My son has a 93 Honda Civic with about 45,000 miles on it. Today, as he was arriving home, his oil light flicked on and off a few times, then stayed on. He pulled to the curb in front of our house and shut it down. He checked the oil and the level was fine. Any ideas on what else might cause this oil light to go on? He understandably doesn’t want to drive it until this is resolved. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
Unfortunately, the oil warning light does not necessarily indicate a low oil level, but is supposed to warn the driver that the oil pressure is dangerously low. Low oil pressure, no matter how much oil is in the crankcase, can lead to very rapid destruction of the engine. So, although his understanding of the situation is flawed, it is fortunate that his instincts overcame his lack of technical knowledge.
If, as I surmise, he is not mechanically inclined, he should have the car towed to a qualified mechanic to determine if his oil pump is failing, if the oil pressure sending unit is merely faulty (the best possible scenario), or if the engine has such extreme wear that its regular oil pressure has fallen to low levels.
Since that car appears to have been driven, on average, only about 3,000 miles a year, it is possible that someone [either he or the previous owner(s)] felt that regular oil changes were not necessary. If those 3,000 miles per year were the result of being driven only short distances, then the oil became contaminated rather quickly, and infrequent oil changes would have resulted in extreme wear on the engine’s bearings and rings.
If, in fact, the car was driven only for short distances, the oil should still have been changed at least twice a year, and failure to do so could have led to a lot of engine wear. This scenario is merely speculation on my part, but for a 15 year old car to have accumulated only 45k on the odometer is very unusual.
Anyway–DO NOT start the engine. Have it towed to an independent mechanic for evaluation.
(Incidentally–Has the timing belt been changed within the last 6 years? If not, he is courting disaster in that regard.)
Ditto. Excellent post, as usual.
Let me add my congratulations for having taught your son the proper way to deal with such situations. Good, clear thinking common sense.
Have a mechanic put a manual oil pressure guage and have it checked. It could be a faulty electrical sensor for low oil pressure(good thing) or more serious mechanical failure.
Did you had your oil changed recently? Sometimes oil filter can cause block oil passage so I have experience once happened to me and did the service and done the oil light gone. I think the only start to do. But if you did then do what andrew said
If this car has gone too long w/o an oil change, the oil pickup screen (in the sump) may be clogged up with goo. I would start by draining the oil and removing the sump pan.
I had this with a early 90s civic, and becaume complacent about the oil light, and then needed to replace the engine. It was a very expensive lesson about not ignoring the oil warning light.
Sorry to take so long to get back with the resolution of this, but we were busy last weekend with my son graduating from high school and all of the parties, etc. that go with that, so the car got pushed to the back burner.
We had it towed in. They said the oil pressure was only 8 pounds? instead of 80 pounds, if I remember the figures right. They ended up replacing the oil pump, water pump, and the timing belt. There went that graduation gifts money! They said when they drained the oil, there were no signs of metal shavings so they felt the engine was undamaged. The mechanic said that if my son takes care of the car with regular maintenance it should last for many more miles. I know that around here, cars like this that get great gas mileage seem to be a hot commodity. Hopefully it will get him through his college years.
The reason it has such low miles on it is my own Dad bought it new and only drove it back and forth to work for two years before he retired. It is too low-slung for my Mom to get into, so he drove his bigger car most of the time after that and the Civic sat in his garage. He would take it out maybe once a month or so. He said he kept up with maintenance on it through the years. I know he always had a great mechanic, who recently just retired who would keep after him to keep his cars in good shape. Dad had to sell it last year for Medicaid reasons, so my son bought it. I just had to teach him to drive a stick shift, which I think is something we should all try to teach our kids, if possible. My son recently replaced the tires (dry rot), so hopefully he is set for awhile.
Thanks for the input.
The tires were dry-rotted. What else on the car, particularly, the engine, has rubber on it? The drive belts, and hoses should be changed. If the spark plug wires are original, they should go too. It wouldn’t hurt to replace all four brake hoses, at the wheels.
If any fluids are several years old, they should be changed.