Learning how to check the engine oil quality in a car is very important.
So much so that the proper running and longevity of the engine depends on it.
If the oil is in a bad condition, then the engine is under a lot of strain which can in more severe cases cause serious damage.
All of this may happen due to a lack of an oil change and running the engine on low-quality and worn-out oil.
In this article, we’ll show you some simple and easy tips that will tell you, with pretty good accuracy about the condition of the engine oil.
Besides this, you can also watch our video on the same topic at the end of this article or on our YouTube channel.
WHY IS ENGINE OIL QUALITY SO IMPORTANT?
While in the engine, the oil, over time, inevitably loses its quality and main characteristics.
If the quality of the engine oil is low, then the lubrication is poor also.
Poor lubrication means more friction and this can easily lead to serious damage or even the engine to completely seize.
So, if you don’t recognize low oil quality on time and do not change the oil when needed, you could easily end up having to replace the engine or make an engine rebuild.
A big price to pay for disregarding such a trivial thing as an oil change.
HOW TO CHECK THE ENGINE OIL QUALITY IN A CAR?
1. CHECK THE MAINTENANCE RECORD
In the first place, we must mention the easiest and most reliable way for how to check the engine oil quality.
That is the maintenance record. A good maintenance record is worth gold, be it in written or electronic form.
If you have a maintenance book, every oil change should be written down with the date and mileage, and having this is the best option.
Another option for keeping track which is one of the oldest yet still very popular is using paper cards tied to a convenient place in the engine bay.
Lots of garages and dealerships do this. The card contains the mileage or kilometer stand and the date when the oil was changed.
In a matter of seconds, you can read the mileage, compare it to the odometer and see how many miles you’ve made since the last oil change.
All of this will give you a precise picture of how old the engine oil is and thus what the quality is. More miles means less quality.
Very old school but very effective.
Besides this, you also have records in various electronic forms.
2. CHECK THE OIL COLOR
But what if for some reason you don’t have the maintenace record or the mentioned ticket?
This is a common case when buying a used car without a maintenance record or one that isn’t reliable.
In cases like these, you can use this tip and the following ones.
The first one is to pull out the oil dipstick and check the color of the oil.
If it’s clear and has a similar color as when it was new then it should be OK. In most cases, the color is like honey.
But If it’s very dark or black, then it’s worn out.
So, clear is good, a bit darker is acceptable, and very dark or black is a sign it should be replaced.
3. RUB THE OIL BETWEEN YOUR FINGERS
While you’re at it, rub some oil from the dipstick between your fingers.
If the engine oil has a rich, greasy feel between your fingers then the oil is OK.
If it’s thin, watery, black, and drips like water from the dipstick then you should probably replace it.
One more good thing about this simple tip is that you can see if there’s any kind of debris in the oil.
4. SMELL THE OIL
This may seem awkward but one more thing you can do is smell the oil on the dipstick.
If it has a mild, almost unnoticeable smell then the oil should be all right.
On the other hand, if it has a very strong distinctive smell of burnt oil, then it’s probably on its last legs.
5. ABNORMAL OIL CONSUMPTION
For the final tip, if you notice abnormal oil consumption in your engine then you should check the oil quality first.
This goes double if the engine is in good condition and under normal circumstances doesn’t consume oil at all.
Even with high mileage engines, although there may be other likely reasons, the oil quality is the first thing to check if the engine burns a lot of oil.
If you want to read more about what to do if your engine burns oil, click here to read a separate article on that topic.
Among all of these tips, the first one is the most useful and accurate.
A good maintenance record will tell you everything.
If you don’t have this kind of information at hand, then use the other tips we’ve shown you. It should give you a pretty good idea of what condition the engine oil is.
In the end: change the oil according to the maintenance schedule provided by the car manufacturer and you probably won’t have to do any of this.
Not to mention that you’ll keep your engine in prime condition.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com
HOW TO CHECK THE ENGINE OIL QUALITY ON A CAR? YOUTUBE VIDEO