Water in Engine Oil Symptoms: Causes, Signs, and What to Do!

Water in engine oil can cause several problems, the most serious of which is engine damage. Water can enter the oil system in several ways, such as condensation, leaky gaskets or seals, and even from washing your car.

If water isn’t removed from the oil system, it can cause corrosion and metal deposits to form on engine parts. This can lead to decreased performance, increased fuel consumption, and eventually engine failure.

If you suspect that there may be water in your engine oil, it’s important to have it checked out by a mechanic as soon as possible. They will be able to drain the oil and check for water contamination.

But what are the main water in engine oil symptoms? The most common symptoms of water in engine oil are brownish residue above the oil level, bubbles on the stick, and milky-brown oil with a thick consistency.

What Causes Water in Engine Oil

Damaged Oil Crankcase:

The oil crankcase vent is one of the most likely water sources in car engine oil. The oil crankcase vent is located at the top of the engine, near the front of the vehicle. It is usually made of plastic or metal, and it has a small hole in the center. The oil crankcase vent allows air to enter the engine while keeping water and other contaminants out.

Faulty Head Gasket

This issue occurs more frequently in older vehicles with high mileage or when the cylinder head  is damaged from overheating. Improper installation, such as after a repair, should also be considered, as well as the use of low quality  gasket.

Coolant Leak

A coolant leak can be one of the most severe problems your car can have. Coolant, also known as antifreeze, helps keep your engine at the right temperature by dissipating heat. A water pump circulates coolant through your engine to keep it operating at the proper temperature. If there’s a leak in the water pump, coolant can enter your oil, causing it to become diluted.

Some causes of coolant leaks include:

  • Faulty head gasket: The head gasket is responsible for sealing the combustion chamber. If it’s damaged, compression can cause water to enter your oil.
  • Cracked cylinder head or block: These components contain coolant passages. If they crack, coolant can mix with your oil.
  • Worn piston rings: Piston rings seal the gap between the piston and cylinder wall. If they’re worn, they can allow oil and coolant to mix.
  • Leaks in the valve cover gasket: The valve cover gasket seals the gap between the valve cover and cylinder head. If it’s damaged, oil can leak into the combustion chamber and mix with the coolant.

Damaged Crankshaft

Defects linked to the low amount of oil in the engine or its poor quality, causing the pistons to smash the cylinder head, as well as malfunctions caused by the performance of the internal combustion under load, and the entry of metal particles into the oil.


Condensation from humid air can cause water in engine oil. This is most likely to happen in areas with high humidity, such as the southeastern United States.

When water condenses in your car engine, it can cause various problems. The most common problem is that the water will mix with the oil and create a sludge that can clog up your engine and also cause corrosion.

Low Quality Oil

In an effort to save money, a number of motorists have developed the undesirable habit of purchasing blatantly low-quality engine oil. Because of improper storage, such oils not only fail to meet the specifications but also include a certain amount of moisture. High-quality, costly oil doesn’t at all contain moisture particles.

Cracks in the cooling system

This fault may be caused by cylinder block problems, engine overheating, coolant not being supplied in a timely manner, excessive detonation loads, using the incorrect or low-quality coolant, , or external mechanical damage.

Water in Engine Oil Symptoms

1. Rust and Corrosion

If you notice any water in your engine oil, there is likely some rust and corrosion present in your engine.

Water can cause these problems by seeping into small cracks and crevices or by condensing on metal surfaces. Over time, this can lead to severe damage to your engine components.

One way to check for corrosion in an internal combustion engine is to use a flashlight to inspect the inside of the engine for any signs of corrosion.

Secondly, you can use a multimeter to test for electrical continuity between engine parts that should be connected. If there is no longer continuity, this indicates that corrosion has likely occurred.

2. Change in Oil Viscosity

Water in your engine oil can cause a change in the oil’s viscosity. Water can certainly have an effect on oil viscosity. In general, the addition of water to oil will thin out the oil and make it less viscous.

This is due to the fact that water molecules are much smaller than oil molecules, so they can easily slip in between the larger oil molecules and break up the attractions between them. This can obviously have a major impact on how well your engine runs.

