quick question about low oil pressure message & changing breaks

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  1. #1
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    quick question about low oil pressure message & changing breaks

    Hey guys, so last night I was driving when I got a Oil pressure warning light and to stop the car. Pulled over to a gas station (I'm not very savvy when it comes to cars btw) and thought maybe it meant low oil. Checked the oil dipstick (didn't realize you want it in between the 2 bends, I thought it was between the 2 orange notches rofl...) and thought it was basically empty (I think it was actually pretty low even though I was using the wrong marker). So I bought 3 quarts of non-synthetic 5W30 oil (it had SAE on it, all they had) and added it. After adding 3 quarts and seeing the oil level not move that much on the dipstick I realized I'm probably reading it wrong. Decided it wasn't sounding strange and the message hadn't come back, so I drove it back home (like 5 miles). Got home and read up on the message and saw that I did multiple dumb things rofl..
    TL;DR: had an oil pressure warning and I'm dumb

    Anyway, found a repair shop that was open today and drove it in since it seemed to be driving fine and the message hadn't come back. I got there and they decided to start with an oil change and noticed that there was a ton of oil leaking out. Apparently the seal on the filter wasn't good. They cleaned up the leaked oil on the engine, replaced what was in there with synthetic, got an OEM oil filter, and said it should be fine. They also said to come back in 2 weeks to make sure there wasn't any other leaks and I should probably get my front brakes changed at that time (measured at 20%). So here are my questions:

    1. Can the low oil pressure warning come on due to simply a lack of oil? Should I still be concerned about sludge or a bad sensor?
    2. In the future, if this message comes back on, when it is an issue of sludge does the message stay/continue or does it show once and then turn off? Basically if I see it again and it disappears when I turn the car back on, was it probably a fluke?
    3. Anyone know how long I should wait if my front breaks are at 20% (rears are at 60% still)? The repair shop offered to do it for $350 I think and if I recall last time I changed them at the dealer it was even more than that. Figure I should milk them for what they're worth before changing, but the mechanic was saying that 2 weeks would be a good time to change them and if you wait too long you'll damage other parts.

    I'm new here btw, so sorry if this is an inappropriately long post. Also I have a 2002 VW Passat 1.8T, 4 cylinder with 140K miles

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  3. #2
    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    1. Can the low oil pressure warning come on due to simply a lack of oil?

    Absolutely. Have the mechanic show you the correct way to check your oil level. Check it often for a bit to be sure you're not leaking/burning/losing oil. Running the engine with low oil or low oil pressure can quickly cause permanent expensive engine damage.

    Should I still be concerned about sludge or a bad sensor?

    Yes. Use the correct 502.00 spec full synthetic oil (5W-40 or 0W-40), the larger oil filter and change it every 3,000 miles.

    2. In the future, if this message comes back on, when it is an issue of sludge does the message stay/continue or does it show once and then turn off? Basically if I see it again and it disappears when I turn the car back on, was it probably a fluke?

    The message shouldn't be ignored. If you start seeing the message again and your oil level is not low, you've got a problem. It could just be the inexpensive sender, but don't count on that. Installing an oil pressure gauge will let you know exactly what the pressures are.

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    Hey Steve, thanks for the reply. Sorry, I got busy with classes and kind of put my car troubles aside and forgot about this post. I took the car back in to a local shop here and it seems it's still leaking oil. They say there's a leak in the gasket (he explained in more detail, but I can't recall it all. something about it being in line with the oil filter and its running from this location down onto the oil filter or its seal or something). Said it's about $230 to repair, but most of it is labor. Going to get the engine steam cleaned and some dye put in though to see if there are leaks anywhere else before dumping any money into this. Not sure it's really worth putting too much money into this car considering it's 10 years and 140k. Also, is there a cheaper alternative to changing the breaks? I remember the dealer and this local shop is now also telling me that you have to change more than the break pads and it runs close to $350-400 to do. That sound about right?

