What the colour of your engine oil could mean

Oil. An incredibly valuable commodity and one that has caused its fair share of conflict over the years. It’s also a vital part of what makes your car work. Without it the parts simply wouldn’t move, and you wouldn’t be going anywhere in a hurry. You wouldn’t be going anywhere at all. 

Unless you work in engineering or mechanics, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be looking at engine oil on a regular basis, so it’s hard to know what to look for when the time comes to use or check it, or if you find a little puddle when you drive away. Let Scrap Car Comparison guide you through what to keep a lookout for as you start delving into the slick world of lubrication.

Auto mechanic in gloves pour engine oil into engine

What colour should my oil be?

When new, engine oil is often a clean, golden colour, not too dissimilar to the syrup you might put over your pancakes for breakfast. In fact, engine oil is often used by advertisers in place of syrup when trying to capture the perfect pancake photo (the real thing is absorbed too quickly) – and it was what Skoda used when creating the epic full size car out of cake. However, once in use the oil will very quickly turn to a dark brown or even black colour, but this is perfectly normal. Remember there are a wide range of engine oils available, and they won’t all look identical. If you’re unsure, ask a mechanic’s advice on the colour of your car’s own oil.

Why is my engine oil red? 

If you check your oil levels, or are changing your oil entirely, and have noticed it’s coming out red, then this may be a warning sign that an even bigger problem is on the horizon for you. Red oil can often mean that coolant has got into your oil supply, and that indicates a larger issue of a coolant leak somewhere within the system. If you also notice that the oil is milky, creamy or foamy, this will also indicate a coolant leak and you should take the car to your nearest garage for a once over as soon as possible.

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What it means if your car oil is brown

As mentioned earlier, brown oil can be perfectly normal once it has started working its way around the system. Oils with more additives than others can often come out more brown than other oil types, but if you’re noticing it’s a darker brown than on your previous checks, it could be a telltale sign that it’s time to change your oil. Oil that’s been around the block a few times will start to discolour, so if you’re noticing a deep brown coming off the dipstick, pop down the garage (or even supermarket these days), grab a bottle of oil, your drip pan and switch into clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and carry out an oil change. Or, to make it even easier, leave your car at the garage and get someone else to do it for you.

Is your engine oil black? 

As a general rule of thumb, engine oil shouldn’t be black, but it can have this appearance if you’ve topped up some old lubricant with something newer. As the oil mixes it should then start to return to the more traditional colours you’d expect to see. However, if your oil seems to not only be black but also sludgy in texture, then it’s definitely time for a change. Oil discolours over time into the brown colour through heat, whereas it is a buildup of soot and dirt that will cause your oil to turn black, and the more dirt and grime there is, the thicker the texture will become.

If your car seems to be struggling to keep its oil looking how it should, or is simply using far too much of the stuff, then it may be time to look at finding a new car altogether. Enter Scrap Car Comparison. In this instance we’ll happily help you find a buyer for your car using our unrivalled network of scrap and salvage specialists, and with collection locations up and down the country, there’s never anyone too far away waiting for your old banger. So get started today with our quick and easy online quote generator and find out just how much your car could be worth as scrap.

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