Honda/Acura Check Oil Level Warning on Dash

2014 Acura TSX, ~120k miles, 4 cylinder, automatic transmission.

10/1/2023 112k miles
did oil change, checked for leaks

10/28/2023 114k miles
Drained and refilled transmission

11/20/2023 116k miles
Replace transmission hose going to external filter
Drain and refill, checked for leaks

A family member is driving this car and says that a “Check Oil Level” indication comes up and then quickly goes away on the cluster gauge. This has been happening very recently, less than a week. The indication would come on and off so quickly that the driver couldn’t see what the indication was. Today however it stayed on long enough to read it and then went away. Comes on maybe once every 50 miles or so.

I tried to take a level reading on both the engine and transmission via the dipstick, but can’t seem to get an accurate reading. This is after getting up to operating temperature from driving for about 10 minutes, and then going through each gear with the car in park for about 5 seconds, and then completely turning off the car while it is in park. See pictures below. There was no issues that occurred during my test drive. The car shifted fine without hesitation. I wiped off the dipstick and put it back in, but still can’t seem to get accurate readings.

Engine


Transmission

Additionally I scanned for DTCs, and found nothing. Not sure how it works on this car, but I would assume an oil pressure sensor would sense low pressure and set a DTC or check engine light. There’s no indications on the dash.

The maintenance reminder thing says that the engine oil is at 20 % life.

I’ve been doing the maintenance on this car. I’m sure that I have been pouring in the correct amount of oil into both the engine and the transmission and have seen no leaks. I used Acura ATF. This ATF is translucent/blue in color, so I wasn’t able to get an accurate reading last time I did a drain and refill on the dip stick. After getting up to operating temperature from driving around, going through each gear, and turning the car completely off, it looked like there was little to no fluid on the dip stick. Despite there being no visible leaks. Because I knew I poured in the right amount and there was no leaks, I just forgot about it. I drained and refilled twice recently. After the first time I had the same issue, little to no fluid on dipstick, but drain and refill 2k miles later, plenty of fluid came out.

I’m going to lift up the car and check for any evidence of leaks. I had a leaking transmission line at one point so I’ll have to keep this in mind and look for evidence of fresh leaks. I will report back.

Thanks for any advice on how to diagnose this issue.

The car is low on oil. Add some. The light is telling you it is low. The dipstick is telling you it is low. What more confirmation do you need?

Don’t bother to jack it up and stop checking the trans fluid the light is not about the trans fluid level.

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The car is 10 years old. The car is telling you the engine oil is low. The engine oil dipstick shows the oil is low. Add enough engine oil to get it between the holes on the dipstick. Simple.

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Thanks. I got under the car (before you said not to) and didn’t see any evidence of new leaks.

How much do you recommend I add, half a quart? I’m not sure how much is currently in the engine.
Or were exactly it currently is on the dip stick. Hard to tell.

I think the maintenance light goes off at 15 percent oil life.

So I can add some, and then at 15 percent life see how much comes out, to see how much I’m loosing.

I tried shining my UV light on the engine, and unfortunately all the crude from the rust belt that they put on the roads during the winter glows. Was thinking of confirming that there was no leak with a dye. But don’t think that will be of much help. There’s no visible engine oil leaks on the engine. So I guess I’m burning oil then. I can try replacing the PCV valve to see if that helps.

You need to be checking and adding oil MUCH MORE FREQUENTLY than you’re doing now.

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I find the most reliable way to check the oil level is in the morning, before the car has been started, after it’s been on level ground for the night.

If it’s down, I add enough to bring it up to Full. Both my cars have over 210,000 miles and never any problems due to low oil.

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The lower hole on the dipstick is one quart low. The upper hole is full. You’re obviously more than one quart low. Why would you only add half a quart?

Who cares how much comes out? If the dipstick shows it’s full, it’s full. If the dipstick shows it’s low, it’s low. What else could possibly matter?

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You must add fluid until the level shows the correct level on the dipstick. Don’t rely on the book for the estimated fill volume or on how much was drained, the dipstick in the final check of the fluid level.

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I do not understand

I too find it best to check after sitting overnight, checking when the engine is cold. The owners manual for my car states drive the car until all fluids are fully warmed up, then turn the engine off, wait 15 minutes to allow oil to drain back into the crankcase, then check the oil level. I get exactly the same reading either way, cold or hot.

So check the oil frequently, add as necessary, keep oil level as close as possible to the upper hole in the dipstick. BTW, did you check the dipstick immediately after your oil change?
That procedure: drain, change filter, add oil, start engine, idle for a minute to ensure filter is full. Then shut the engine off, wait time specified in owners manual, the check dipstick for correct level.

As far as the PCV, changing it may, or may not help, couldn’t hurt.

