Car engines need oil to operate smoothly and efficiently. Engine oil helps lubricate the dozens of moving and interacting parts, helps prevent rust and corrosion as well as aiding in removing the heat that an engine generates. Modern oil also helps keep an engine clean by removing sludge and build-up. An engine without oil simply will not function.
Brand new engine oil is a lovely amber color but over time it will turn black and in some cases will get gritty. Fortunately, this is usually not a problem, it is simply a result of the oil doing the job it was designed to do.
How this system works:
The primary function of engine oil is to lubricate the various moving parts of an engine. The constant contact between these moving parts generates both heat and wear and tear. Engine oil keeps friction to a minimum and dissipates the heat.
Engine oil is stored in the oil pan. The pan holds between 4 and 6 quarts of oil. When an engine is started, an oil pump sucks the oil from the pan through the pickup tube. The oil then travels to the oil filter, which removes any dirt and debris that has accumulated in it and then sends the oil into the engine via spurt holes. The oil moves through the engine and eventually makes it way back to the oil pan where the process starts again.
Common reasons for this to happen:
- Normal Wear and Tear: Regardless of how often oil is changed, eventually it becomes black and slightly gritty. This simply means it is doing its job. Modern detergent engine oils which have detergent additives are designed to disperse the tiny particles or engine sludge and hold them in suspension in the oil so they do not build up on engine parts.
This will make the oil darker in color, and slightly gritty but it’s better for the build up to be trapped in the oil then building up on the vehicles engine parts. Oil can only hold so much sludge and eventually it will need to be replaced.
Dirty Oil Filter: An oil filter’s primary function is to filter out contaminants in the oil that it picks up while cycling through the engine. Over time an oil filter will become full and will need to be replaced. If it is unable to filter the oil the contaminants will remain in the oil and possibly damage the engine.
Overdue for an Oil Change: Oil needs to be changed on a regular basis. While oil turning black and getting slightly gritty is normal, extremely black oil that develops globs on the dipstick needs to be changed immediately. The interval between oil changes will vary depending on the type of oil being used but it is a good idea to follow the manufacturers recommendations.
While 3,000 miles used to be the recommendation, most modern oils, especially synthetics can go between 7,000-10,000 before an oil change is needed.
Oil Light Comes On: In most vehicles, if the Oil Warning light comes on, it is reason for immediate concern. In most cases this will indicate a low oil pressure situation, which could be the result of a failing oil pump or a leak. This can do severe damage to the engine. The vehicle should be inspected and repaired immediately.
Oil Level is Dropping: If the vehicle is consistently low on oil or the level is dropping sharply over a short period of time, there is probably an oil leak somewhere in the system. An oil leak can lead to a dangerously low amount of oil in the car and should be repaired immediately.
What to expect:
A top-rated mobile mechanic will come to your home or office to determine the source and cause of the Oil is Black and Gritty issue, and will then provide a detailed inspection report that includes the scope and cost of the necessary repairs.
How it's done:
The mechanic look for normal wear and tear of the engine oil, along with the oil filter, oil level and other indications that will help determine if any problem exists or if additional procedures are required in order to provide you with an accurate diagnosis.
How important is this service?
In most cases black and gritty engine oil is normal. Engine oil should be changed on a regular basis according to the manufacturers recommendations. Going too long between oil changes can affect the performance of the engine and lead to expensive repairs.