Is Dark Engine Oil A Bad Sign?


Engine oil can be a hot topic among both automotive enthusiasts and automotive laymen. Everyone knows that they have to change their oil regularly, but how important are these changes? When should you have them done? What happens if you put them off or use the wrong type of oil? There's a lot to know about engine oil and also a huge amount of misinformation and myths. One commonly repeated factoid is that dark engine oil is too dirty to use, but the truth is a little more complicated. To understand why this is, it's first important to learn a bit about your engine's oil.

Clean, Protect, Lubricate

These are the three primary duties performed by your motor oil. It also provides some amount of cooling to the engine, although this is less important than its other roles since most modern cars are water cooled. As the oil circulates through your engine, it coats many of its internal parts. This coating is what provides the lubrication that allows these parts to operate as your engine revolves several thousand times per minute. The oil also protects these parts from corrosion and washes away debris and other contaminants.

Dirty Oil is Doing its Job

Brand new oil has an amber, translucent appearance, but it generally won't stay this way for long. If you circulate fresh oil through an engine that just rolled off the factory floor it might keep that golden hue, but only for a while. Combustion produces a variety of dirty byproducts and this can increase as your engine wears. Even regular operation of an engine can produce tiny bits of wear and tear on the internal components, and these tiny particles have to end up somewhere.

If your oil is doing its job, then these contaminants are flushed away into the oil as it circulates. This can quickly make the oil appear dirty, but it doesn't mean that your oil is no longer any good. Instead, it simply means that your oil is working as it should: carrying away contaminants rather than leaving them on internal engine surfaces. Note that heat can also cause oil to darken, so the high temperatures found in your engine will change the color of your oil over time even without the presence of contaminants.

Should You Ignore Dark Oil?

It's true that brown or black oil is "old" compared to fresh, amber oil, but the color of your oil generally should not be used to determine when an oil change is necessary. Instead, it is important to follow your manufacturer's oil change recommendations. As your car ages, more frequent oil changes can sometimes be a good idea, but even in this case you should stick to a schedule rather than trying to ascertain the condition of your oil. The most important thing you can do for your engine is to change your oil regularly and with the appropriate type for your vehicle. See your trusted auto service company when it's time for an oil change.


25 September 2019

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