What Your Engine Oil Color Means
There are specific colors you cannot forget about when it comes to driving. The green color in traffic light means go, red means stop, and yellow/amber implies proceed with caution. Traffic lights are designed to change color, but what does it mean when your engine oil looks green?
The green color in engine oil could result from a special brand of oil, or it could symbolize the leakage of the coolant. If it is the latter, it is crucial to determine why your engine oil is green before it causes irreparable damage to your engine.
Engine oil color guide
When your engine oil changes color, consider it an unofficial means of communication whereby you understand what is happening inside and outside your vehicle. Here are some oil color variations and what it means about your motor’s health.
Black and thick engine oil
The original color of fresh oil is light amber, the same color as beer. Once you drive your car for several miles, you may notice the color of your engine oil is darker. The longer your drive, the darker the oil becomes.
Modern oil consists of many detergent additives that enhance its performance. When engine oil becomes black, it means the additives have been filtered out, and the black color comes from them being in suspension in the oil. Once it thickens, consider it a sign of saturation that needs to be changed soon.
Muddy brown or creamy engine oil
When engine oil is milky or brownish, it is a sign of a severe problem in your engine. This oil color variation indicates that the oil has, in some way, mixed with antifreeze from the cooling system. Often, this is due to a failure in the vehicle’s head gasket.
Once you take note of this unusual color, check your overflow reservoir or radiator to see if it is low. This oil color is often accompanied by white smoke from your exhaust. If your radiator or overflow reservoir still has the appropriate fluid levels and no white smoke, but your engine oil is still creamy or brownish, you may consider water contamination.
Red engine oil
If your engine oil has a reddish hue, it means that power steering fluid, transmission fluid, or engine coolant has made its way to mix with your engine oil. This could mean a problem with your power steering pump, transmission process, or cooling system.
It is advisable to visit your local repair shop for a mechanic to determine and fix the exact problem. The smell of the engine oil is also an indicator of the problem. If it smells sweet, like maple syrup, it is coolant. If it smells like burnt marshmallows, it is power steering fluid. If it has a normal petroleum smell, it is transmission fluid.
Green engine oil
It is quite easy to notice brightly colored engine oil. Often, once it changes to bright green, the cause is likely to be your coolant is leaking into the oil. Coolant leaks bring into question the vehicle’s age. Older cars use more coolant when the engine overheats than newer cars. Newer cars recycle the overused coolant; hence, they should not leak to the ground or mix in with the motor oil. Green engine oil in your older car should not make you panic. However, if it is a modern vehicle, you must take it for further investigation.
On the other hand, green engine oil could also indicate diesel fuel has gotten into your oil. In most cases, it usually causes the oil to become thin. If fuel is in your oil, your vehicle’s injector or fuel injection pump could leak. For repairs, it is best to seek out your mechanic.
Green oil is made from recycled motor oil using special technology that produces new base oil. Annually, drivers in the United States use about 1.3 billion gallons of motor oil. Despite our many oil reservoirs worldwide, there is still a shortage of the product.
As such, green oil uses improperly disposed oil by reclaiming it, thus preventing its adverse effects on our environment. By converting this oil to green oil, the toll on non-renewable natural resources reduces, improving the fuel economy without compromising the protection of your engine.
Coolant leaking into the engine block
Certain engine problems are easy to fix, and you should go ahead with your journey, but a blown head gasket signals further engine trouble and, when not dealt with immediately, will result in a new engine. The time and labor required to fix head gasket problems are intensive.
Most of the engine blocks are often made from cast iron. This type of iron isn’t the best to weld in case of cracks. Most of the time, you will have a cracked engine block due to constant expansion and contraction due to heat. If the engine block becomes too hot or you live in extremely cold areas, then cracking is common. The water in the engine block can solidify, exerting excess pressure on the engine block and causing cracks.
Coolant leaking is one of the first symptoms of a cracked engine block. When this happens, the anti-freeze – which happens to be a bright green or orange color – will find its way into the engine block and mix with oil. The resultant mixture is light brown or milky in color. The biggest problem with a coolant-oil mixture is it makes your oil lose its lubricating properties. If the lubricant is not working properly, metallic parts will start grinding against each other, causing premature wear and tear.
Coolant leaks can be a result of many things. If you have a bad shaft seal in the water pump, you will experience leaks in the vent hole. If it leaks, you will see discoloration along the water pump. Once done, also check the gasket o-rings. This could be worn out.
The radiator is one of the main components when it comes to the passage of water to the engine block. The unit has air vents that cool hot coolant from the engine block. This is continuously circulated when the car is running. A fan will also be used to supply cold air to the air vents. If you have lost radiator hoses or faulty vents, the coolant will leak, leading to engine overheating.
Oil color variation does not necessarily mean something is wrong with your engine. Engine oil can be very dark but still very useful in its function. It is also crucial to monitor the oil light on your dashboard to easily notice when your vehicle needs an oil change.
If your engine oil has different oil variations, it is time to schedule an appointment at your repair shop. Oil color variations are one of the best indicators of what is happening in your engine. There are several methods you may use to check your oil. You may use a dipstick every few days or trace dyes with ultraviolet light, as professionals use. By closely monitoring the color of your oil, chances of understanding the issue and fixing it before it results in irreparable damage are exponentially high.
If you are losing sleep over why your engine oil is green, it is best to consult your mechanic as soon as possible. However, green engine oil is not necessarily a cause for worry in an older car. Modern car owners with green engine oil should schedule an immediate appointment with their mechanic. Motor oil color variations can be a source of concern, but the sooner you find out why the color has changed, the better for your vehicle’s engine and overall performance.
What happens if an oil change is overdue?
The kind of role that the engine plays means you must be very careful to ensure you change it at the right time. Oil is responsible for lubricating all movable engine parts and in heat dissipation. However, the oil acquires a dark color with time due to sludge buildup. This reduces its ability to act as a lubricant, and you may soon experience engine overheating. If you continue using this oil without changing it, you will experience complete engine failure.
What makes engine oil dirty?
Engine oil circulates through the engine from the oil pan. As your engine continues to operate, there will be normal wear and tear as debris contaminate your oil. The oil filter first captures these contaminants, but with time, this also becomes dirty and ineffective. The combustion chamber is a result of the ignition of fuel and air. These often leave debris on the cylinder walls, which eventually find their way to your oil.
What is the shelf life of engine oil?
Engine oil is expected to last for up to 5 years if it is in a well-sealed container. In this instance, what makes it last longer is its stability. Each motor oil brand will come with instructions to keep engine oil well protected from moisture and other contaminants. The type of additives used to stabilize the oil will determine how long it lasts. If you have copper compounds, then expect it to have a shorter shelf life. Some motor oil will come with pour point depressants that prevent oil from freezing at extremely low temperatures.