What Your Engine Oil Color Means?

With time, as you cover those miles, your car’s engine oil needs to be changed. The engine oil color is an indicator that you can use to determine if it is the right time to change the oil. Think it likes washing a carpet, if the color of the carpet is dark, it tells you time to wash it. Similar to the engine oil, by checking the engine oil color, you will know what to do. Not following the oil changing sessions can make your car meet some serious damages.

Let’s get to know more about different engine oil colors and how to choose the right time for oil replacement. 

But, Do You Know The Function Of Engine Oil?

The engine oil helps absorb heat from the engine and lubricates moving metal parts that would otherwise grind together. When you drive your car, the oil pump circulates oil within your engine and the oil filter catches the deposits that build up over time. The oil filter performs its own type of car maintenance by keeping the oil clean. However, as the oil gets older, the number of deposits in the oil continues to build and the filter is unable to extract all of the material. When this happens, the color of the oil changes and it indicates the oil should be changed.

Engine Oil Color: Decoding The Different Possible Colors

The oil is doing its job, it should be dirty. Oil treated with an effective dispersant suspends dirt, metallic materials, and unburned carbon. By monitoring an oil’s condition through oil analysis you can establish operating trends to use it as a preventive maintenance tool.

When all the buildup gathers in the oil, it becomes less efficient and not replacing it timely makes it non-working for the automotive parts. Checking the color of the oil is the easiest way to know if it is time to buy new oil. You can use a dipstick to check and  what color should oil be on dipstick will help you to diagnose the engine oil. 

If you have no idea what is called dark oil, milky oil, red oil check the engine oil color chart below. It shows clearly which color is considered black, red… 

We are now present to you the engine oil color analysis, what does used oil look like. You will have deep knowledge about your car engine oil color and at which color, the oil should be changed. 

engine oil color
The engine oil color is an indicator that you can use to determine if it is the right time to change the oil


1. Creamy Or Milky Engine Oil

Sometimes, you can notice the engine oil color as somewhat milky or creamy. Well, it indicates that the oil contains water. It can be the engine’s coolant that is getting into the oil because of the leaky head gasket. It also happens when you travel short distances, and the engine cannot produce enough heat to burn that water. Instead, it creates the water vapors, and that gets mixed into the oil.

So, a creamy engine oil color does not necessarily need a replacement if it is because of the short trips. You just need to drive the engine enough so those water vapors can get evaporated.

2. Dark Engine Oil

If the dipstick oil is dark colored, it tells that the engine oil is in bad condition. Some people consider the light engine oil to be clean and dark engine oil to be worn out. However, it is not true every time as it is not necessary that dark oil means it is worn out. So when you ask ‘what color should engine oil be’ duration is a factor too. The more months the oil run, the more deposits it collects. The darkening of oil color also depends on the engine oil brand as in some brands, the oil changes color in less time.

Hence if you notice the red engine oil or somewhat darker shade like black engine oil, determine the total months as well for which the oil is running in your car’s system. Some cars can cover 3000 miles before you need to change the engine oil and some covers up to 5000 miles. Have a look at the Maintenance Tips for the automobiles and diagnose all possible problems.

If the engine oil is black, it is considered a bad engine oil color, and there is something serious with the system. In this case, you can take it to a nearby car repair and get to know the issue.

Benefit Of Changing Engine Oil

After checking engine oil color and your engine color is in bad condition, it needs to be replaced. There are 5 benefits of changing engine oil which you should know. They are:

1: Make engine cleaner

Changing the engine oil will help to keep car engines clean and running smoothie.As an engine operates, microscopic wear and debris particles flake off from various internal engine parts and enter a car’s oil. By changing the oil regularly, the engine is ensured  bathed and lubricated with clean, quality motor oil.

2: Make engine last longer

The bad engine oil can lead to the result of engine failure. Therefore regular oil changes reduce engine wear and result in a longer lasting car engine.

3: Increase gas mileage

Changing bad engine oil will infuse an engine with clean, quality engine oil that provides better lubrication and friction-reducing capabilities. By that the engine has less friction, the engine will run easier and smoother, the mileage is increased. 

4:  Reduce emissions

The engine oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle: the fluid that lubricates, cleans, cools and prevents wear. As you already know the changing engine oil will make the engine run cleaner, therefore it will reduce the emissions. 

5: Engine performs better

As changing engine oil makes the engine cleaner, it will perform better than using dirty oil. It leads the engine to maximize its mechanical output. 


If your engine oil color is turned dark in the shade and if it smells like burnt off when you whiff that dipstick, you can consider it the time to change the engine’s oil. Always use common sense and not just rely on the color always. Consider factors like total miles covered and the brand name too.