What Color Should Oil Be On Dipstick? (All You Need to Know)

The engine oil plays an essential part in the performance of every vehicle. Thus, it’s one of the components every driver should always check. Aside from having the proper amount, the color of the oil is another thing to consider. Essentially, the color tells some crucial things about your engine.

So, you may ask: What color should oil be on dipstick? In general, the oil color tells the cleanliness and efficiency of engine oil. Golden or amber color signifies that the oil is fresh, clean, and doesn’t need changing. On the other hand, a black or dark-colored oil indicates a dirty oil that needs changing.

The color of the oil tells quite a lot about the performance and maintenance needs of your car. The great thing is, you can check it through your dipstick. Not only does this tool measure the amount of oil. It also tells when it’s time to change the oil or not.

In this article, we’ll give you an in-depth explanation of the oil color. This way, you can understand it better and know what to do about it.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

What Color Should Oil Be On Dipstick

What Should Oil Look Like on a Dipstick?

As I said earlier, the engine oil isn’t just about the proper amount. It also needs to change from time to time.

The engine’s oil works are subject to many particles, making it dirty and inefficient.

If you continue running your engine on dirty oil, it can be a doorway to many issues.

For this reason, you need to maintain a good oil by changing it every time it gets dirty. Now, the question is, what should oil look like on a dipstick?

As a general rule of thumb, the oil on a dipstick should look like a fresh and new one. In short, a clean oil would look like a translucent amber.

Thus, whenever you use your dipstick, observe the changes in the color of the oil.

Once it gets too dark, almost black, it would be the sign that you need an oil change service.

What Color Oil Is Bad?

While there exist different shades of color in engine oils, the only thing you need to remember is two things.

A clear, golden, or amber oil means the oil is fresh, clean, and needs no changing. On the other hand, you can tell the oil color is bad when it’s dark, foamy, or nearly black.

A dark, thick, or foamy oil is an effect of being dirty. If your engine continues to run with such dirty oil, it may cause damage in the long run.

With this in mind, always remember to stay vigilant and check your oil color regularly.

The reason is that oil color doesn’t change immediately. It would be best to check it at least once a month.

Another thing to note is that oil colors can tell problems. Thus, you must know which one indicates an issue.

For instance, it can happen that the oil would turn into something milky, foamy, or cream-like.

If it happens on your car’s oil, it can be a sign of a gasket leak. Such an instance would be more likely if you see white smoke in your exhaust. Another sign is when your vehicle is losing coolant.

Another bad color would be the thick-textured dark oil. Such kinds of oil usually mean it’s too dirty with contaminants.

What Color Should Oil Be After an Oil Change?

After an oil change service, the color of your oil should be a fresh, clean, amber color. In short, it should be clear if you would test it out with your dipstick.

Now, you may wonder how frequently should you go for an oil change service. The answer to that question depends on the kind of oil you get and the engine you have.

In the past, a change oil is necessary once your vehicle runs for 3000 miles. However, with modern lubricants, the change can be after 5000-7000 miles.

Now, if your car’s engine runs with full-synthetic motor oil, it can go as far as 15000 miles before it needs changing.

Still, the best way to know is when the oil in your engine starts to darken.

If your oil darkens more frequently, then you might want to have it checked.

Dipstick Engine Oil Color Chart

As I said earlier, the engine oil can change its color as time passes with all the engine’s work.

Below, you’ll see a dipstick engine oil color chart. This chart will give you an idea of the colors your oil will likely transform in time.

In general, it will take months and thousands of mileage before the oil changes into darker shades.

Still, it’s crucial to maintain your car’s good condition by checking the color at least once a month.

This way, you can keep your engine in excellent condition. It will also help you avoid the problems caused by dirty oil.


In a nutshell, oil color tells quite a lot about both the health and performance of your engine. A golden or amber-colored oil is a sign of clean oil.

On the other hand, a dark and thick oil is a sign of a dirty and contaminated oil that needs changing. Moreover, a cream-like or milky textured oil indicates significant problems which need repairs.

It’s essential to understand how crucial it is to maintain the clean oil in your engine.

As a general rule of thumb, take it to maintain your vehicle’s excellent health and performance.



Image credits – Canva

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My name is Hank, and I've been in the automotive industry for 27 years. I've been working in my own auto repair shop for the last 13 years, and now I want to help you here, on my blog. Let me know if you have any questions. Read more