Thinner oil can actually cause wear and tear on your engine, as it will not provide the same level of protection as a thicker oil.

3. Bubbles on the Dipstick

This is one of the most common water in engine oil symptoms. You should check your oil dipstick regularly to ensure that your oil level is where it’s supposed to be and that the color is still consistent with the new oil.

If you notice a large amount of bubbles on the dipstick, this could be an indication of water in your engine oil.

There are other potential causes for bubbles on the dipstick:

  • The oil is too hot. This could be due to recent driving or an overheated engine.
  • The oil level is too high. This could be due to overfilling or oil sludge build-up.
  • There is water in the oil. This could be due to a leaking head gasket or other cooling system problem.
  • There is air in the oil. This could be due to a faulty oil pump or worn engine bearings.

4. Cloudy Oil

It’s not uncommon to see water in your car’s oil, especially if you live in a cold climate. Water can enter the engine oil through the crankcase ventilation system or past worn seals and gaskets.

While a small amount of water in your oil is normal, too much water can cause severe engine damage.

5. Poor Engine Performance

Poor engine performance is one of the water in engine oil symptoms. When there is water present in the oil, it will cause the oil to thin out and will not be able to lubricate the engine components as well. This can lead to increased friction and heat inside the engine, which can cause severe damage.

While water in the engine oil can cause poor engine performance, it’s important to note that there are other causes of poor engine performance, including:

  • Dirty or faulty spark plugs – These need to be cleaned or replaced to ensure that the engine is firing properly.
  • Faulty ignition system – This can cause misfires, which will affect the engine performance.
  • Fuel injectors – If these become clogged, they won’t be able to deliver the proper amount of fuel to the engine, affecting performance.
  • Air filter – A dirty air filter can restrict airflow to the engine, causing it to run less efficiently.
  • Oxygen sensor – A faulty oxygen sensor can cause the engine to run lean (not enough fuel) or rich (too much fuel), affecting performance.
  • Catalytic converter – A restricted catalytic converter can cause the engine to run poorly.
  • Exhaust system – Any restrictions in the exhaust system can affect the engine performance.
  • Engine timing – If the timing is off, it can cause the engine to run erratically and affect performance.
  • Valve clearance – If the valves are not opening and closing properly, it can affect the engine performance.
  • Compression – Low compression can cause the engine to run less efficiently and affect performance.

what happens when water mixes with oil in engine

Regardless of its purity, water is one of the things that can compromise your engine oil.

Water and oil do not mix together. Their molecules are mutually repulsive and that’s why we separate water and oil in the engine of the car.

Water, which is more dense, sinks and settles at the bottom, but oil, which is not dense like water floats to the surface. When this occurs, the motor oil becomes denatured.

It will not be capable of sufficiently protect the engine’s moving parts, which might result in severe damage.
Damages to the combustion chamber, piston rings and cylinder head, among others, are among the issues that might occur in this circumstance.

What happens when water mixes with oil in engine? It could result to problems with compression since there is nowhere else for the water to go. This would ultimately result to piston rods breaking down and might potentially cause engine damage. When this occurs, oil will be lost and the engine will cease to operate.

Therefore, it is important to never combine water and motor oil to prevent engine problems.

How to Get Rid of Water in Your Car Engine

If your engine is completely submerged in water, there is likely water in the oil. To get rid of the water, you’ll need to change the oil and filter. You may also need to flush the cooling system and replace the spark plugs. If the engine has been damaged by the water, it will need to be repaired or replaced.

If you have a small amount of water in the engine, it may be possible to get rid of it by simply draining the oil and then refilling it with fresh oil. You should also check the air filter and spark plugs. If they are wet, they should be replaced.

On the other hand, if your engine has been flooded with water, there are things you can do to get rid of the water and prevent more damage.

  • First, remove the spark plugs and turn the engine over a few times to help remove any water from the cylinders.
  • Next, drain the oil and replace it with fresh oil. Finally, check the air filter and replace it if necessary.
  • Once you’ve done all of this, your engine should be free of water and ready to run again. It’s also a good idea to have your engine checked by a mechanic if you think there is water in it. They can help determine the extent of the damage and what needs to be done to fix it.


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