Reciprocating Engine Lubrication Systems – Oil Pressure Gauge

in Lubrication and Cooling Systems

Usually, the oil pressure gauge indicates the pressure that oil enters the engine from the pump. This gauge warns of possible engine failure caused by an exhausted oil supply, failure of the oil pump, burned-out bearings, ruptured oil lines, or other causes that may be indicated by a loss of oil pressure.

One type of oil pressure gauge uses a Bourdon-tube mechanism that measures the difference between oil pressure and cabin, or atmospheric, pressure. This gauge is constructed similarly to other Bourdon-type gauges, except that it has a small restriction built into the instrument case, or into the nipple connection leading to the Bourdon tube. This restriction prevents the surging action of the oil pump from damaging the gauge or causing the pointer to oscillate too violently with each pressure pulsation. The oil pressure gauge has a scale ranging from 0–200 psi, or from 0–300 psi. Operation range markings are placed on the cover glass, or the face of the gauge, to indicate the safe range of oil pressure for a given installation.


A dual-type oil pressure gauge is available for use on multiengine aircraft. The dual indicator contains two Bourdon tubes, housed in a standard instrument case; one tube being used for each engine. The connections extend from the back of the case to each engine. There is one common movement assembly, but the moving parts function independently. In some installations, the line leading from the engine to the pressure gauge is filled with light oil. Since the viscosity of this oil does not vary much with changes in temperature, the gauge responds better to changes in oil pressure. In time, engine oil mixes with some of the light oil in the line to the transmitter; during cold weather, the thicker mixture causes sluggish instrument readings. To correct this condition, the gauge line must be disconnected, drained, and refilled with light oil.

The current trend is toward electrical transmitters and indicators for oil and fuel pressure-indicating systems in all aircraft. In this type of indicating system, the oil pressure being measured is applied to the inlet port of the electrical transmitter where it is conducted to a diaphragm assembly by a capillary tube. The motion produced by the diaphragm’s expansion and contraction is amplified through a lever and gear arrangement. The gear varies the electrical value of the indicating circuit, which in turn, is reflected on the indicator in the cockpit. This type of indicating system replaces long fluidfilled tubing lines with an almost weightless piece of wire.