Oil is important for keeping your car running smoothly. It helps clean the engine, lubricate moving parts, prevent corrosion and rust, and extend the life of your engine. You should check your oil regularly and follow your manufacturer’s recommended oil change intervals. If you haven’t checked your oil in a while, learn what your engine oil’s color should be and what to do if it isn’t quite right!

What Color Your Engine Oil Should Be

New motor oil is typically a slightly translucent amber color with the consistency of olive oil. It helps to lubricate the engine’s moving parts, redistribute heat, clean the engine, and prevent rust and corrosion.

Over time, the oil will typically become darker and thicker, which makes it less efficient. The oil that can’t perform well may compromise your engine’s health and create wear and oil consumption. These issues can lead to symptoms like blue or gray exhaust smoke, reduced fuel efficiency, and shaking while idling!

What Amber Engine Oil Color Means

The color of your engine oil can tell you a lot about its quality. Clean engine oil is usually a light amber color. However, over time it can darken due to several factors, such as the type of oil in your car, the age of your vehicle, and the presence of certain additives. Darker shades of amber alone do not necessarily indicate that your engine oil is old or dirty. Oil darkening may simply indicate that it is doing its job well.

What Black Engine Oil Means

If your engine oil has turned black, it may be old and needs to be replaced. If the oil is also thick or sludgy, this is an even stronger indication that it’s time for a change. Black engine oil can sometimes indicate a clog in the fuel return line. This can allow contaminants into the engine, causing poor engine performance, inefficient gas mileage, and potential engine failure.

What Brown or Gray Oil Means

If you notice your engine oil is brown or gray, it’s important to investigate the cause. Brown engine oil by itself is not necessarily a cause for alarm. Still, if a milky or foamy consistency accompanies it, it could be a sign of contamination from a coolant leak. Another possibility is that the engine idles excessively and seldom reaches operating temperature—which is more likely to happen in cars that are only driven for short periods.

In either case, it’s important to have a professional check it out to determine the cause and take appropriate action. In short, water can accumulate in engine oil if the engine doesn’t reach its optimal operating temperature, which is more difficult to do on shorter trips.

What Rust-Colored Engine Oil Means

If you check your engine oil and it’s rust-colored, it could be because of humid conditions or cooler weather. Humid conditions can cause condensation to build up on your metal dipstick, which can lead to surface rust. If the oil is reddish, it could be because of automatic transmission fluid. You should take your car to a mechanic to have it checked out.

Finding a Mechanic

If you’re worried about your engine oil, it’s best to take it to a professional. A qualified mechanic can inspect your car and determine what’s causing the problem. They can also change your oil and filter and perform any other maintenance that may be necessary.

Hoover Automotive provides car service and repair, including brake service, oil change, new tires, auto repair, engine repair, off-road vehicle repair, and fleet vehicle maintenance. Our oil change service in Hoover, AL, includes a free courtesy inspection at no extra charge where we will top off your vehicle fluids, check the air pressure in your tires and perform inspections on all fluid levels and critical engine systems. Call us at 205-587-4888 for immediate assistance!

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