Can low oil cause the check engine light to come on?

Even though this is a common misconception, the answer to this question is actually no. This is because there are different shaped lights on your dashboard that indicate specific problems that need to be addressed.

For example, the check engine light and the low oil lights on your dashboard are completely different in shape.

Oil Lamp with a drop of oil dripping from it – Indicates the oil is low or there is an oil leak that needs to be identified.

Check engine light- Indicates other problems like the gas cap is not tight enough, or a mass airflow sensor failure, etc.

Why or why not low oil level can or cannot cause the check engine light to come on

As mentioned above, the check engine light will not come on because the oil level is low. Instead, the check engine light will come on when the vehicle needs preventative maintenance or something is actually going wrong with the engine and repairs need to be made as soon as possible.

What are the symptoms of low oil in a car?

Oil is an essential part of any vehicle’s performance. In fact, it plays a vital role in lubricating all of the components of the engine, while also keeping the engine at the appropriate cool temperatures. Therefore, if you do not keep an eye on your oil levels, they can begin to diminish and dry up over time.

Whatever the case or situation, you need to be aware of the signs and symptoms that indicate that the oil in your vehicle is too low. Here are some common signs that you need to pay close attention to.

Burnt Oil Smells

One of the most obvious signs of low oil in a car is the burnt smell that radiates from your engine. These burnt smells may be due to an oil leak under your car’s hood.

Based on the severity of the problem, the smell may be coming off a hot engine since the oil can leak into the wrong places.

Strange Knocking and Clunking Noises

If you are hearing strange noises coming from under your hood, the main culprit may just be due to low oil issues. For instance, if the metal components of your engine are not lubricated enough, you will most likely hear clunking and knocking from your vehicle. In essence, these sounds may be because the engine is failing.

Engine Overheats

There are many different symptoms of low oil problems, one of the most critical is engine overheating. This is a serious problem that may completely destroy your engine.

In some cases, the heat may start a fire. So, it is important that drivers pull over and park until they can get help from a professional mechanic.

What is the most common reason for the appearance of the check engine light?

Catalytic Converter

If you notice a rotten-egg smell coming from your exhaust system, you most likely dealing with a catalytic converter problem. Therefore, when you see the engine light coming on, this should be the first thing that you should check.

Loose or Cracked Gas Cap

Thankfully, not all engine warning lights are serious or expensive problems that need to be repaired. In some situations, the problem may be simply connected to a loose or cracked gas cap.

Either way, this is normally a quick fix that you can take care of with little time and a minimum to no extra repair money.

Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF)

The engine light may also come on when the mass airflow sensor detects a problem with the air and fuel mixture. Because an incorrect mixture can cause a variety of problems, the car begins to stall and refuse to start at one point in time. Therefore, it is very important that the sensor is corrected as quickly as possible.


Can low oil cause the check engine light to come on? The answer to this question is no. Because there are different shaped lights on your dashboard that indicate specific problems, you should review the lights on your panel to see which ones actually apply to your circumstances.

This is because the check engine light and the low oil lights are different, and have different meanings, too.

Scroll to Top