Believe it or not, that oil pressure indicator that’s lit up on your car’s actually means something. When the oil pressure light turns on, it means the longevity of the engine is at risk. The longer you operate your car with improper oil pressure, the more severe damage to your car’s engine can become over time. Although your car comes with its own built-in oil pressure gauge, they may not always be as reliable as you’d like. For instance, they can be either overly sensitive or not sensitive enough, and the light indicator will depict an inaccurate picture of what’s really going on under your hood.
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Top 5 Best Oil Pressure Meters
Auto Meter Sport-Comp 3321
The 3321 from Auto Meter is one of the simplest-looking oil pressure gauges out there. But do not mistake simplicity for functionality – this piece does exactly what you’d expect. It measures all the way up to 100 PSI, but from 0 to 10 PSI, there may be some difficulty gauging the precise readout.
This mechanical oil pressure gauge does not require any electrical hardwiring to install, so even if you don’t know your way around cars, you can still get the 3321 up and running in no time. Plus, everything you need to install this pressure gauge is available in the box. Around the perimeter of the gauge are incandescent lights that illuminate the analog gauge at nighttime. This, however, is perhaps the weakest thing about this pressure gauge, and we’d recommend replacing these lights with powerful LEDs if you have the time and know-how.
Auto Meter Ultra-Lite 4321
The 4321 from Auto Meter is a lot like the 3321. In fact, apart from the writing on the face panel and color of the frame, there’s no significant different between the two. The 4321 has a maximum PSI reading of 100 PSI, but the first 10 PSI are crammed within a few millimeters.
The installation process is identical to that of the 3321, and it also comes with all of the supplies needed to connect this pressure gauge to your car’s existing gauge harness. The same weak incandescent lights surround the perimeter of the 4321 and won’t do much at making the gauge readable at night (consider swapping them out with LEDs).
Auto Meter 2604
This last Auto Meter product to grace our list is the 2604, another mechanical pressure gauge that’s easy to install and use. Once again, there’s hardly a difference between this and the two previous Auto Meters except for its frame color and writing. The good news is that whichever Auto Meters gauge you decide to roll with, you surely won’t be left disappointed.
This meter measures up to 100 PSI and connects to your existing gauge harness with the included nylon lines and fittings. In the box, you’ll find a set of easy-to-read instructions on how to get this pressure gauge set up. Sadly, there aren’t any pictures in the manual that depict how the gauge should be installed, but you can find everything you’ll need from Auto Meter’s website.
Docooler Digital Oil Pressure Gauge
Now moving onto a cooler-looking pressure gauge from Docooler. Unlike the three Auto Meter models earlier, the Docooler uses a digital display to show how much oil pressure there is. This gauge can read all the way up to 120 PSI, though if your engine pressure ever surpasses the 100-PSI mark, you might be in trouble. Because this is a digital model, you shouldn’t have to worry about the gauge being unable to register pressure below 10 PSI.
The LEDs in the display are easy to read during the day and not overpowering at night so you’ll always know what’s going on. Also, as a newer piece of technology, digital gauges are more sensitive and capable of detecting the slightest change in pressure, but in the case of the Docooler, it only shows pressure at the nearest integer.
KKmoon Oil Pressure Meter Gauge
The final oil pressure meter on our list is from KKmoon. Looks-wise, we feel that its bright blue face and white frame might clash horribly against the dashboard of most cars, but if have a light color scheme going on, then the KKmoon might actually make a good fit.
This is another digital gauge like the Docooler, but its reading is limited to a maximum of 100 PSI. Included in the box is all the hardware you need to install the KKmoon in a jiffy. However, there’s one glaring problem that you should be aware of, namely the blue LED backlight. Do NOT look directly at the gauge at night! That being said, this is a pretty reliable oil pressure gauge that’s easy to mount and works like a charm.
Oil Pressure Meter Buying Guide
Oil pressure meters are pretty simple pieces of equipment, but that doesn’t mean you should purchase the first thing you see. In this brief guide, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to know regarding how to purchase the best pressure gauge for your vehicle.
The two most widely used types of oil pressure gauges are mechanical and electric. Mechanical pressure gauges such as the models mentioned above are rather straightforward and don’t require much – if any – electrical hardwiring. Electrical pressure gauges, on the other hand, are actually simpler to install, provided you know how to replace the potentially dangerous copper tubing with a simple electrical wire. In terms of accuracy, electric pressure gauges have a very slight upper hand due to the use of sending and receiving electrical signals rather than manually measuring pressure – a process which, if installed incorrectly, can lead to completely inaccurate readings.
Generally speaking, a normal peak pressure reading should be anywhere between 55 and 65 PSI, though readings of up to 75 PSI may be nothing to worry about in older vehicles. It’s a good idea to find an oil pressure gauge that can read up to at least 100 PSI as a reading of 80 PSI or more means your engine is in serious trouble.
When your vehicle is idle, the engine should be completely void of pressure. This is why zero readings are so important and why mashing the first 10 PSI within a few millimeters can lead to imprecise readings and diagnoses. To get a true zero reading, your best bet would be to get an oil pressure gauge with a digital interface.
Whether you’re a car kind of fella or not, installing an oil pressure gauge should be simple enough to do. Depending on the model, it’ll typically come with all the wires and hardware you need to install, but certain gauges (or even your car) may require purchasing additional parts like a sandwich plate.
Regardless of the time of day, you’ll want to be able to see the reading on your car’s oil pressure gauge. Most pressure gauges on the market use bright LEDs, but there are quite a few (like most of Auto Meter’s products) that rely on incandescent bulbs. Whatever the type of bulb is in use, they should illuminate the gauge’s interface enough for drivers to see clearly. The bad thing about LEDs is that they might be way too bright and actually hinder your sight while driving.
1. Can the oil pressure meter be mounted onto a sandwich plate?
Yes, you can, but you need to make sure you purchase the correct plate (sold separately) and that it compatible with your vehicle. The main thing to consider is whether there will be enough space for the sandwich plate and gauge sending unit can fit properly. Installing the plate is super-easy, and there are tons of video tutorials to help get it done. You can also follow the manufacturer’s instructions on setting it up.
2. Does the car’s factory sending unit work with a non-factory oil pressure meter?
Whether you can stick to your factory’s sending unit depends on whether it measures the exact same temperature and resistance. You can test it yourself by using water at various temperatures. However, you won’t be able to use one sending unit to run both gauges simultaneously. In addition, the factory sender is most has variable resistance and is calibrated to match its display. To play it safe, install the sending unit that comes in the box of the oil pressure meter.
3. Is the oil pressure meter compatible with my vehicle?
The oil pressure gauges we mentioned on our list of the best models are compatible with most, if not all, types of vehicles – from motorcycles to sedans to large trucks. However, you may be required to purchase additional wires and mounting brackets to get the unit and lights installed properly. Also, there may be some drilling involved to get the gauge to sit flush.
A properly working oil pressure gauge is extremely important for the longevity of your car’s engine. If your car is still relatively young and your mechanic deems the factory gauge functional, then you probably won’t need to upgrade the oil pressure meter (unless your goal is to pimp your car’s interior).
However, if your car has been passed down for multiple generations and you’ve noticed the indicator is constantly on, it may be have become over- or under-sensitive to oil pressure, in which case you need to change the meter as soon as possible. Take a look at our list of the 5 top oil pressure meters, or if you’d like to do your own shopping, our brief buying guide should provide you with everything you need to know to make a smart purchase.