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Why Does My Oil Look Like This?
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Love My Westy
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 11:53 am    Post subject: Why Does My Oil Look Like This? Reply with quote

I just got my Westy out of the garage after it has been stored all winter. When I drained the oil, it came out light brown and very thin. It appears to have water in it, but I have checked the coolant tanks and they appear normal.

When I put the Van away at the beginning of November I used Valvoline 10-30 just like I always do. I did not notice any problem with the oil I drained out at that time. The motor was run to warm it up and charge the batteries in December and January and then when I got back from Baja at the end of March.
I would also warm it up anytime I needed to move it out of the garage to do other things, letting it run until the temp gauge says it is warm.

This is what it looks like:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

I am planning on Syncro Solstice and we are planning on leaving on Sunday, but I don't know whether to drive the van or not.

I just talked to a friend of mine who is a very qualified mechanic, and he suggested I put new oil in it and drive it for a half hour and then check it, and if it looks ok, drive it for a couple of hours and check it again.

I'm going to try that.
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rsxsr Premium Member
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd say the most common point of failure is the heat exchanger above the oil filter. They can fail internally. Any oil in the coolant tank? It would float to the top of the tank. I suppose if it had a slight coolant leak in the cylinder head area, coolant could weap into the oil sitting all winter. Probably your plan is reasonable. Get some fresh oil in there and get out and get some temp into it. I'd want to be sure though before I headed out on a trip.
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dobryan
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Running it until the coolant temp gauge says it is warm may not be enough to heat the oil up long enough to drive off any moisture. Did you take it out for a 15-30 minute drive or leave it idling to warm it up?
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Love My Westy
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 12:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just left it idling. It's not insured in the winter so I don't take it out.
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hans j
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah it's hard to say how much moisture is in the oil with the photo. I've seen it a LOT worse. Check your coolant levels before you go out and drive it. New oil will definitely help as well as putting some load on it to heat it up. Try a run up Emigration Canyon and see what it looks like afterwards.

Most head gasket leaks I see are external, and heat exchangers typically leak oil into the coolant as it has higher pressures. Try some new oil and see what it tells you in a few miles. Idling isn't enough to burn off moisture and might create more due to just a slight difference in temperature inside the block.
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dobryan
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 2:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love My Westy wrote:
I just left it idling. It's not insured in the winter so I don't take it out.


That's likely the issue. You'll do more harm just letting it idle than not starting it at all. The exhaust won't really get hot and the condensation from running will sit in the exhaust and rust out internally, the oil will not get hot and will hold moisture, etc. If you must start it then the best thing to do is to drive it to get everything up to operating temps. Otherwise try to leave it alone, disconnect the battery or keep it on a tender.

I have a '77 911 that I don't drive in the winter, but if I need to move it to get access to my lift I try to drive it for at least 15 minutes to get it warmed up. Same philosophy.

I'm guessing your new oil will be fine... Very Happy
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Merian
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 2:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

avoid idling any car for long periods

in winter, either let it sit or drive it until it warms up AND then another 1/2 hour
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dobryan
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Merian wrote:
avoid idling any car for long periods

in winter, either let it sit or drive it until it warms up AND then another 1/2 hour


JINX! Very Happy
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kamzcab86
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dobryan wrote:
You'll do more harm just letting it idle than not starting it at all. The exhaust won't really get hot and the condensation from running will sit in the exhaust and rust out internally, the oil will not get hot and will hold moisture, etc. If you must start it then the best thing to do is to drive it to get everything up to operating temps.


Now, granted I live in dry AZ, but when my Cabriolet sits for extended periods (the only car in the fleet that does), I go out to the garage, start her up and run her up to operating temp (that is, oil to at least 80C on the VDO gauge and the cooling fan has cycled on/off). In doing so, I don't just start the engine and walk away; I sit in the driver's seat and vary the rpm (up to around 3000), essentially mimicking a drive around the 'hood. I've never had an issue when doing this.
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Wildthings
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 3:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will throw my weight behind the idea of not starting your engine during the winter at all if you aren't going to take it out on the road and work it. Every second the engine runs until the oil gets to at least 160F means that water is accumulating in the oil, it then takes time to drive this water off and clear it from the engine.

