What does milky oil on the dipstick mean?

You are much more likely to catch issues early, before they escalate. A milky-white substance found on the dipstick is one example. How do you get rid of milky oil from the dipstick?

If the oil turns milky-white, this means it has had water mixed with it. White sludge forms when the substances are mixed together. Because water should never be present in the engine, you must take a closer look at what’s causing the problem, as it could be related to a blown head gasket. 

In our guide, we will cover the reasons for milky oil on the dipstick, showing you the simple solution and the one you likely don’t want to deal with. It is also possible to prevent it from happening. 

Índice de Contenido
  1. What causes milky oil on the dipstick?
    1. 1. Moisture or condensation 
    2. 2. Head Gasket
    3. 3. Faulty Oil/Coolant Heating Exchanger
    4. Dipstick Fixes: Milky oil fix
    5. 1. You can drive longer
    6. 2. Take care to wash your engine
    7. 3. Replace a blown head gasket or heat exchanger

What causes milky oil on the dipstick?

1. Moisture or condensation 

Some areas are more susceptible to damp or humid conditions. In these areas, it’s possible for moisture to build up in the motor. Watch out for water vapour in the exhaust gases to first identify this issue. 

Normal operating conditions will heat the engine to the right temperature and then the moisture is vaporized. The problem is that not all drivers drive their cars far enough to heat the engine to this temperature. This can lead to moisture in the engine. Unchecked condensation can cause a milky substance to form on the dipstick. 

It is possible that water got into your motor bay while you cleaned it. If you use a pressure washer, it’s possible you got water into the oil. You can also let it get through the filter or into your power steering cap, which are both bad. 

RELATED : What Is This White Stuff under My Oil Cap?

2. Head Gasket

If you know anything about engine problems, you know this is one condition you don’t ever want to face. If moisture can’t be blamed for the milky white residue on the dipstick, you might have a blown head gasket. 

The head gasket's role is to ensure that the cylinders remain protected by an airtight sealing. With this seal, the cylinders operate as intended because there’s the right amount of compression. The gasket also serves to separate the coolant and oil, although both are contained in the motor. 

The head gasket can blow and coolant will leak into the oil passages or the combustion chamber. You will be left with the milky, white substance found on the dipstick. 

Other symptoms you should look out for are a blown headgasket. White smoke might be seen coming out of the exhaust, or your engine may overheat. It’s also possible to spot bubbles in the coolant overflow tank or radiator. If you are refilling the coolant but have yet to find an external leak occurring, it’s possible that the fluid is infiltrating the oil passages instead. 

3. Faulty Oil/Coolant Heating Exchanger

Many cars have heat exchangers that keep the oil temperature constant using coolant. These heat exchangers may fail, or the gasket can crack. The dipstick will then become milky-oily.

This part is not available on most cars, so make sure to check your manual and find out if it's included.

Dipstick Fixes: Milky oil fix

1. You can drive longer

If there’s nothing wrong with the motor, you can burn off the moisture that might be inside the engine. It takes just a few minutes to make the condensation disappear quickly.

For drives under ten minutes, it’s possible that the engine never reaches the right operating temperature, especially if you are just casually driving through town. You should instead spend a bit more time driving. We recommend taking the long way to your next destination, especially if you don’t plan to drive again for some time. Try to increase your speed to 60 MPH. It will make the condensation evaporate faster than 25 MPH. 

2. Take care to wash your engine

Although you have the ability to clean out your engine bay by yourself, it is best to be cautious. You don’t want to get any water into the engine, or it can cause massive damage. Check the seal before you start. If the seal is worn, it can’t stop water from getting into the engine and you should replace it first.

With the seal in great shape, it’s time to spray down the motor, but make sure you use a low-pressure setting. It’s okay to use your household pressure washer, but it should be set as low as possible to get the job done. However, don’t ever spray on the engine seals directly because these aren’t meant for this level of pressure. 

You can also use an engine cleaner to clean the surfaces. You can wipe any residue off the engine with a cleaner and a scrubber. Plus, you only need a small stream of water to rinse it away, so there’s no chance of getting oil inside the motor. 

3. Replace a blown head gasket or heat exchanger

If you don't have the proper knowledge, it can be very difficult to diagnose a heat exchanger. You can search online to see if other people have the same problem. It could also be your car's heat exchanger if you see many other reports about the problem. You can either remove the heat exchanger completely, check for gaskets and use a pressure test to diagnose it.

Once the head gasket fails, there aren’t many more options to consider. A wide range of head gasket sealers are available on the marketplace. These sealers are often discouraged by many. It’s important that you decide what’s best for your car, but it’s unlikely that you will be in a worse situation from using one, so it might be worth trying. 

RELATED: 7 Easy Steps to Check if Your Head Gasket Is Blown

You will need to replace the head gasket. Although the cost for the part runs between $125-$350, it adds quite a bit of expense in labor. You could spend $650-$1,750 more depending on the type of car you own and where you live. While your vehicle is being fixed, it will likely be out of service for at least several days. If your vehicle isn’t worth the fix, it’s time to start car shopping.

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