Oil Pressure Switch vs Sensor: Are These the Same Thing?

This oil pressure switch vs sensor comparison guide was created for car owners so they know their differences in order to maintain the performance of their vehicle. Most car owners don’t know the differences between both components, and this is because it only comes to mind when the check engine warning light comes on.

Oil Pressure Switch vs Sensor

In this article, we’ll explain the differences between an oil pressure switch and sensor to help you maintain your car engine properly.

Features Oil Pressure Switch Oil Pressure Sensor
Function Switches the engine oil pump off and on Sensors monitor oil pressure levels and send signals to the engine control unit.
Accuracy Less accurate, and readings take longer More accurate and provides faster readings
Materials Brass, bronze, copper Silicon
Lifespan Shorter lifespan Longer lifespan
Price Less expensive More expensive


What Are the Main Differences Between Oil Pressure Switch and Sensor?

The main difference between an oil pressure switch and a sensor is that oil pressure switches are connected to the oil gauge, which is located close to the oil filter. Oil pressure sensors are located close to the oil pump and are in direct communication with the engine control unit.

Both parts are similar in their functions, but there are some vital distinctions to note. To help you understand these distinctions, we’ll explain further below.

– Function

One of the notable differences between the two car components is their functionality. Oil pressure switches are designed to switch the oil pump on and off. This is done by detecting the quantity of pressure within the lubricating system of the engine. Extremely low pressure within the system activates the pump.


On the other hand, oil pressure sensors are designed to monitor the pressure that is within the system and transfer warning signals to the engine. The information received by the engine control unit is then used in adjusting the timing and speed of the engine.

– Applications

In addition to their function, the way they are applied is another major difference between the two components. As mentioned earlier, the oil pressure switch is designed to turn the pump on and off, and this is done by monitoring the level of pressure within the system and transferring signals to the pump. When the detected pressure is low, the signal that is transferred turns on the pump.

On the other hand, oil pressure sensors also monitor pressure. However, the signals that it sends are to the gauge, which is on the dashboard. This is to allow you to see and understand what’s present. In most vehicles, the oil pressure light is usually directly connected to the sensor, and this helps in identifying when the pressure level is low.

– Accuracy

The next thing to consider is the accuracy of the two components. In general, the sensors are more accurate than the switch, and reading takes longer. Oil pressure switches are generally less expensive, but they are a lot easier to install, while the sensors are more expensive and difficult to install, but they are more accurate.

– Materials

The materials used in making the two components are also a major factor that distinguishes them. Switches are mostly made from copper, brass, or bronze, while the material used in making sensors is silicon. One of the main reasons why they perform different functions is because they are made from different materials.

Basically, oil pressure switches mechanically close and open the circuit whenever there’s a significant change in the oil pressure. On the other hand, sensors only transform information into electrical signals, which are interpreted by other devices. With that said, it’s important to note that sensors are only ideal when it comes to providing accurate readings, while switches are perfect for cases where reliability is more important.

– Design

Both components also differ in their design, with switches having a simpler design with only two wires. Sensors are generally more complex, and they feature up to four wires, and this is also a reason why they are more expensive than switches. The higher number of wires is also an indication of their ability to give accurate readings. Today, most recent vehicles are equipped with sensors and not switches.

– Size

Switches and sensors all come in different sizes, and the size you get depends on how you want to apply it. In some cases, switches are smaller in size than sensors, and in other cases, they are not. For example, there are switches that are designed for larger vehicles like trucks, and these types of switches are generally bigger than sensors that are used in small vehicles.

– Price

As mentioned earlier, pressure switches are more affordable than sensors, and if you’re on a budget, they are the perfect option for your vehicle. However, the main thing to have in mind is that you’ll need to change the switch regularly, unlike when you use sensors that do not require frequent changes. Ultimately, you will save more with sensors, even though it’s more expensive.

– Lifespan

Determining which of the two devices lasts longer can be difficult, but in general, sensors are designed to last longer than switches, and this is because they have a more robust design and construction. In addition, sensors are designed to resist higher temperatures and pressures more than switches, and this contributes to their longer lifespan.

