The oil light is absolutely one of the most important warnings your car can give you. It’s easier to think of your oil warning light as a blood pressure warning. The oil in your car’s engine is just like the blood in your own body. There has to be the right amount at the right pressure. Not enough blood? Blood pressure too low? That makes for a really bad day. It’s the same for your car.
If your car’s engine loses oil pressure, the oil warning warning light will come on. Stop the car and shut off the engine right away if this red light comes on. It’s indicating imminent damage to your engine. Running your engine with low oil pressure is just like running it with no oil at all. That kind of damage can get very costly, very quickly.
Here’s an important point to make, however. Your car can be low on oil, but still have the correct oil pressure for a time. The oil light is not an indicator of the amount of oil in the engine, just whether or not the oil pressure is correct. It may not let you know that you’re low on oil until you’re out of oil altogether.
In other words, even when you’re a quart or two low on oil, there’s still enough oil in the engine to produce enough pressure to keep the oil light from turning on. However, if the oil level is below normal, that can lead to more stress and premature wear on your engine. Again, you could have a potentially have a dangerously low oil level and there’s no indicator on your dash to warn you. That’s why regular maintenance, including oil changes, are so important, as is checking your car’s oil level regularly.