engine oil leaks in the car. You can simply put a piece of light-colored paper under the car in the frontal part. Check for any drop of light brown fluid that gets on the cardboard. If you find any, it means, your car’s engine oil is leaking.

Follow the procedure of the dipstick above to check for the oil level and top it correctly. Make sure you don’t overfill the oil tank. There’s always a consequence for low and high oil pressure. Keep it moderate as recommended; the calibration on the dipstick offers a perfect gauge.

Do not be tempted to drive your vehicle at low gas or oil levels, whether it is engine oil gear oil, brake fluid, or power steering fluid. It can cause irreparable damage to your engine and so shortens its life. To avoid this, always check the engine oil level regularly. Don’t wait until the oil light comes on when braking.

The main seal, gasket, or cover gasket seals are the target areas for oil leaks. So, the process to remedy the gasket leak is not the same as that of the crankshaft seal leak or oil pan gasket leak.

These sensitive components of the engine age due to long mileage and high-temperature cycles, and they get broken and cracked over time.

Fixing the engine leak should be done by a professional technician. Otherwise, any little error can cause irreparable damage to the engine. The thing is that locating the part where the oil leak is taking place can be a bit tricky, except if undergone by a certified mechanic.

2. A Failing Oil Pump

A failing bad oil pump portends great danger for the car and the engine but the problem is not as threatening as it sounds. But you’ll need to attend as quickly as possible. If prevention has gone out of hand, watching out for certain symptoms of a bad oil pump reduces the chance of damaging your engine.

Primarily, the work of the oil pump is to circulate oil to the various moving parts of the engine and lubricate them. Once oil cannot get to where it is needed and those parts are left dry for long, it can lead to engine knock.

The sliding pistons, rotating bearings, and camshaft are areas that pressurized oil should circulate to. Overall, the oil helps in cooling the engine. However, if this oil circulation activity is weak or not in place, then the oil pump is likely to be faulty.

Some of the symptoms of a bad oil pump include:

  • Low Oil Pressure: It’s a no brainer if the oil pressure drops as a result of a bad oil pump. After all, the oil pump regulates the amount of oil pressure that circulates in the engine. When the oil pressure is low, you’ll notice the oil light comes on when braking.
    As a result, the vehicle will have less firing power; the engine will experience increased heat; increase in the frequency of engine stalling.
  • Oil Pump Noise: Under normal circumstances, the oil pump should be cool and quiet when you’re driving. This is because it rotates easily to distribute oil to other parts of the engine. However, once it doesn’t have any oil in it, it will start to make serious noise.
  • Increased Temperature: The operational temperature of your car engine will definitely increase once sufficient pressurized oil doesn’t get to where it is needed. Normally, the presence of oil in your engine prevents friction that causes components to overheat and malfunction.
    However, once the oil doesn’t circulate, friction occurs, and various components that need lubrication will start to overheat. The temperature gauge on the dashboard increases and the oil light comes on when braking.
  • Valve Train And Hydraulic Filter Noise: Once your engine oil pump gets bad, you’ll hear some noise from the valve train and hydraulic filters. The valve train is a composition of the main seals, valve seals, and pushrods, and each needs oil to be lubricated.
    However, once they lack oil, these parts will start to make noise. Additionally, oil can get to the hydraulic filters, causing them to make some noise and wear down over time.

How To Fix Oil Pump Failure

A professional car repairer and technician should be engaged to take care of business once your oil pump starts to fail. Apart from the fact that it is time-consuming, you may end up spending double the normal cost if any mistakes come up.

Normally, fixing a failing oil pump can cost something in the region of $400, plus labor cost.

3. A Defective Oil Pressure Sensor

Defective oil pressure is one of the most common reasons your oil light comes on when braking. Ironically, a faulty oil pressure sensor poses the least problem among the issues that can cause your car oil light to illuminate.

By design, the oil pressure performs two essential functions. First, it monitors oil pressure in the car. Secondly, it transmits the feedback back to the cluster gauge on the control panel or the meter combo. If the reading exceeds is lower than the normal range, the oil light will definitely come on.

