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We've had one of the coldest winters in Michigan lately. Usually my car (2001 Buick Regal) is a trooper in the cold weather, but the other day as I was leaving work, I noticed a blinking light on my instrument panel. Since it's was red, I thought it best to look up what it meant, and it was the oil pressure light. It's also noticeably tougher to turn the steering wheel all the way to one extreme or the other, like the last quarter turn in either direction, not sure if that's related since I have a very slow power steering fluid leak (I don't even top it off once a year, and just topped it off a couple of months ago).

I haven't troubleshot yet (shame on me), but I did notice my low oil light hasn't come on, so I know there's at least some oil in there.

I'll be checking/adding oil in a couple of hours, but just curious about what other troubleshooting I can do. When I started my car this morning, it was -7 Fahrenheit outside and my car didn't sound good at all. I made it to work, but it drove noticeably different.

Why does it flicker, and not stay consistently on? Is this a sign of bad things to come?

  • Is it a rhythmic flickering, or fast and erratic? I ask because I had a problem with an oil pressure switch that made it flicker fast and erratically. The point being that you're losing oil pressure out of a cracked/leaking seal if the light is erratic. – Captain Kenpachi Feb 23 '15 at 15:09
  • @JuannStrauss erratic – MDMoore313 Feb 23 '15 at 15:32
  • @JuannStrauss leaking seal as in something a little lucas can fix? – MDMoore313 Feb 23 '15 at 15:43
  • Yes, but I wouldn't use any type of "stop leak" except as a temporary measure so that I can drive the car to a workshop to have the problem fixed. Stop leak products rarely are smart enough to distinguish between a hole that should be there, and one that shouldn't. Meaning they'll plug everything they can, whether it should be plugged or not. Rather replace the culprit. – Captain Kenpachi Feb 23 '15 at 15:47
  • Have you tried a lighter weight of oil? It could be that with the oil so cold, it might not be showing the oil pressure monitor enough pressure until the car is warmed up. If you are currently running a 5W-30, you may want to try a 0W-30 which would flow a bit better when cold, but still maintain the 30 level viscosity when completely warmed up. Also, if you have an engine or block heater, this could also help the oil perform as it should on start-up. Being from Michigan, I know you know how to plug in your car :D – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Feb 23 '15 at 23:53
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In my particular case, the cause seemed to be low oil and an oil weight too heavy for the temperature.

I only checked the oil level so late because my low oil light never came on, so the oil must have been low enough to cause pressure drop, but not so low as to trip the oil level sensor.

Also, I see reports online of 10W oil being too heavy for temps below 0º F, and we've been having sustained temps below -10º F for the past week. However I've been driving my car every day during that time period, future readers of this may not be.

I may switch to 5W-30 after some research, even if it's just for this one oil change.

So, to summarize, my particular case was caused by low oil level, with the added stress of the weight being too heavy for the frigid temperatures.

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    Nice before and after. I'll bet this question gets a lot of traffic this winter! – Bob Cross Feb 24 '15 at 15:43

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