Water in Engine Oil Causes Symptoms Fix

Water In Engine Oil Symptoms, Causes, Test & Fix

Swiftly detect water in engine oil symptoms using these 3 steps. As it will affect its performance, seize the opportunity for a quick-fix solution.

Water mixing with engine oil can cause trouble for your vehicle’s performance. Potentially cause significant damage if not addressed promptly. If you’re noticing symptoms or experiencing engine issues there’s a chance that water has infiltrated your oil. This article will delve into the signs to watch out for and emphasize the importance of dealing with this problem without delay.

Understanding the Impact of Water in Engine Oil

When water combines with engine oil it creates an emulsion that compromises the lubricating properties of the oil. As a result increased friction and wear on engine components can occur, leading to performance and even potential engine failure. One clear indicator of water, in the engine oil is a foamy appearance when checking the dipstick. This occurs due to the formation of an emulsion between the oil and water. Other symptoms may include overheating and a sweet or burnt smell.

If you suspect that there’s water in your engine oil it’s crucial to have a mechanic diagnose and resolve the issue promptly. Ignoring this problem could lead to repairs. Even requires an entirely new engine altogether. In this article, we will thoroughly explore these symptoms. Also, provides insights into preventing water from entering your engine oil. Don’t disregard these warning signs; uncovering this troublemaker is essential, for safeguarding your engine’s health.

Common Symptoms of Water in Engine Oil

Water contamination in engine oil is a serious issue that can cause significant damage to your car engine. It occurs when coolant from the radiator or cooling system leaks into the oil leading to a contaminated mixture that can cause serious damage to the engine.

The most common signs of water contamination include:

  • Difficulty starting
  • Loss of engine power
  • Increase in engine noise
  • White smoke from the exhaust pipe
  • Milky-colored oil on the dipstick or under the oil cap
  • Milky or foamy oil
  • Increased oil level on the dipstick
  • Overheating engine

This water can cause issues with your car’s engine performance. In addition to that, water accumulation can lead to oil sludging formation and ultimately wear and tear on your engine. If you notice any symptoms of water in engine oil, it is important to take action quickly to prevent the car from overheating and further damage.

How to Detect Water in Oil?

The engine oil dipstick and under the engine oil cap are quick and easy ways to check for water in car engine oil symptoms. If you look under the engine oil filler cap and on the engine oil dipstick for a white milky appearance similar to a creamy chocolate milkshake it indicates internal engine problems like a blown head gasket. When you remove the drain plug (sump plug) from the oil pan (oil sump) the water will flow out first because water is denser than oil. Before going car shopping grab my free used car inspection checklist to learn more on what to look for before buying a used car.

How to Test for a Blown Head Gasket Using a Block Tester?

A coolant tester is a quick and simple way to check for leaking exhaust gases into the engine cooling system caused by a blown head gasket, cylinder head crack, or engine block crack. With the head gasket sealing the bottom half of the engine which has the pistons and piston rings with the top half of the engine which has the valves is a bit like the meat in the sandwich. Its 3 main functions are to seal water, oil, and compression.

Here you can check out the best Combustion Leak Detectors, often called Block Testers, how to use one, and what to look out for when you want to purchase one.

Before buying a Combustion Leak Detector, double-check that it comes with the necessary test fluid and a sturdy case to prevent any potential damage caused by mishandling. With a comprehensive block tester kit, you’ll no longer need any extra components; it’s ready to be used out of the box. It contains enough test fluid for about 16 tests and additional bottles are also available if needed.

Block Tester Kits are incredibly valuable when it comes to buying a used car too. You can use them to find out if the vehicle has any problems and avoid buying someone else’s problem that could cost you thousands of dollars in repairs. Plus, they make it simple and easy to check for a defective head gasket.

As seen in the video block testers are used to detect combustion gases in water-cooled engines, such as petrol, diesel, and LPG. They work by changing the color of the blue liquid it contains to yellow when combustion gases are present. This can alert you to potential problems with the cooling system quickly and efficiently.

