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Oil pressure gauge

I own a 2003 Mini Cooper. I love it but for the past two months I have noticed that the oil gauge remains at its lowest point unless I warm the engine for five minutes. The first time I noticed the problem was when I got about half a mile from my house and smelled a strange odor. Having has several prior serious problems I looked at the dashboard dials and noticed that the oil gauge had not moved from the extreme right (no pressure). The oil pressure gauge
was NOT illuminated. I turned the car around and went home - a distance of one half mile. I checked the oil level. It was full. Since that time I have always let the engine warm up for five minutes which causes the gauge to reach its normal level. I have had no other problems and can drive the car, leave it for an hour or so and restart it with the gauge at its normal level…I am not using more oil as I check the level after every trip. Any suggestions as to why this is happening and as to why I am not using oil. Am I endangering the engine by continuing to drive the car?

I would not drive the car until you can get the oil pressure tested with a mechanical gauge. It would help if you can leave the car overnight with the mechanic to test the oil pressure on the first start of the day, when the problem occurs. It may be inconvenient to do so, but probably not as inconvenient as having to replace your engine.

If the oil pressure is found to be good, then the problem with the gauge, sensor, or wiring can be investigated and you can at least drive the car with some peace of mind until it can be repaired. If not, then there may be a fault with the oil pump or filter.

“Am I endangering the engine by continuing to drive the car?”

That is very possible, and continuing to drive it without having a mechanic check the oil pressure with his own test equipment is…unwise.

If the oil pressure is confirmed to be low, the engine could be the victim of extended oil change intervals. When oil is not changed often enough, sludge slowly builds up in the oil passages of the engine and–like plaque in your arteries–can get to the point where it impedes the flow of the oil.

What can you tell us about the oil change regimen for this car, in terms of both odometer mileage and elapsed time?

What can you tell us about your typical driving patterns? (Mostly local, mostly highway, or a mixture of the two?)

Did you buy this as a used car, or have you owned it from the time that it was new?

All of my vehicles start out with higher oil pressure then get lower as the engine warms up. I’ve never see your condition before so let’s get that oil pressure tested by a good independent mechanic. This kind of oil pressure is not normal.

@missileman: Agreed. The only time I’ve ever seen this was with a buddy’s modified 1970s Plymouth Satellite–the oil pressure would suddenly drop to zero and he would put it in neutral and rev the engine (while I cringed) and the pressure would come back up. It was found to have a bad oil pump.

I’m giving this thread a bump in the hope that the OP returns to answer our questions.