How To Tell If Oil Pump Is Bad? Here are 5 Signs Of A Bad Oil Pump

The oil pump is the heart of the lubrication system of a car’s engine. It circulates oil under pressure to the bearings, pistons, and camshaft of the engine, preventing moving parts from making contact with and aggressively rubbing against each other.

It allows the use of high-capacity fluid bearings and is also responsible for cooling the engine by absorbing heat from its running components. Essentially, it is one of the most important parts of a vehicle’s internal operating system.

Although it is pretty intensive, like anything else it can fail to function as it should, resulting in the engine seizing up due to lack of lubrication.

It’s crucial to become aware of the symptoms of a bad oil pump in order to prevent engine failure. Below, we will be discussing what a few of these symptoms are, giving you the tools for identifying and replacing a bad oil pump right away.

5 Bad Oil Pump Symptoms

Unfortunately, the oil pump doesn’t receive servicing until it begins to fail, so it’s dire to look out for these symptoms before engine damage (which can occur in a matter of seconds) is inflicted.

Out of many different signs and symptoms of a bad oil pump, some of the most common ones include an illuminated oil system warning light (usually a flashing red light in the shape of an oil can) that indicates low pressure on an oil pressure gauge, increased engine temperature, hydraulic lifter noise, noise from the valve-train system and a noisy oil pump as well.

Car dashboard with warning lights.

1.     Low Oil Warning Light/Low-Pressure Indication

Pressure indicates how much oil is expelled for lubricating and controlling the temperature of the engine and this pressure is regulated by the oil pump.

By pressurizing the oil, the pump facilitates oil navigation throughout the parts of the engine, so when this pressure begins to decrease due to a bad/failing oil pump, the moving components of the engine begin to rub roughly against each other, causing physical damage to the engine itself.

The first indication of low oil and decreasing pressure is usually the oil light located on the dashboard. It will begin to flash signifying the urgency of checking your oil levels. If you proceed to add more oil and the pressure indicator is still low it means that low oil is not the initial problem, but a bad oil pump instead.

2.     Increased Engine Temperature

The lubrication from the oil produced through the oil pump also acts in cooling the engine in a couple of ways. First, it absorbs any excess heat generated by the powered engine and dissolves it as it moves throughout the varying parts of the engine.

It also decreases friction caused by the engine’s moving components that rub together and produce heat. The more friction created the more heat generated, increasing the overall temperature of the engine, causing it to eventually overheat.

Once the engine begins to overheat it can cause severe engine damage, so it’s crucial to act fast in getting this checked once the warning light comes on.

3.     Hydraulic Lifter Noise

Hydraulic lifters are essential to the functionality of your valve train. These lifters maintain the valve clearance with the rock and cam follower and can only function to their capacity when it is lubricated with enough oil.

Low oil pressure from a failing oil pump prevents oil from reaching the hydraulic lifters on the engine, causing them to struggle with mobility. This struggle is what creates noise during movement. The lack of lubrication creates high amounts of friction resulting in wear and tear that reduces the life span of the lifters.

Bear in mind that on some cars, the type of oil you use has a direct effect on the noises the lifters make.

4.     Noise From The Valve-Train System

Aside from hydraulic lifters, the valve-train system consists of other necessary components like pushrods, seals, and valve guides that keep the engine running. Each of these components depends on a significant amount of oil in order for their metal parts to be properly lubricated.

Insufficient lubrication, as a result of a bad oil pump, causes the valve-train components to seize up or build friction during movement. The friction accumulated from the struggle of the mechanical parts causes the noise produced in the valve-train system.

Noise is never a good sign which makes it a critical indicator for decreasing oil levels as a result of a bad oil pump.

5.     Oil Pump Noise

In very rare cases, an oil pump will make noise as it begins to fail. While a perfectly working oil pump operates silently, one with its internal gear mechanism deteriorating and wearing down will start making a loud whining and whirring sound while the car is idle, as it attempts to circulate oil throughout the engine.

At this point replacing the oil pump is a must.