Oil pressure should not be low in the engine because different moving parts will lack enough pressurized oil to reduce friction and increased heat. Poor or low lubrication can cause the engine to seize or grind during operations.

On the flip side, the oil pressure or level shouldn’t be excessive. Surplus oil pressure means that the oil bay contains more oil than it should and this can lead to leaks and excessive force. The gasket may burst in the end and cause your engine to overheat.

The revolution per minute (RPM) in your vehicle determines how much oil pressure will change. For instance, when you’re revving the engine and pressing down on the gas pedal, the oil pressure naturally increases. However, as you brake or slow down, the oil pressure also comes down.

If the oil pressure sensor fails and can no longer read the RPM, chances are higher that the oil pressure won’t be able to transmit information to the instrumental panel any longer.

How To Fix The Oil Pressure Sensor

Once it goes bad, the oil pressure sensor should be replaced. It cannot be repaired, but you won’t have to break the bank. It’s quite cheap on the market. Additionally, a DIY procedure is also possible as it doesn’t require special skills and won’t take your time.

Steps to replace a failed oil pressure sensor:

  • Locate the oil pressure sensor: usually on the cylinder head or engine block.
  • Disconnect electrical terminals.
  • Unplug the bad oil pressure sensor.
  • Apply thread sealant.
  • Replace the old with a new oil pressure sensor.
  • Reconnect the electrical connector.

After reconnecting, you may need to test the oil pressure again to see if the replacement oil pressure sensor is working as it should. Otherwise, you will need to redo the entire process and fix another sensor.

It doesn’t matter how many times you replace it, what is more, important is to ensure that sensor works to keep you informed of the level of oil in your car.

FAQs

Why Does My Oil Pressure Drop When I Brake?

If you notice that the oil pressure drops when you stop your car, it is an indication that the engine oil level is low. If the engine is low on oil, the first thing you want to check is whether there is a high oil temperature.

A failing oil pump is the first culprit in this instance. It can lead to low oil pressure when idling. Here’s the thing: as you apply more power to the engine when you accelerate, more pressure builds up inside the engine to cause an increase in temperature.

Can Braking Cause Topping Or Adjustment Of The Engine Oil?

Of course, yes. The more you slam on the brake pedal, the more oil the vehicle consumes. The moving parts use more oil during braking.

If you often drive in traffic wherein you’ll have to brake more often, the best idea is to periodically adjust your car engine’s oil and top it. Don’t allow it to run down. Otherwise, you’ll be creating a lot of problems for yourself and the engine.

Some have doubted the idea of adding new engine oil to old oil. It is perfectly ok to mix old oil with a new one. The exemption is when the old oil is already due for a change.

For instance, if the oil inside the engine has spent more than the recommended mileage, you shouldn’t mix new oil with it. It’s damaging to the engine.

The other idea is to maintain the same brand of oil. Don’t mix 5W-20 oil with 10W-30, or a product from oil manufacturer A with any oil from manufacturer B. be consistent and keep to the manufacturer’s guide.

Is There A Warning Light For Low Oil When Braking?

Yes. As we’ve seen above, the oil light doesn’t just come on. You’ll see it illuminate when braking; and this will only happen if the oil level is low. Once there’s enough oil pressure buildup.

Once you observe that the oil light comes on when braking, it’ time to stop driving and inspect if the engine is running on low oil. Allow the engine to cool before you remove the dipstick.

Final Thoughts

Now you’ve got an insight into why your oil light comes on when braking. It’s time to take the necessary precautions to avoid further damage to your vehicle. Quickly attend to any signs you notice and call on your local mechanic to fix the problem before it escalates.

The best bet is to always top your engine oil if you don’t want the oil light to come on when braking. With enough oil in the engine, you won’t always find the oil light comes on.

Make sure you use high-viscosity oil. You can switch from 5W-20 to 10W-30. All in all, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations in the car user manual.