Oil Pressure Gauge
The oil pressure gauge monitors the amount of oil pressure inside the engine. The purpose of oil pressure is to ensure your bearings, crankshaft, and other vital engine parts are properly lubricated. This is necessary because most engines have hydraulic parts and for normal operation these parts need oil pressure. Oil pressure is generated from the oil pump which takes in oil from the sump also referred to as the oil pan. Every engine has an oil pump and the general oil pressure in a gasoline engine is between 20 and 60 psi. The oil is then pumped through drillings in the block and head which lubricates the bearings and cools the engine. After emerging from the drillings located in the crankshaft it drains back into the sump to be re-circulated.
High oil pressure is typically not an issue but if your oil pressure were to suddenly increase there could be a problem with the pressure relief valve. The oil pump is indirectly driven by the crankshaft, so many times the oil pressure of a vehicle is determined to some extent by the engines RPM. To make sure the pressure doesn’t rise too high there is a relief valve; a relief valve is a spring loaded ball where a predetermined amount of pressure will lift the ball and allow the oil to return to the oil pan so too much oil doesn’t circulate throughout the engine. Low oil pressure could mean a variety of different problems including: low oil level, dropped crankshaft plugs, high oil temperature, worn engine bearings, diluted or worn out oil, or an worn oil pump.
There are two types of oil pressure gauges; the mechanical and the electric/electronic oil pressure gauge. The mechanical gauge is used in older vehicles and also used today in race cars and performance oriented vehicles. The mechanical gauge has an oil line which is connected to an oil passage in the engine, directly to the mechanical oil pressure gauge. As the oil pressure increases the needle in the oil pressure gauge moves to the appropriate pressure. The electric/electronic oil pressure gauge has a sending unit also referred to as the oil pressure switch which is mounted on an oil passage throughout the engine. The sending unit varies the resistance as the oil pressure moves from high to low and as it does the gauge is designed to move accordingly. In older vehicles the signal is sent directly from the switch to the gauge, but now in modern vehicles equipped with digital gauges the signal is sent to the computer which then sends it to the gauge.
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