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Eight Oil & Lube Warning Signs

You may be experiencing issues with your motor oil and other engine lubricants and not even know it. Ignoring these warning signs could put you and your car in danger down the road. Check the list below to see if your car or truck's fluids may need attention.

1. Thick Globs on the Dipstick

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New engine oil is golden brown. As it ages, it turns black from absorbing combustion byproducts and contaminants. That's to be expected. But if you check your oil and notice little globs on your dipstick, your engine could be developing some sludge - a thick, jellylike substance that can block oilways and lubrication channels.

2. Metal Flakes

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Tiny, almost microscopic metal flakes are not unusual in engine oil. But if you can rub the oil between your finger and thumb (wear latex gloves) and feel the metal flakes, something is severely wrong inside the engine. Get your car checked soon.

3. Fluid Leaks

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If you happen to see fluid leaking underneath your engine, there is something wrong with your car. Also, if you can see oil in the spark-plug wells and oil film on different parts of the engine, that isn't good either. Take your car to the auto service center nearest you to avoid further damage.

4. Gritty Dirt

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If you rub the oil between your finger and thumb and feel grit, it may be bits of carbon that aren't being filtered out properly. Your oil filter could be blocked or be overdue for a change.

5. Oil Warning Light

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Low oil pressure can severely damage your engine. Your warning light may come on for a few reasons: low oil level (you can verify this with your dipstick), a bad oil pump, or defective oil pressure. Either way, take your car to your local Pep Boys as soon as possible.

6. Transmission Problems

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If you start to notice your transmission is not shifting correctly or that your engine is making odd noises, this is a good indicator that something is wrong with your transmission fluid and its lubricity. Read our Signs of a Failing Transmission page to learn more.

7. Milky Oil

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You know how they say oil and water don't mix? When they get together in your car, they have a milky appearance, and there are only two ways this happens: a cracked engine block or a blown head gasket. A quick check is to open the oil filler cap and look inside; if it contains a creamy yogurt-like substance, get into the shop ASAP.

8. Consistently Low Oil

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If your oil level is always mysteriously low, it's leaking somewhere. If you see oil on the ground, then a gasket is leaking. If you start the engine on a cold morning and blue smoke comes out of the exhaust, it's likely a valve seal leak - oil is dripping into the engine and it burns off when you start the car. If you get blue smoke when the engine is hot, you may have a blown piston ring on your hands. This would mean that oil is burning in the combustion chamber.

If you have any of the warning signs above, be sure to make an appointment with your local auto service center as soon as possible. A small issue with your motor oil can quickly turn into a big issue with your engine, which can take a costly turn. If you are looking to learn more about engine warning signs, click here.