Auto Anatomy: Oil Pump

oil pump

  • Function
  • Parts
  • Signs of a Failing Oil Pump
  • FAQs

An oil pump is an integral component of a car’s lubrication system. It maintains the optimal working conditions for an engine by circulating the oil through the various parts. Besides, the oil pump’s effectiveness is crucial for maintaining the engine’s efficiency and longevity. That said, let’s learn the anatomy of an oil pump, how it works and the consequences of its failure. 


An oil pump is among the essential internal combustion chamber parts. It is located in the oil pump housing of the oil pan and the crankshaft or timing belt drives it. When the pressure builds up in the pump, it directs the engine oil through the engine block and cylinder head. 

In simpler terms, the function of an oil pump is as follows:


The primary purpose of an oil pump is to supply engine oil to various moving parts within the engine. These include pistons, crankshafts, camshafts and bearings. The lubrication prevents direct metal-to-metal contact, reducing friction and wear between components.

main function of an oil pump in a car engine
An oil pump regulated the flow of engine oil throughout the system


As the engine oil circulates throughout, it absorbs heat generated by the friction of moving parts. The oil then carries this heat away from the components, regulating the engine’s operating temperature and preventing overheating.

Friction Reduction

The oil pump reduces friction by creating a thin layer of oil between moving parts. It minimises wear and tear on the engine’s components, prolonging their lifespan and maintaining efficiency.

Preventing oil leaks

The engine block is sealed to the oil pan using a gasket, effectively stopping oil from escaping the engine.

Noise Reduction

Proper lubrication provided by the oil pump helps dampen the noise generated by moving engine parts. Components that are adequately lubricated produce less noise due to reduced friction. 

Protection Against Corrosion

Engine oil contains additives that protect metal surfaces from corrosion and oxidation. The oil pump distributes this treated oil throughout the engine, preventing rust and deterioration of engine components.


The anatomy of an oil pump comprises different components. The design of this type of pump in the car varies according to the type. However, here are the fundamental parts:

  • Housing: The housing is the outer casing enclosing the internal components of the pump. It provides protection and support for the pump’s internal mechanisms.
  • Gears or Rotors: Oil pumps often feature gears or rotors that draw in and pressurise the oil. These gears rotate within the pump housing, creating a suction effect that pulls oil into the pump and then pushes it out at a higher pressure.
  • Suction Pipe/Tube: The suction pipe or tube extends from the oil pump into the pan. It draws oil from the bottom of the oil pan and directs it into the pump for further circulation.
  • Pressure Relief Valve: The pressure relief valve is a safety mechanism that helps regulate the oil pressure within the engine. If the oil pressure becomes too high, the valve opens to release excess pressure and prevent damage to the pump and other components.
the anatomy of an oil pump consists of various parts
The anatomy of an oil pump comprises different components
  • Oil Filter Bypass Valve: Some oil pumps include a bypass valve that allows oil to bypass the oil filter if the filter becomes clogged. It ensures that oil can flow through the engine and clogged filters.
  • Oil Filter Mounting: The oil pump may have a mounting or connection point for the oil filter. It allows the oil to go through the filter before entering the pump and being pressurised.
  • Drive Mechanism: The oil pump is driven by the engine’s crankshaft or the car’s timing belt, depending on the engine’s layout. This drive mechanism provides the necessary rotational force to operate the pump.
  • Seals and Gaskets: Various seals and gaskets prevent oil leaks from the pump and its connections. These seals ensure that pressurised oil flows through the intended pathways and not into unwanted areas.
  • Oil Passages: Internally, the oil pump contains passages and channels that direct the oil from the suction side to the pressure side. These passages oversee the oil flow through the pump and into the engine.
  • Mounting Points: The oil pump is securely mounted to the engine block or other car engine components to ensure stability and proper alignment.


Different types of oil pumps are used in cars, each with its own design and operational characteristics. The choice of oil pump type depends on factors like the engine’s layout, performance requirements and manufacturer preferences. Here are the two main types:

types of oil pump
The type of oil pump depends on the engine layout

Gear Oil Pump

It is one of the most common types of oil pumps. It consists of two intermeshing gears that rotate to draw in oil through the pump’s suction side and then push it out at a higher pressure through the discharge side. Gear oil pumps are known for their simplicity and reliability. 

Rotor Oil Pump

Also called a rotary vane pump, this type uses a rotor with multiple vanes that sweep oil through the pump’s internal chambers. As the rotor turns, the vanes create pockets that draw in and trap oil. The oil then flows from the suction to the pressure side. Rotor oil pumps are known for their smooth operation in various engine designs.


Like any car part, an oil pump is prone to wear and tear. Recognising the signs of a failing oil pump is crucial to prevent the engine from failing. Here are some common symptoms to watch out for:

Engine Misfiring 

A bad oil pump causes a car engine to misfire due to inadequate lubrication and increased friction. It results in poor combustion and misfiring of cylinders due to insufficient oil reaching critical engine components.

Engine Noise

A failing oil pump leads to insufficient oil circulation, causing increased friction between moving parts. That can result in a tapping or knocking noise from the engine, especially at startup or when the engine is under load.

signs of a failing oil pump and effect on engine
A bad oil pump leads to engine failure

Drop in Oil Pressure

If you have access to an oil pressure gauge, you might notice a sudden and significant drop in car oil pressure while the engine is running. It is a strong indication that the oil pump is not functioning properly.

Engine Overheating

Insufficient oil circulation leads to poor heat dissipation. If the engine starts to overheat, it might be due to the oil pump’s inability to cool the engine components properly.

Low Oil Pressure Warning Light

One of the most common indicators of a failing oil pump is the illumination of the low oil pressure warning light on the dashboard. If the oil pressure drops below a safe level, the oil pressure sensor will signal a warning light in the dashboard.


How does an auto oil pump work?

An auto oil pump operates with gears or rotors to circulate engine oil from the oil pan and pressurise it. It ensures consistent circulation to lubricate, cool and protect engine components and maintain their performance and longevity.

What are the parts of an oil pump?

Many components make up an oil pump. These include housing, rotors, suction tube, pressure relief valve, oil filter mounting and valve, drive mechanism, seals, oil passages and mounting points. If any of these components are broken or get damaged, the pump won’t work properly, resulting in an engine oil leak.

What happens if the oil pump fails?

A failing oil pump leads to engine failure. Common symptoms include a ticking noise in the engine, overheating, a drop in oil pressure and engine misfiring. 

That is all on the anatomy of an oil pump. It regulates the engine oil flow and ensures optimal performance of the engine. Besides, when buying a used car in the UAE, ensure all these essential parts are working properly, providing adequate car performance. 

For more on car parts, their working and issues, keep reading dubizzle’s cars blog.


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