What Are Oil Pressure Switches and Their Functions?

An oil pressure switch is a vital but simple device that is installed in cars to help monitor the pressure of oil in the engine. When oil pressure drops below a limit, the switch is activated, and this sends information to the engine control unit to protect the engine.

– Purpose

The signal created is sent to the oil pressure gauge on your dashboard, which then lets you know the current pressure level in your engine. Basically, the gauge is alerted whenever the pressure is too low, and with that, you know you should check the level of your engine oil. Switches are installed close to the oil filter, and they come in different varieties, which are automatic and manual.

Functions of Oil Pressure Switches

With the manual switches, you can only activate them by pressing a button. On the other hand, the automatic switches are activated automatically, as the name suggests. Switches also come with different features, like a light to show when the pressure drops. Oil pressure switches are also affordable, and they are vital, especially when it comes to ensuring that your engine runs smoothly.

– How They Work

Switches are simple devices that feature a diaphragm and a switch, with the diaphragm being linked to the oil pressure so it can activate the switch when the pressure level drops. This activation sends information to the pressure gauge to let the driver know there’s an issue.

Whenever you turn your engine on, the oil pump is also turned on by the switch. Before the engine starts, the switch ensures that the oil pressure is sufficient to provide lubrication to the engine. The engine won’t start if there’s no sufficient oil pressure.

What Are Oil Pressure Sensors and Their Functions?

Oil pressure sensors are vital car components that are designed to take measurements of oil pressure, and they’re found close to the oil filters. They can either be electrical or mechanical, and they help to ensure the optimum level of pressure to ensure lubrication of the engine and its components.

Oil Pressure Sensor

Sensors are electronic devices that send information to the engine control unit when the level of oil pressure goes lower than the specified limit. The information activates the warning light on your dashboard so you can take prompt action. Also, the engine control unit can sometimes make adjustments to the ignition timing as well as the fuel mixture so that the engine is protected.

Unlike switches, sensors are located close to the oil filter, which is on the engine block. In some cases, they are located close to the oil pump or oil pan. Most modern vehicles today come with sensors, but older versions don’t always have them included.

– Purpose

As mentioned earlier, sensors are designed to monitor the pressure of oil in the engine and transfer signals to the engine control unit to notify car owners that the pressure level is low. This signal is shown on the car dashboard. Also, the sensors offer additional protection to the engine by adjusting ignition timing and fuel mixture to prevent damage.

Oil pressure sensors come in two types, which can either be bolt-on or screw-in types. There may be more than one sensor in some engines, while other engines feature sensors for each cylinder. Sensors are not as affordable as switches, but they don’t require frequent changes, thereby allowing you to save more money in the long run.

– How They Work

The working mechanism of sensors is straightforward, and it involves using a small diaphragm to take measurements of the oil pressure within the engine. A wire connects the diaphragm to the engine control unity, and signals are sent through the wire.

Today, there are sensors with features that allow them to measure oil temperature, and this type of sensor is mostly found close to the oil pan. They also feature a thermistor for effective temperature measurement. The temperature and pressure information is then used by the engine control unit to offer protection to the engine.

Is an Oil Pressure Switch and Sensor the Same Thing when it Comes to Checking Oil Levels?

When it comes to checking oil levels, an oil pressure switch and sensor are not the same thing. While the oil pressure switch measures the pressure of the oil, the sensor helps interpret dipstick accurately by providing information about the oil temperature and pressure. Both play essential roles in maintaining the oil’s health in a vehicle.


As a car owner, it’s important to understand the differences between the oil pressure switches and sensors. Fortunately, we have highlighted their differences and functions to enhance your understanding. Even though both components share some similarities, they are different in many ways. For example, sensors send signals to the engine control unity, while switches send signals to gauges.

Also, sensors are installed close to the oil pump, while switches are located close to the filter. Another thing to note is that sensors are generally more expensive than switches, but they don’t require frequent replacement. Ultimately, the two components are designed to make it easier for car owners to monitor the pressure of oil in their engines.

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