Please do not conflate engine oil and transmission fluid levels.
Check transmission fluid level as specified in owners manual. Oil light is for engine oil not transmission fluid.

Yes, likely engine is consuming oil, all engines do, just some more than others. My truck has about 72,000 mile, the most I have added between changes is 1/2 quart after extensive mountain driving.

Sometimes from photos of an engine oil dipstick, it is hard to tell where the oil level is, esp if the oil is recently changed. Suggest to repost the engine oil dipstick photo, this time with some sort of indication where the oil level is located on the dipstick.

Go back to ToyotaNation.

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Thanks for suggestions on how to get a better accurate reading. I should really check it better.

I like the idea of checking it after it has sat overnight, so that way all the oil in the dip stick has dripped down to the bottom of the oil pan from the dip stick and elsewhere.

I do try and check oil after refilling it like how it says to but can never get an accurate reading.

I ended up pouring in 1 quart back when I originally posted this. Just recently the maintenance reminder light came on and I decided to do the oil change. Collecting the old oil and measuring how much came out. Given some dripped on the outside of the jar, and elsewhere on the oil pan etc, and didn’t actually make it into my measurement. I got somewhere between 3.75 quarts and 4 quarts, split between two gallon sized oil jugs. About 3.75 quarts came out from the drain plug, and another about .25 or so from the filter.

The manual says this car takes 4.2 qts. So I had burned somewhere between 1.45 quarts and 1.2 quarts in-between oil changes at the intervals of the maintenance reminder coming on.

I don’t know the technical specifications of the oil pressure switch, to determine at what pressure or level it comes on. But does it sound right that the oil pressure light came on when somewhere between 1.2 and 1.45 quarts low? Meaning I’m not sure that the two correspond, and running it that low would close the switch. Maybe it does.

I read somewhere that cars that take 5-6 quarts turn on the oil pressure light when it’s 2 quarts low. So not sure what it would be for 4.2 quarts.

1 1/2 quarts won’t affect the oil pressure/oil pressure switch, the oil pump pickup is located at the bottom of the oil pan. The oil level sensor monitors the oil level, it can be designed to cause an alert at a specific oil level, perhaps 1 liter or 1.25 liters low.

Do not depend on the warning light, check your oil level frequently.

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Quit trying to work on cars, it ain’t your cup of tea.

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Thanks for the distinction between oil pressure switch and oil level sensor, didn’t know there was both. Yea I guess there’s no way of knowing if it’s a bad sensor, except to check it more frequently and see if it comes on when know it’s nearly full.

You seem to have the unique ability to complicate and obfuscate the solution to every minor problem.

I never owned a Honda, but every car I have owned with an A/T , the transmission fluid was checked in park or neutral, warmed up, with the engine running.

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Is that person unable to check and add oil?

Why measure what comes out? Measure how much oil is needed between oil changes, Do not let engine oil get below the bottom hole.
If less than a quart per thousand miles the engine is likely okay. Though by letting the oil get so low as to illuminate the oil pressure light, damage has been done.

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Yea I know Honda and Acura products are different and you check transmission level with the car off.

I can check engine oil level. I’ve been doing it how it says with the engine warm, and can’t get an accurate reading. Going to try method suggested on hear to let it sit over night, and check level with it cold. This will allow all oil to settle down to the bottom of the pan from the rest of the engine and from the oil dip stick tube. I need to check it more often.

I measured what came out to see how much I burned.

The maintenance reminder light came on about 8,000 miles ago. So in about 8,000 miles I burned somewhere between 1.2 and 1.45 quarts on an engine that takes 4.2 quarts. Seems like the engine isn’t burning excessive oil.

Looking through service information, I see nothing about an oil level sensor, but only an oil pressure sensor. I think this might trigger the oil level indication. Some calculation is done to convert pressure to oil level, I presume.

I find it odd that a loss between 1.2 and 1.45 quarts would cause the check oil level light to come on. Almost like the oil pressure sensor is failing. But there’s no way of knowing, as I don’t think it’s published anywhere, at what level is the indication supposed to get set. I’ll just have to test it and see if it comes back on shortly after changing the oil, and checking the level more often.

I doubt the oil level is surmised by car-computer calculations, w/only the oil pressure as input. If the dashboard warning refers to low oil level, there must be an oil level sensor. If the warning says “check oil level”, probably means the oil pressure is low and that’s of course the first thing the car’s owner can easily do if the oil pressure is low. Low oil level can cause low oil pressure, but the relationship between the two would depend on several factors not in the owner’s control, oil temperature, engine rpm, oil viscosity etc. Still, it doesn’t surprise me that the oil level being 1.2 quart low would cause an oil pressure warning, esp at idle.