Water in engine oil. Causes, symptoms, and solutions

A significant danger to the internal combustion engine is the presence of water entering the vehicle’s engine oil. Moreover, this problem can arise regardless of the mileage and the car make and model.

It is quite obvious that in this case, it is important not only to diagnose the problem in time but also to determine the reason why water enters the engine crankcase and mixes with the oil.

What is the danger of water in engine oil?

The presence of water in the engine’s oil not only develops corrosion but also changes the composition of the oil. Protective properties no longer work, and the oil film loses its benefits. The consequences are bad for the engine. The liquid that forms from the mix turns into a whitish emulsion that clogs the channels and causes the piston rings to stick. At the same time, scuffs are formed on the rubbing pairs and cylinder walls are the first to suffer.

This emulsion will remain in the cavities. This will also mean that oil density increases and the fluidity is reduced. This will lead, sooner or later, to the need to repair the engine, especially those parts of it that are lubricated under pressure like the crankshaft, camshaft, piston pins.

The most dangerous case is when a small amount of moisture gets into the motor, and the driver may not be aware of this, because symptoms do not appear. In this case, the connecting rod deforms but remains functional. After a certain amount of miles, the engine can suddenly stall and cannot be recovered.

However, this case is rare, but you should not exclude it. 

Causes of water in car engine oil

1. Damage in the oil’s crankcase

Despite the fact that the parts inside the motor have good protection from external factors, they cannot always be protected from the effects of water, which penetrates into the car’s engine crankcase and into the lubrication system.

If for example, you drive on a snowy road, the engine’s crankcase will rot under the influences of these two natural factors, ice and snow. Things will speed up if on that road salt was used to melt the snow and ice because salt will corrode the material much faster.

Although the situation that I have presented above will have an effect in time, it is good to take this reason into account. That’s why it is always best to have an engine splash shied attached under the car. If you don’t have one, you should install a high-quality cover because it offers great protection.

2. A damaged cylinder head gasket

This problem is more often present in old cars due to high mileage, or when the cylinder head surface is deformed due to overheating. We should also take into account an incorrect installation, after a repair for example, and, also, the poor quality of the gasket itself.

3. Low-quality oil

There are many drivers that have a bad habit of buying low-quality oil for the engine that is obviously cheap in an attempt to save money. These oils not only do not meet the requirements but also contain a certain percentage of moisture, due to improper storage. High-quality, expensive oil does not contain moisture particles.

4. Crankshaft malfunctions

Defects related to the low level of oil in the engine or its poor quality, which will cause the pistons to hit the cylinder head, and malfunctions due to the operation of the internal combustion engine under heavy load, and the penetration of metal particles into the oil.

5. Cracks in the cooling system

This problem can be due to engine overheating, cylinder block defects, engine coolant is not replaced in time, the wrong or low-quality coolant is used, high detonation loads, external mechanical damage.

6. Driving through a deep puddle

Encountering a deep puddle on the road is risky, especially id the driver is careless and passes through it at high speed.

Symptoms of water in engine oil

To determine if the engine has water in it you should check the following symptoms:

  • White smoke coming out from the exhaust,
  • The engine consumes more fuel and loses in dynamics, 
  • In the event of a damaged cylinder head gasket or problems with the cylinder head, the level of antifreeze decreases, and the operating temperature of the internal combustion engine exceeds the optimal operating temperature, the arrow from the gauge goes into the red zone. 
  • The color and consistency of the oil will change. 
  • If water gets into the oil, there is a white emulsion on the dipstick.

How to get rid of the water in the engine?

If you notice any of the symptoms above, act quickly because the problem could get serious fast. There are some solutions for this.

If both oil and coolant have changed color and consistency, they must be replaced. This is the only way to completely remove water from the engine. But do not rush to fill in good liquids right away. It is important to flush the engine and the cooling system thoroughly.

There are some specialized flushing fluids. But I would recommend going to a specialized workshop because this engine overhaul operation is a bit complicated. After flushing, moisture will be completely removed from the system.

If, after passing through a deep puddle, and the car suddenly stalled, you should not try to start it again. There is a risk that there is water in one of the cylinders. In this case, open the hood and inspect which parts have gotten wet. It is important to dry the ignition system.

It is necessary to remove the spark plugs and coils, allow them to dry. It is recommended to check and dry the air filter as well as the connection. Blow out the with compressed air, the places where the spark plugs connect.

This seems complicated, and the majority of the drivers don’t have the necessary tools and skills, so I would advise you to tow the car to the repair shop.


If the engine has water in it, do not panic. At the slightest suspicion, it is important not to start the engine and to completely dry out the moisture .By additionally flushing the engine and cooling system, damage to the internal combustion engine can be excluded. And in order not to face a problem at all, it is necessary to carefully avoid water obstacles, monitor the condition of the oil, and crankcase.

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