  5. #4
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    it's probably the seal between the oil cooler and the block. It's above the oil filter and could be mistaken for a leaking filter. Keep a close eye on the oil level until you figure out where it's coming from. You can lose all your oil in a hurry if the seal blows out. Not sure if $230 is a good price, but it sounds like they must know where it's coming from if they were able to give you a price to fix it. Here's what the seal looks like:

    Volkswagen Passat B5 FWD 1.8T > Engine > Gasket > Engine Block > ES#2776 Oil Cooler O-Ring - 038117070A

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    Quote Originally Posted by abe468 View Post
    Not sure it's really worth putting too much money into this car considering it's 10 years and 140k. Also, is there a cheaper alternative to changing the breaks? I remember the dealer and this local shop is now also telling me that you have to change more than the break pads and it runs close to $350-400 to do. That sound about right?
    Note that I kept my 2000 past 240,000 miles before it went to a new, happy owner who's put on many more - so don't write off a 140k Passat.

    Standard procedure on this car is to replace the brake disks along with the pads. There's precious little difference in thickness between a new rotor and minimum spec, so machining them usually isn't practical. That said, some users report getting away with re-using rotors in good condition. Around here, brakes are about $350 per axle - but you can save a LOT by doing the labor yourself. It's not all that hard.

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    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    $230 to change the oil cooler gasket is beyond insane. Either you didn't understand what they are going to do for that amount or they are doing more things in addition to the oil cooler gasket for that amount (or they are ripping you off). Changing the oil cooler gasket is only slightly harder than changing the oil filter (easy).

    Oil leaks don't cause low oil pressure. Oil leaks cause you to lose oil.
    Running the car several quarts low can cause you to lose pressure and may damage the engine.
    If your oil pressure is low due to the oil leaking out and the engine being run without enough oil, get the leaks fixed.
    If your oil pressure is low even when the oil level is up to the full mark, the leaks aren't your main problem.

    Have you been checking the oil level frequently to get an idea of how fast you're losing oil?
    Has the low oil pressure alert been coming on regularly?
    Have you been running the car without a sufficient amount of oil in it?

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    Thanks for all the quick responses, here are the answers to your questions:

    I haven't been checking the oil level as often as I guess I should, it would be hard for me to estimate how fast I'm losing oil. I can say that I had the oil changed last Saturday (2/18) and when I brought it back into the shop yesterday (2/25) they said the oil level was still fine although there is evidence of leaking. I'll start keeping an eye on it more often now.

    The low oil pressure alert has not come on again since that first time and I'm pretty sure that when it came on that first time the oil level was low on the dipstick.

    When I first got that alert on the 17th It had been maybe 2 months or less since getting an oil change. I hadn't been checking my oil levels during the time leading up to the alert, but since that one incident with the oil alert I've been running the car on a sufficient oil. And for that one time I got the alert I stopped the car immediately and walked over to a gas station to fill up the oil before driving anywhere.

    I also have the quote for the service in front of me, maybe it will help determine whether it's a ripoff. They did mention that they would have to disconnect the oil coolant hoses to do this and in that process would have to replace some coolant as well. For parts they have: Oil Filter Stand gasket (06A 115 441J), Oil Cooler Seal (038 117 070A), Antifreeze Coolant (G 012 A8F A4), CA Coolant Disposal Fee (CDF) which adds up to about $40-45. The labor for removing and replacing is billed as 2 hours for about $200.

    Edit: one last thing, although they do know that there is a leak here, they don't know if there are leaks elsewhere. They said they also saw some oil pooling in a place that may not be from the gasket. In order to be sure, they recommended I get the engine steam cleaned ($85 through another company) and they'll add some dye (no charge) to see if there are any other leaks that need fixing

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    I had a similar problem with the oil pressure light coming on and after much research I thought my car was toast, because my oil level was fine and thed light was coming on and off intermittently. Unfortunately, that can be a sign of sludge...

