Question for the experts on the color of oil and how much life it has left

Messages
85
Location
Grand Forks, ND
When I used to be a 3K Mobil 1 5W30 changer, I noticed my oil still looked like honey (brand new) when I drained it out of the engine. The oil had no suspended combustion particles that were visible to the naked eye. Why doesn't the oil turn black after a couple of days? I know you can't tell if an oil has been used up by how black it is, because its supposed to turn black with suspended combustion byproducts. The oil is doing a good job if its black, right? Does this mean my oil is NOT saturated and still has plenty of life in it? The oil should at least have turned black if its reserves had been used up, correct? This question pertaines to all motor oils, not just Mobil 1. Thanks for your help!! PS: Mobil 1 has been used for the life of the car and it has aprox. 93 K on it. (94 Honda Accord EX) [ July 11, 2003, 03:37 AM: Message edited by: MinnesotaNole ]
 
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3,693
Location
Chattanooga, TN
IMO as a basic indicator if whether the oil has life or not the color is not bad in that regard. That is, clear or amber will IMO almost always result in a good oil analysis report however, black can be perfectly fine but there is a higher probability of additive depletion or high wear metals and low TBN. So, if you change your oil by color you are playing it very safe but also more expensive and more hassle.
 
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47,693
Location
Duvall WA - Pacific NW USA
As usual I agree with Spector - oil as (clean) as you describe is probably in pretty darn good shape, unless something strange is just beginning to happen (say a sudden hole in your air filter [Smile] your oil won't go dark immediately - a few hundred/thousand miles) Turning black does not indicate "reserves" (AW, TBN, etc) used up - it's just an optical indicator and as such does not tell you to change oil, but visually clean oil is probably good to go when combined with the knowledge that you only have 3K miles on it.
 
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2,480
Yes, if you oil is still amber to light brown it is probably still fine and if you're saying that's after 3k with M-1, then you are definately changing it out too early and draining dollar bills...
 
Messages
713
Location
Pennsylvania
quote:
Originally posted by MinnesotaNole: Thank you for the insight folks!!! Any other opinions out there????
oil 'colors' vary greatly right out of the bottle, so I would assert that using color is a poor choice of indicators. A diesel motor, even brand new, will darken its oil measurably within a few hours of running.
 

MinnesotaNole

Thread starter
Messages
85
Location
Grand Forks, ND
QuadDriver: Good point about how oil colors vary. However, I would have to agree with Spector and Pablo above in my specific situation. I think I visually inspect M1 to get a "very rough" aprox. of the status of the oil. Doing this would very conservative with M1 as stated by Spector above. [ July 11, 2003, 04:45 PM: Message edited by: MinnesotaNole ]
 
Messages
204
Location
Cordova, TN
Sometime back I had a '99 Nissan Maxima that used Mobil 1 (trisyn at that time) for almost all of the time I owned it (52K miles). In every oil change (intervals of about 4K-5K miles), the oil only darkened very slightly from a honey to a medium amber color. Before I sold it, I tried Amsoil 5w-30 and I was surpried that the oil became very dark only after 1K-2K miles; at oil change time, it was black. I then tried Vavoline Synthetic and same color results as the Amsoil. Went back to Mobil 1 and color indications were the same as with all the other Mobil 1 intervals. I'm not sure what can be concluded from this but my first thoughts were that Mobil 1 did not clean as well as i.e., Amsoil 5w-30. Any thoughts?
 

CJH

Messages
489
Location
Pennsylvania
My BS detector went off big time on this one. Oil color (i.e. "blackness") is not an indicator of its useful life or ability to lubricate. This is from Amsoil's web site: "It is a common misconception that an oil's color is an indication of how dirty it is. This is absolutely NOT TRUE. The color of an oil does not have any bearing on its lubrication ability." http://www.performanceoiltechnology.com/oilcolorlubricationabilityandcontaminationlevel.htm This is pretty basic stuff, guys. [ July 11, 2003, 08:01 PM: Message edited by: CJH ]
 
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204
Location
Cordova, TN
What does a darkerning in color over an oil change interval indicate? Contaminants suspended in solution? I remain curious why, in my example above, Mobil 1 never got appreciably darker over an oil change interval but the other two oils did. I do not doubt that oil color or changes on color does not provide an indication of an oil's ability to lubricate, but does the rate or absolute change in color perhaps indicate that one oil may be 'cleaning' or suspending contaminants better than another? Thanks...
 
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679
Location
Daytona Beach
My BS detector went off too, but for a totally different reason. I NEVER want to drain "clean" or "amber" looking oil out of my engine, to me this means it left all the dirt stuck to the inside of the motor! Or I changed it too soon. If my oil turns black in 2 weeks, I'll be happy that it's cleaning something due to it's high detergency. I use HD motor oils as a guide, such as Delo 400. Usually turns dark pretty quickly. Some other oils that I've tried come out pretty clean, this does not make me happy unless I know the engine was very clean before I put it in. Does that make sense?
 