Replacement Of An Oil Pump

When it comes to replacing an oil pump, there are necessary steps that require a lot of work and precision. You’ll first be subjected to disconnecting the negative terminal of your battery, lifting the front of your car using a jack, draining the remaining oil from the pump, and then removing the serpentine belt.

After draining the oil, you’ll need to rotate your engine to reposition the first piston at the top of its compression stroke. Despite the orientation of your car’s engine, you should be able to identify the crank from the top and see a bracket from a rectangular window. Align the timing mark with the bottom of the window by rotating the crankshaft.

Next, you’ll need to remove all the oil pan bolts from the engine, as well as the bolts that connect the oil pan to the transmission system. Locate and only remove the bolts that hold the oil pump to the engine crankcase, leaving it attached to the timing chain only. Then free the oil pump from the timing chain by holding the pump and pressing the tensioner.

After removing the oil pump, you can thoroughly remove any sludge or gasket residue from the surfaces using brake cleaner and steel wool. You should then set up your new oil pump being mindful of the gear teeth aligning with the timing chain. You can, of course, refer to your user manual to correctly set up your new oil pump.

If replacing the oil pump yourself isn’t at your disposal (also for ensuring there are no mistakes), you can always resort to having a mechanic do the work for you.

The two main costs when paying to replace an oil pump include parts and labor. Depending on the make and model of your car, as well as where you purchase the parts for an oil pump, the cost widely ranges between $100 and $400.

As for labor costs, they can widely range between $200 and $900 as it would take hours for a mechanic to safely and accurately complete the job. This can put you potentially spending a total of $1,00 to replace your oil pump.

Maintenance Tips

Like any car and manufactured car part, maintenance is detrimental to the perfect, long-lasting function of a car and its engine. Although oil pumps are heavy-duty, durable, and can last you for a few years, they begin to wear down with time, so having frequent maintenance checks even before noticing symptoms of a bad oil pump is highly recommended.

Below are a few things you can implement into maintaining your vehicle and its functionality, including the oil pump.

1.     Pay Attention To Heat

Any sign of your engine overheating is never a good one but it’s also important not to assume that your engine overheating is caused by the radiator. Always inspect the issue and check for proof.

2.     Prime The Oil Pump

To prevent burning up bearings, it’s recommended to initially prime your oil system by turning the oil pump with a power drill and priming tool. You should also rotate the crankshaft by hand while priming the system. Doing this before installation ensures that oil moves throughout all the bearings and into all the internal oil passages.

3.     Change Oil Regularly

One of the most important things you can do for your engine is to change the oil and replace the oil filter regularly. Going too long between oil changes can cause permanent damage to your engine over time. The standard suggestion for when to change your oil is at 5,000 miles (8047 kilometers).

4.     Keep The Cooling System Working

Alongside lubrication absorbing any excess heat from the engine, the cooling system includes the radiator, thermostat, water pump, and coolant. To protect the engine from overheating, it’s important to ensure you have the proper amount of coolant circulating throughout the engine.

5.     Keep The Engine Breathing

Just as you should change your oil filters when changing your oil, it’s important to change your air filters as well. Clean air needs to flow into the engine continually, without restriction or debris in order for it to function accurately.

Filters tend to last a long time but can be clogged with dirt and junk like leaves and bugs from the outside. Over time these filters need to be replaced.

Car air filter replacement.

6.     Check For Leaks

Two main fluids you want to make sure aren’t leaking out of your engine are oil and antifreeze. Leaks are often caused by intense heat and pressure that leads to rubber engine hoses failing.

Doing frequent observational checks is key to ensuring there are no leaks. Sometimes you may not even need to physically check as noticing the smell will notify you enough.

7.     Follow Up With Automotive Warning Lights

This one is pretty simple and may even be obvious but if you fail to get your car checked whenever any of the automotive lights come on then you can be disregarding a serious problem.

If at any time the check engine light or any other light comes on, run a diagnostic check and fix the problem yourself or have the mechanic run tests and perform the work for you. Taking this type of action helps to protect your engine and vehicle.