If you notice a decrease in the coolant levels of your vehicle, it may be due to a combustion leak. The block tester can help diagnose this issue accurately. Also, before deciding to dismantle the engine you could try an easy temporary fix by using a head gasket sealer.

Before testing the coolant, drain some out from the radiator to avoid any potential contamination of the test fluid.

  1. Place the block tester into the radiator so that it fits snugly.
  2. Squeeze the bulb to check if the testing liquid changes its color from blue to yellow.
  3. A transition from blue to yellow in the fluid is a sign of a combustion leak.

Suppose you’re testing other combustion engines or generators. In that case, it’s handy to have a tool in your garage or tool kit that works on any internal combustion engine with a closed cooling system.

oil in water symptoms, causes, and solutions

You Can Have Oil in Water Too

Motor oil in water is usually a bigger problem when cleaning the sludge from the engine cooling system and radiator. When you open the cooling system cap or radiator cap, look for oil in the water and around the cap. Also, beware of any quick fixes like the owner or seller using automotive additives or head gasket sealers. These work like magic in many cases but they are a quick fix.

A Bad Oil Cooler

Oil coolers are relatively uncommon in cars that run on gas engines. However, they are a mainstay of turbocharged vehicles. Leaks from an oil cooler may cause oil to mix with coolant, which would be an indicator of a problem. When oil cooler leaks occur, many assume that the head gasket is blown. However, the engine generally functions normally in such a situation. A damaged head gasket will usually cause the engine performance to become affected. If an oil cooler is leaking, it’s a relatively inexpensive repair job. The replacement parts – the oil cooler and its gasket – need to be installed, and then the cooling system is flushed and refilled.

Leak in the Transmission Cooler

Some cars with an automatic transmission have a dedicated transmission fluid cooler that is typically connected to the radiator. Over time, cracks may form between the two parts, leading to transmission fluid leaking into the coolant system. The coolant can look pink and foamy, which is an indication of a problem. Unfortunately, it might also reach your transmission and eventually cause irreparable damage, requiring a replacement.

Preventative Maintenance Tips to Reduce the Risk of Water Contamination

An engine oil change is crucial because there are a lot of additives in the oil that become dirty and essentially wear out causing the lubricating properties that protect the engine to diminish. This results in some metal parts being eaten away and water being retained in the crankcase which results in sludge.

The sludge mixture will just keep building up by attracting more abrasive particles and then wear down the engine instead of protecting it as clean oil does. This is why changing your oil at specified intervals and more frequently than the manufacturer’s recommendations if you drive less frequently or in abnormal conditions like stop-start traffic is so important.

Oil Change Replaces:

  • detergents
  • dispersant additives

If your vehicle is used a lot for short trips and doesn’t reach operating temperature often before you turn the engine off then it is advisable to change the oil more frequently than what the manufacturer recommends to get the most out of your engine and protect moving parts. This also prevents condensation from building up inside the car engine resulting in oil tarnish and sludge buildup.

When do I need to get my car’s oil changed? You should have your car’s oil changed every 3,000 miles or about six months.

For general driving of the vehicle, every 5,000 kilometers or 3,000 miles (6 months) is a good rule of thumb before you need to change the engine oil.

Non-Synthetic Oil Change Interval

For older cars using non-synthetics, say no more than every 5,000 kilometers or 3,000 miles. (6 months)

Synthetic Oil Change Interval

With more advanced engine designs and better oil formulations like full synthetics, manufacturers are always increasing the oil-change intervals. It is still highly recommended to check the oil yourself frequently and has it changed more regularly too. With newer cars say no more than every 10,000 kilometers or 6,000 miles (12 months) just to be on the safe side.


To maintain the health and performance of your vehicle it’s essential to understand the signs and symptoms of water in engine oil. By detecting these issues early you can avoid costly repairs and keep your engine running smoothly. However, prevention is always better than cure so it’s crucial to adopt maintenance practices that prevent water contamination in the first place. Regularly inspect your engine for internal leaks, use high-quality coolant to ensure long-term sealing, and minimize the risk of having water in engine oil.

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