    So, I immediately parked the car in the driveway and started my own "home-brew" de-sludging. I went online and ordered 3 bottle of AutoRX (about $65) and also went to the closest auto parts store (in another car) and got enough oil and filters for 3-4 oil changes and seafoam, while I was waiting for the AutoRx to show up. I put the car on jackstands and drained the oil, refilled with with the correct amount of seafoam and oil, a new filter, and ran the car for about 15-20 minutes. Then re-did the whole process 2 more times. The oil went in clean and came out black...

    When the AutoRx came, I carefully read up how to use the product on its website for de-sludging a motor, and currently I am on 15k since that day and haven't had the issue come back. (fingers are crossed that I am not jinxing myself for posting this!)

    Just be sure to keep an eye on your oil, do the oil changes with the CORRECT oil abd FILTER (filter is a very important thing), and I have set my OCI's at exactly 2000 mi.'s from now on. I have 89k on the car right now, and want it to last till 189k at least.

    I hope this hels a little. Search AutoRx, for less than $100, it's worth trying.

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    I went through the "Low Oil Pressure" situation shortly after buying my 01.5 1.8t. It was at about 80k on the clock. After jumping through all of the multiple oil changes, AutoRx, kerosene pan flush suggestions there was no improvement so I finally broke-down and dropped the oil pan to have a look. It is a serious PITA, but well worth it. Your Passat is likely suffering from a bad case of "turbo turds". My oil pick up screen was at least 90% clogged with the nasty carbon basturds. I cleared the screen with a dental pick, thoroughly cleaned the pan (a whole new level of PITA), reinstalled then filled with dino oil. After a little (20-25 miles) of easy driving I change oil and filter converting to full synthetic and large filter. Now I'e got 110K on the clock and no further issues with oil pressure. I would strongly recommend that you change the oil pump and pickup assembly if you can afford to. I could not at the time so I had to settle for cleaning.

    After you conquer the oil pressure issue, always remember to let your engine run for a short time before shutting down after "spirited" driving in order to allow for cool down and run synthetic oil only. Search "turbo turds" on this sight for a wealth of info.

    As a quick aside I experimented with some of the turds. I soaked them in AutoRx, SeaFoam, kerosene and gasoline. NONE of those "solvents" softend or dissolved the carbon bits.

    I hope that helps.
    Last edited by justj1161; 03-01-2012 at 03:06 PM.

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    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by justj1161 View Post
    As a quick aside, I experimented with some of the turds. I soaked them in AutoRx, SeaFoam, kerosene and gasoline. NONE of those "solvents" softened or dissolved the carbon bits.
    That is good information. Thanks for sharing the results of your test.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in Chicago View Post
    That is good information. Thanks for sharing the results of your test.
    X2. I'm surprised I haven't heard of someone trying this before.

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    I don't think just soaking the turds in all of those solvents would do much. Remember the engine is constantly agitating these solvents throughout the engine at a constant pressure and high temperature and that may be how they work. Just my two cents but I don't think just letting them sit in the solvent is any proof that they don't work. Maybe try heating up the turds in a mixture of oil and solvent and then stir the crap out of it and see if you have different results. I'm guessing that they would break down a little.
    Synthetic oil also has cleansing agents in it as well, that's why were told to use it to prevent sludge. Right on most of te bottles of synthetic, especially high mileage kind, state that they break down buildup and harmful deposits.
    I could be completely wrong, just wanted to add my two cents!

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    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    There are actually two separate issues with the oil. Sludging and Coking. Sludge is a thick goopy buildup that coats and clogs things. Coking is oil cooked/burnt down to hard solid chunks. I can see a solvent easily dissolving sludge, but coked chunks of oil is another matter. If the chunks didn't dissolve sitting in a full concentrate of the solvent, a diluted concentration will have less of an effect. I suppose a more accurate test would be to heat the experiment to operational engine oil temps and induce agitation.