Messages
246
Location
Atlanta, GA
quote:
Hey if they made new motor oil black in color, this discussion would be moot.
Anybody remember Arco Graphite? Jet black and would stain anything.
 

CJH

Messages
489
Location
Pennsylvania
quote:
Originally posted by RussellA:
quote:
Hey if they made new motor oil black in color, this discussion would be moot.
Anybody remember Arco Graphite? Jet black and would stain anything.

And block oil passages to boot.
 

MinnesotaNole

Thread starter
Messages
85
Location
Grand Forks, ND
JohnnyG: I guess I should be happy then b/c Mobil 1 has been used since the car was brand new and it now has 93K on it. This is a testament to Mobil 1 and its cleaning power. The engine must be squeaky clean b/c the oil has never turned "black." I'm glad I've been educated by this board. I now know Mobil 1 can go A LOT LONGER than 3K. I've been draining out perfectly good oil all along.
 
Messages
679
Location
Daytona Beach
Minnesota, This is a testament to a LOT of things, not the least of which is your regular oil changes or M1, though I'm sure those helped. It also is a testament to the fit and design of your Honda engine, how well the rings seal, as well as the type of filters you've been using, it's service duty, it's fuel/air ratios, you get the idea. You KNOW the engine is clean and you expect clean oil to come out. To some, 3000 mile M1 oil changes would be WELL worth the cost to get the results you have achieved. Some of us are not so lucky, or even so meticulous in the overall care of the engine. Some of us have engines that are visually perfect inside, but still get black oil out in 500 miles, what would you say to them? If you changed oil every 500 miles, would such an engine eventually clean up? I have no personal experience on this one and would really like to know what can be done with such a "problem" engine.
 
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8,467
Location
Colorado
Aside from diesel engines, which darken engines quickly, it has always been my experience over the years that a gasoline engine in trouble will darken oil sooner. But it also depends on driving conditions-driving on the highway is easier than short trips in cold weather around town. There is the paper towel test. Put a few drops of oil on a paper towel. If it spreads out, the oil still has not oxidized. You can also feel a small amount of the oil-is it gritty? If gasoline has gotten into oil, you may be able to sell the gasoline. If coolant gets into the oil in large amounts, expect a lot of sludge and no oil, no matter how good, can survive coolant in the oil in too great of an amount for too long.
 
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23,591
I used Castrol 5W-50 in my A4 for the first 80k miles or so. The car needed 0 oil between oil changes (every 7500 mi), and the oil was only the color of maple syrup by that time. The M1 0W-40 I run now (at 125k mi), is after 3000 miles darker than the Castrol ever got, and I need to add maybe 1/2 quart between oil changes (now every 10k mi) to keep the level topped off. I've always used Bosch or Mann filters. I'm not inclined to draw conclusion regarding oil life simply by looking at the oil color. Someone once said that an oil that doesn't get dark doesn't do its job, because it means that the dirt stays in the engine (deposits). I don't buy that either, since my engine was/is squeaky clean. I should know, leaking valve cover gaskets are an issue with the 2.8 Audi engine.
 
Messages
8,467
Location
Colorado
I remember this service manager who said that if oil does not get dark it is not doing its job. He claimed that oil would get dark in about 100 miles of driving. Unless you are driving a diesel or a gasoline engine car on its journey to the junk yard, or your oil was already black in color, I don't think there is any way oil should get extremely dark in only 100 miles. This service manager said that people would accuse him of not having changed the oil, when after only about 100 miles they would check the dipstick and the oil was already dark. Heck, maybe the guy was NOT changing the oil. In a gasoline engine vehicle with a tight good engine, I have driven hundreds of miles before the oil started to turn dark. However, the color of the oil cannot be considered the only thing in determining the condition of the oil. I would be alarmed if 100 miles after getting my oil changed at a dealership, it was already dark. And we are not talking diesels, ArcoGraphite oil which is no longer available, or a trashed engine. Best thing to determine engine condition with any hope of successs is a UOA. You can't tear the engine down every 3000 miles to check for wear (unless you own a CART Team, and actually they can't tear the engines down at all-they lease the engines). The simple tests I talked about can give you some idea of oil condition. Oil color is totally not a good determinator by itself. But if my oil in my car was black as coal, I would be seriously considering an oil change.
 
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23,591
When I got my new A4 in '96 I was apprehensive when I first learned that Audi discouraged an oil change before the first scheduled service at 7500 miles. I kept a close eye on the oil during that period, and indeed, in terms of color it didn't get dark faster than any other oil I'd previously seen. That put my doubts at least partially to rest. Despite fact that Audi engines have been run in ( don't know for how long!) while still in the factory, I would have expected to see break-in oil go dark faster in any case, but it didn't. Not sure this means really anything... [Confused] Oh yeah, I also had in the past an independent VW/Audi mechanic work on my car, and he could never get over it how clean the oil looked after 10 k miles. He was also questioning my claim of not adding more than trivial amounts of oil in order to keep it topped off between oil changes. [Wink] [ July 14, 2003, 12:01 AM: Message edited by: moribundman ]
 
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