Milky Engine Oil? Water In My Engine’s Oil? [Symptoms & Dipstick Check]

Milky Engine Oil: Is It Serious? Water in Engine Oil

Symptoms and How To Check Your Dipstick

I was watching a YouTube video the other day about a guy working on a 1980’s era Mercedes Benz and when he went to check the oil it looked like milky melted ice cream or even light gray paint. I can only imagine what the guy was thinking when he pulled the oil pan drain and found that gunk oozing from the engine.

Thankfully I have never faced this issue (yet), but I am sure I will one day. It got me thinking, how can I tell if there is water in my engine. Other than the milky engine oil, I wasn’t sure so I did some research on the subject and here is what I found.

How Can I Tell If There Is Water In My Engine?

So, how can I tell If there is water in my engine? The first place to check to see if you have water in your engine is the dipstick. Pull the dipstick and look for air bubbles on the dipstick. You may find a brownish residue just above the oil level or you could see milky oil with a thick consistency (picture a Frosty from Wendy’s). These are all indicators of water in your engine’s oil.

If you suspect you have water in your oil, you can take your personal diagnosis process a step further. If you remember back to middle school or high school science projects, you will remember that oil is lighter to water. Because oil is lighter than water, water will usually settle to the bottom of your engine after the engine has been allowed to sit for a while without running. You can then open the oil pan plug and collect a little bit of the engine oil into a collection pan or bucket for further inspection.

If there is a milky color that comes out of your engine oil, you probably have water or coolant in your engine’s oil and it is time to do something about it.

Now you know a few ways to determine if you have water in your engine oil. But what if you want to know more? For those who want to know more about the situation, keep reading for more details.

How Does Your Oil or Exhaust Smell?

Yes, you read that right, you need to smell your engine oil and even the exhaust if your car is running to help diagnose your engine. Does it smell sweet? If your engine oil or your exhaust has a sweet smell, you probably have coolant in the oil. The sweet smell from the exhaust tells you coolant is being burned off in the engine.

What Happens If Water Gets In Your Engine Oil?

What happens if water gets in your engine oil? If water gets in your engine oil it can cause a lot of long-term damage and you need to change the oil ASAP. Oil with too much water in it is bad because it causes greater friction, builds up heat and can cause premature wear and tear on your engine. If it is too bad it can ruin your engine.

With this being said, there is almost always a little bit of water in the engine. As engines heat and cool it causes condensation. This water (condensation) can get into the engine. Typically, condensation is not enough water to become a big deal. Once your engine gets up to normal operating temperatures, the water will naturally burn off and should not be a problem.

But Remember, if your oil is milky you have a problem that you need to fix right away.

What Happens When Water Mixes With Oil In The Engine?

What happens when water mixes with oil in the engine? When water mixes with oil in the engine it causes the oil to lose its correct level of lubrication. 

This leads to another frequently asked question…

Can I Drive My Car With Water In The Oil

So what’s the answer… Can I drive my car with water in the oil? If your motor oil is not milky but has a little bit of water in it, it should be okay to drive. After you let the car sit for a little while, follow the above steps to check and see if the water burned off. If not, take your vehicle to a mechanic for evaluation. If it were me, and I found any amount of water in the oil to cause me concern, I would drive it straight to a qualified mechanic for further inspection just to be safe. There is no point risking lasting engine damage over the comfort knowing a mechanic has checked it out and said it is okay or not.

Closing Thoughts

We heavily rely on our vehicles and few of us have a backup plan “if”, rather “when” they break down. They provide us transportation to work so we can earn a living, then drive our kids to school and activities, and for many of us, they are reflections of ourselves. This is especially true for Jeep owners, the primary focus of this website.

For this reason, if I found my oil looking milky, I know it is a sign of water in my oil and I would address the problem right away.

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