What the different colors of motor oil mean

Motor oil color: What you need to know
Close-Up Of Man Checking Car Engine Oil Level On Dipstick
Close-Up Of Man Checking Car Engine Oil Level On Dipstick(Shutterstock)
Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 12:56 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The following is sponsored by Toyota of North Charlotte

Do you look under the hood in between your routine auto service appointments? Not a lot of drivers do, and we get it - you trust that if you stay on top of your car care schedule, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about in between. However, it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on things under the hood even if you visit our Charlotte Toyota service center regularly, especially when it comes to oil. Today our expert techs are giving us a short lesson on motor oil color and what it can mean for your car’s health - read on. 

Motor oil should be tan, amber, or caramel-hued in color. This is usually the color it is when it comes out of the bottle, so if you see this hue and you also notice that the oil level is between the two tic marks on the dipstick, you’re in good shape. Your car has enough clean oil to cool and lubricate the engine, keeping you up and running. 

However, if that’s NOT the color you see when you check your motor oil, you may have an issue or developing issue. Here are three motor oil colors to look out for. 

Three motor oil colors to watch out for 

#1: Dark brown or black: If your motor oil is dark brown or black, it usually means one of two things (or both of them): that it’s dirty, or that it’s been exposed to heat too many times as it’s cycled through your engine. Either way, it’s not really fit to be cycled through much longer and won’t be able to keep the engine cool and lubricated. If you see this color, it’s time for an oil change at Toyota of N Charlotte. 

#2: Milky: If your motor oil has sort of a milky color, it means that moisture is present. If you see this hue in conjunction with white smoke coming out of the exhaust or notice low coolant levels, you likely have a head gasket leak. You need to get this fixed ASAP - a blown head gasket is a pretty big (and expensive!) repair that you don’t want to take on. 

#3: Milky with a bubbly texture: If your motor oil is a sort of milky hue and also has a bubbly or frothy texture, you probably have water in it. This messes with the viscosity of the oil and can damage your N Charlotte Toyota, so definitely don’t ignore it. Our auto care techs can pinpoint where the water is coming from and put a stop to the leak so you can get back out on the open road. 

Schedule your next oil change at Toyota of N Charlotte 

Think you need car care in terms of your motor oil situation? Call Toyota of N Charlotte today. Our service center is open seven days a week at (704) 659-2025. We’re conveniently located just off I-77 at exit 23 in Huntersville at 13429 Statesville Road. 


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