Oil checks are a vital part of vehicle maintenance for any car. Using the dipstick, you can check to see if the oil level is low and if so, top it off before any damage occurs. If you let the oil get too low, or too dirty, it can cause extreme wear and tear to your engine. To keep your car running strongly and smoothly, check your oil every month, and pay attention to these things your motor oil may be telling you.
What can engine oil tell me about my car?
If you notice that your oil is tainted with dirt, debris, or even metal shavings, you’ve got a problem on your hands. Not only will dirty oil fail to protect your engine, but it can also cause more damage than low oil. Depending on the extent and type of contamination, running an engine with dirty oil can actively corrode the engine and lead to a host of issues, both major (catastrophic engine damage) and minor (reduced fuel efficiency).
Regular oil changes will help prevent dirty oil, but sometimes there are other factors at play. For instance, if you find metal shavings in your motor oil, you may have a damaged or “spun” rod or bearing in your engine.
You can tell another type of contamination has occurred if your dipstick comes out with a tan or white, milky-looking color rather than the brown or black of untainted motor oil. That milky appearance is likely caused by a coolant leak. If you notice this issue next time you check the oil, you’ll want to check the head gasket right away. A blown head gasket is by far the most common culprit of a coolant leak.
If the oil looks milky and frothy, it could be due to condensation in the engine, which introduces water into the oil. This can be avoided by letting your car warm up before driving in the winter.
Low Oil Level
If you find that your oil level is low, either by checking, or because your oil indicator light is on, it may be that your car simply needs a top-off due to normal use. However, a low oil level can also be caused by a leak, damaged valve seals, or worn-out piston rings.
Thick, Sludgy Oil
Oil should be relatively viscous, but if you notice that your motor oil is thick or sludgy, you’ve got a problem. Sludginess is caused when oil “gels” or solidifies due to high temperatures, and it won’t run through your engine as effectively, causing potential engine problems.
You can minimize the risk of developing oil sludge by regularly checking and changing your oil, using synthetic oil, having your vehicle serviced by licensed, trained technicians familiar with your car’s make, and/or performing an engine flush.
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