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    Thanks for all the responses guys and I might look into whether there is an issue with turbo turds. The thing is the message hasn't come back since then and I did have low oil when it came on, so I'm thinking this is an oil-leak issue. I went ahead with the steam clean and we saw where the oil was leaking from more clearly. It seems to be seeping from where where the oil pan contacts (would that be the oil pan gasket?). They also said they could see some oil leaking a little higher up from that. When they looked up what they would have to remove to access the areas they want to, they were looking at like $800 in labor, and they understood that I would not be willing to put that much in. So they suggested just keeping some oil in the trunk and checking the levels since the leak is not that bad. I have a friend who said he'd take a look next week to see if it would be an easy fix for us to do ourselves, so we'll see. Wish I had taken a picture so I could put it up here, but maybe after me and my friend take a look I'll start another thread with a picture. Couple quick question though:

    - The car currently has 5W30S in there from when I got my last oil change. I've read that 5W30 is ok and usually if I don't go to the dealer for an oil change they'll use 5W-30, but steve mentioned: "Use the correct 502.00 spec full synthetic oil (5W-40 or 0W-40)" Is it bad to mix grades of oil? If for instance the car has 5W30 and I put in some new 5W-40 to top off the oil, would that be a problem? (Note: I have a 2002 Passat 1.8T, 4 cylinder in case it makes a difference)

    - Anyone have an amazon link for a good oil to buy in this case?

    Edit: after looking around a little bit on the subject, I think: http://www.amazon.com/Valvoline-SynP...owViewpoints=1 is probably a good idea. Was using the list of oils on this post: http://forums.vwvortex.com/showthrea...1#post24073212
    Last edited by abe468; 03-18-2012 at 04:06 PM.

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    $800 to drop the pan and replace the gasket is high-ish, but not entirely unreasonable. It is something you could do yourself, and save almost all of that. Kind of a nasty job, but not technically hard. About the oil - oil is the lifeblood of this engine. You don't want to skimp. The exact language of the owner's manual is that 5w30 can be used "if 5w40 isn't available"; doesn't say it's the right stuff. If you can't find a suitable oil off the shelf, any marginally competent auto parts store can order it for you. Probably no saving through Amazon, given what the shipping will cost.

    I'd prefer not mix oil brands, given the slight chance the differing additive packages would react. Different weights within the same brand should be OK.

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    Hey scotts, the type of oil they used was Total Quartz INEO MC3 5W30 Synthetic, which is 502.00 spec but not on that list. I have a feeling it might be hard finding that same brand (at least I can't find it on amazon). Do you still think it's a bad idea to keep around a few quarts of the valvoline in case my oil levels go low again? Or should I try and see if I can find this same brand elsewhere online?

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    Much better mismatched oil than low oil! But still, find a source for an appropriate oil, do a change with it, and go on from there.

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    The light may come back. Fiancee's car would get the low oil pressure light every other week and then it became more and more frequent. Eventually, it was on nearly all the time. God bless her for being able to stand it. New pump and pickup tube was about $100 from Germanautoparts.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by forcedfx View Post
    The light may come back. Fiancee's car would get the low oil pressure light every other week and then it became more and more frequent. Eventually, it was on nearly all the time. God bless her for being able to stand it. New pump and pickup tube was about $100 from Germanautoparts.com
    Seems to me that you could well be too late. I would pull the valve cover and remove a few cam caps to inspect the bearings before putting in the new oil pickup and pump.

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    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by forcedfx View Post
    Fiancee's car would get the low oil pressure light every other week and then it became more and more frequent. Eventually, it was on nearly all the time. God bless her for being able to stand it. New pump and pickup tube was about $100 from Germanautoparts.com
    All the time driving it without enough oil pressure risks permanent engine damage. A new pump and replenished oil pressure isn't going to undo oil starvation damage.

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    Pump has been in for a couple of months now. When replacing it, I pulled the cam caps and one of the crank bearings and they didn't seem bad for number of miles on them. No signs of scoring or gouging. We won't have this car as a daily driver for more than one more year, so far it has been running great.

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