I don't know where the idea of needing to start an engine from time to time especially during the winter came from, but I have been fighting it for as long as I have been involved with engines.

I would like to find a source for a small, say 10 Watt, magnetic heater to attach to the drain plug. This would keep a long sitting engine slightly above ambient and should keep it that much drier inside.
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Love My Westy
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is the first time I've experienced this since it was new back in '86. I've always done just about the same thing all 28 years. Maybe I'm just lucky I haven't had the problem before.
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dobryan
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fingers crossed for you.
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Merian
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wildthings wrote:

I would like to find a source for a small, say 10 Watt, magnetic heater to attach to the drain plug. This would keep a long sitting engine slightly above ambient and should keep it that much drier inside.


I don't worry about keeping it dry - and that would only be an issue if the air has much moisture in it AND drops below the dew point.

But, if I want to start a high value (non-VW boxer design...) motor in the cold, I just put a heating pad under it sitting on foam. If industrious, I put foam around the sides ot wall in the heat.
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Wildthings
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Merian wrote:
I don't worry about keeping it dry - and that would only be an issue if the air has much moisture in it AND drops below the dew point.


If the engine is in a heated area then all would be fine, in an unheated area the engine temp will drop to ambient during a cold spell and then when the weather warms the engine may now be below the new dew point. I see this all the time in my unheated storage area. The concrete slab cools down and then the weather warms and the slab ends up looking like it has been rained on and any heavy metal object in the area is also dripping with condensation.
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Love My Westy
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hans j wrote:
Yeah it's hard to say how much moisture is in the oil with the photo. I've seen it a LOT worse. Check your coolant levels before you go out and drive it. New oil will definitely help as well as putting some load on it to heat it up. Try a run up Emigration Canyon and see what it looks like afterwards.



I drove it up the canyon and back (24 miles) and it seems to run great. No loss of power or anything like that. I also marked the water level. I used Castrol 20-50 oil. When I got back I checked the dipstick and could see no problem. The coolant in the overflow seems to have dropped maybe a little less than 1/8".
The coolant reservoir remains the same.

Do I need to drop the oil again and see if it is cloudy? I'll try driving it tomorrow for a couple of hours before I drop the oil if that is what is recommended.
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hans j
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You could just drop a cup of oil out and put the drain plug back in while it's draining. Not much to lose that way. Put some more miles on it too. You will usually be able to see the mud color return on the dipstick.
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Wildthings
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love My Westy wrote:
Do I need to drop the oil again and see if it is cloudy? I'll try driving it tomorrow for a couple of hours before I drop the oil if that is what is recommended.


If its just water, then I don't see the need to change it again as the little remaining water will evaporate out of your hot oil. If its an antifreeze mix then you need to find the source, fix it, and change the oil again to boot.
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Merian
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wildthings wrote:
Merian wrote:
I don't worry about keeping it dry - and that would only be an issue if the air has much moisture in it AND drops below the dew point.


If the engine is in a heated area then all would be fine, in an unheated area the engine temp will drop to ambient during a cold spell and then when the weather warms the engine may now be below the new dew point. I see this all the time in my unheated storage area. The concrete slab cools down and then the weather warms and the slab ends up looking like it has been rained on and any heavy metal object in the area is also dripping with condensation.


maybe - a full analysis would need to consider the thermal mass of the engine and of the microclimate the engine sits in - the compartment and a garage, etc. - as we say in the biz, it is a "non-trivial exercise"
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Merian
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hans j wrote:
You could just drop a cup of oil out and put the drain plug back in while it's draining. Not much to lose that way. Put some more miles on it too. You will usually be able to see the mud color return on the dipstick.


that's what I'd do also

you DO need to find out if any antifreeze is in there, as that might mean a rebuild is needed (but maybe just the heat exchanger as noted above)

an oil testing lab can likely tell you this
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hans j
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And this is one of the best places to get it done: http://www.blackstone-labs.com/
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