Clean Oil vs Dirty Oil: See Key Differences

Clean Oil vs Dirty Oil: See Key Differences — Oil plays a critical role in the overall performance of any vehicle but it is equally one of the most neglected.

It’s easy to focus on oil levels without paying attention to the condition or quality of the oil in your car.

Knowing the key difference between clean oil vs dirty oil can help you maximize the performance of your engine. In addition, it will help you understand how to get the best from the oil in your car.

Below are some key differences between clean oil and dirty oil and how it influences your car. 

Clean Oil vs Dirty Oil

Engine Performance Using Clean Oil vs Dirty Oil

Oil is engineered to lubricate automobile engines and bring contaminants to the filter.

As the oil gets older, it loses the ability to transport dirt away from the engine. This dirts get absorbed in the oil, making the oil dirty and ineffective. The lesser oil moves dirt away from the engine, the closer the engine gets to failure.

Clean oil has a better structure than dirty oil, and they perform better at removing debris from the engine unit. It helps the car engine to perform better with little interference from waste and sludge.

Test drives conducted between a car with old oil and a car with new oil show that the vehicle with clean oil performs better.

Cooling Effect of Clean vs. Dirty Engine Oil

Dirty oil loses its ability to cool due to structural changes over time.

As oil gets exposed to heat from the engine, it experiences oxidation, which changes the structure of the oil and reduces its ability to perform cooling functions in the engine.

Whereas clean oil maintains all the physical and chemical quality needed for thermal management in the car engine.

The longer oil stays in the engine, the lesser its capacity to cool the engine.

The Density of Clean vs. Dirty Engine Oil

Dirty oil is denser than clean oil. Traces of metals found in dirty oil increases its density. The effectiveness of the oil drops with an increase in density. Close observation of oil reveals that dirty oil is slightly heavier than clean oil.

One way to find out is to conduct the slide test.

This can be done by placing a flat smooth plank of about 6 ft. in a slant position against the floor.

Next, pour dirty oil and clean oil on the surface of the plank side-by-side. Place a plastic cork on the clean oil and another cork on the dirty surface. Allow the two corks to slide to the base of the oil.

You will discover that the cork on the clean oil gets to the base of the plank almost twice as fast as the cork on the dirty oil.

Clean Oil vs Dirty Oil

Visible Specks of Dirt in Clean Oil vs. Dirty Oil

Another key difference between clean vs. dirty engine oil is grains of metals and other particles present in them.

Spreading dirty oil on a clean paper towel will reveal some sediments present in the oil. Unless a new oil is produced under poor condition, clean oil should not have debris in it.

Specks of dirt in oil result from the activities of the engine. Friction in the moving part results in the wearing of engine parts, and the oil attracts the grains it generates.

The Viscosity of Clean Oil vs. Dirty Oil

The effectiveness of oil as a lubricant is determined by its viscosity. Due to its viscosity, oil robs on the surface of moving parts in the engine unit to reduce friction and lower heat use.

As oil ages, it undergoes structural changes. The age of oil, with its exposure to heat, decreases its viscosity. One of the key differences between clean oil and dirty engine oil is viscosity.

Due to its structure, clean oil has a higher viscosity than dirty oil.

The Lubricating Effect of Clean Oil vs. Dirty Oil

Oil in the engine of a car has accumulated debris with time because one of the functions of oil is to move contamination from the engine to the filter.

As time progresses and oil gets dirty, it begins to lose its ability to lubricate the surface. It accounts for the reason automakers always advise car owners to change the oil in their cars regularly.

The Appearance of Clean Oil vs. Dirty Oil

Dirty oil usually appears black.

The dark color of the oil is due to the presence of grits and its exposure to heat and smoke. In contrast, clean oil is usually translucent.

Even though brands of engine oil come in different colors, you will still be able to see through the oil in most cases.

Another way to explore the appearance of the two kinds of oil is to spread a thin film of each oil on a piece of paper towel. The dirty oil will remain black while the clean oil fades into the paper.

Transferring of Debris in Clean Oil vs. Dirty Oil

In most cases, dirty oil can not transfer dirt from the engine units efficiently.

It is because the volume of dirt present in the dirty oil is significantly high, thereby reducing its ability to pick up dirt. However, clean oil still has all the structural arrangements to attract and move debris from the engine to the filter.

FAQ About Clean Oil vs Dirty Oil

Below are some of the frequently asked questions and answers to the questions you may have about the key difference between clean and dirty engine oil. 

What does clean vs. dirty oil look like?

The physical appearance of dirty oil is predominantly black. However, clean oil varies in color. Most automakers stain their oil with specific colors to differentiate it from other oil available. However, most clean oil in the market is translucent. You can see through the oil when you put a small quantity in a transparent container.

How can you tell if oil is dirty?

The best way to find out is by conducting a routine check. Take some oil film and spread it on a clean paper towel. Allow it to dry up. You will see specks of dirt on the paper towel if the oil is dirty. And you can equally conduct the cork test to see the efficiency of the oil compared to clean oil.

What happens when engine oil is dirty?

Dirty oil has a detrimental effect on your car engine. Some of the dangers include a drop in engine performance, inability to remove contaminants from the engine, poor cooling effect on the engine, poor lubrication, and engine failure. Dirty engine oil has lost over 70% of its value.

Does dirty oil ruin your engine?

Yes. Owing to all the harmful effects of dirty oil, it could easily result in engine failure and weaken the performance of the engine over time. It is also important to mention that dirt from the engine circulates through the whole system of the automobile when the oil fails to remove contaminants from the engine.

Does dirty oil affect performance?

Yes. The engine in a test drive was conducted to compare the performance of a car using dirty oil and clean oil. The performance of the car running on dirty oil was lower than the performance of the car with clean oil.

How long can I drive with dirty oil?

As a matter of fact, you can drive your car for as long as you wish without changing the oil. However, the performance of the car would drop with time, and the life of the engine is considerably reduced. However, the recommended duration is 10,000 miles. Automakers have advised that the oil in the engine should be changed after 10,000 miles.

Can a new oil be dirty?

Depending on the make of the oil, new oil is not supposed to contain any trace of dirt. However, poorly produced oil may have harmful contents, making it also dirty. The best way to avoid falling victim to buying dirty oil at a premium is to purchase the kind of oil recommended by your automaker.

Wrap Up

There is no argument about the value of oil to your engine.

But dirty oil in the engine is more dangerous than not having oil. Even though the impact is not felt immediately, the long-term effect is detrimental.

As you continue to use the dirty oil in your engine, the engine’s performance drops, and it tends towards failure.

Changing the oil regularly and replacing it with clean oil improves performance and extends the engine’s life.

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