8.     Replace Your Fuel Filter

The fuel filter protects your engine from harmful sediments and particles in the gas. This filter—much like the oil filter—catches and traps any harmful particles or debris and needs to be changed to keep the engine running smoothly. The new filter will keep gas flowing through the engine clean, causing less build-up inside the engine helping it to last longer.

9.     Clean The Oil Pump

You may not need to disassemble the pump for cleaning purposes but it’s important to learn each part and where they belong. Cleaning the pump includes checking the hose for leaks and tightening support bearings that can become loose from debris.

Here are some steps you can take to clean your oil pump.

  • Step 1: Drain the engine oil into a drain pan and remove the oil filter. Replace the plug and pour 1 gallon of a Chemtool cleaning product (like Berryman B-12) into the engine oil fill. Let it sit for about two days before draining.
  • Step 2: Drain the solvent out of the oil pan. Replace the drain plug and fill the oil pan with the solvent for a second time. Allow it to sit for an additional two days before draining. Make sure to inspect it as it flows out of the oil pan. If it is a dark sludge, then the process would need to be done a third time. Check for carbon grit by rubbing the discharge between two fingers. If carbon grit is present then the process would need to be repeated a third time. Sludge and grit should not be present.
  • Step 3: Drain the flush agent one more time, making sure it is clear of sludge and carbon grit. Remove the oil fill cap and allow the engine to sit overnight with no drain plug or cap installed. This lets the engine air out sufficiently.
  • Step 4: Install the oil drain plug, and a new filter, and add new engine oil. Disconnect the computer fuse or disable the engine to prevent it from starting. Crank the engine for 15 to 20-second intervals a few times, allowing the starter to cool between each crank. Doing this primes the oil pump so the engine will not have a dry start.
  • Step 5: Start the engine and be attentive to the oil pressure. Listen to the engine and make sure there are no knocks or rattle sounds. As mentioned earlier, noise is never a good sign, so if there is the noise the engine may need further repair.

10.     Check Oil Quality & Level

A car mechanic examining car oil.

Checking your oil level can be done monthly, as low oil results in low pressure and high friction. In the midst of checking your oil level, make sure to check the quality of the oil by inspecting clarity. Diesel oil is naturally darker in color but if notice grit, very dark coloring, or smell gasoline on the oil rag, it’s time for new oil and a new oil filter.

An oil pump is a necessary and important component of a vehicle, as it’s needed to ensure that engine oil reaches all moving parts that require lubrication for the operation of an engine. It is usually made to last the lifetime of the vehicle, which can be between 250,000 and 300,000 miles as long as it is properly maintained and regularly serviced.

But in some cases, it can begin to wear and tear over time or may even receive damage that causes it to fail. Usually, it’s difficult to tell when there is a problem so being on the lookout for signs and symptoms of a bad oil pump is crucial for preventing serious damage to the engine.

Conclusion

The most common symptoms of a bad oil pump include the flashing of the low oil/decreased pressure warning light on the dashboard, increased engine temperature, and any noise coming from the hydraulic lifters, the valve-train system, and the oil pump itself.

Although the oil pump can be replaced, it’s better to adopt a maintenance routine for your vehicle to ensure that everything is working as it should and to stay ahead of any issues that may arise.

Most may prefer to have an oil pump replaced by a mechanic for approximately $1300, depending on where you go and how much you spend on the parts, but replacing it yourself using a manual is also an option.

Even though it may sound like it’s safe to operate your vehicle as long as you become aware of the symptoms of a bad oil pump it is not recommended. You may choose to drive up until the point of engine failure, but this leads to spending even more money on placing both the oil pump and the engine.

Also, as the metal parts begin to seize from lack of lubrication from the oil pump, the engine will stall, making it very difficult for you to continue driving.

We hope this article informs you on how to identify a bad or failing oil pump as well as some important steps for replacing one and maintaining the health of your vehicle. Comment below if you have any questions.

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About Brock Rangel

Hi, I am Brock, and I am the lead editor/photographer for TheCarColony. I have been a mechanic for over 14 years now, and I am here to spread my car knowledge across the web!

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