What happens when coolant leaks into engine oil?
When coolant leaks into engine oil, it can reduce the viscosity or thickness of the engine oil. This will result in reduced lubrication, which in turn will increase wear and tear of the engine components. It can lead to loss of engine power, which can lead to severe engine damage.
Coolant is the fluid in your engine that keeps the whole system from getting overheated. Coolant is extremely important because an overheated engine can mean disaster on many fronts and can cause lots of damage to the internal parts of the vehicle. Coolant contains a substance called antifreeze, which is what helps keep the engine cool.
Apart from this, coolant leakage generally indicates other issues in the engine, which caused the leak in the first place. Thus, once coolant is noticed in the oil, you must find the real cause of the issue and replace or repair the damaged engine components immediately, otherwise it could lead to major engine issues or a complete engine failure.
What causes coolant to mix with engine oil?
There are a lot of different issues that can cause coolant to leak into the engine oil.
A cracked or blown gasket is the most common cause of this issue. Apart from this, cracks on the oil cooler, leaky gasket heads, damaged engine block can also cause coolant to leak into oil.
Overheating of the engine often causes damage to the gasket and engine block, which then leads to coolant leaks. In most cases, there are some other symptoms too, that can indicate the cause of the leak.
For instance, blown gaskets lead to white smoke being emitted from the tailpipe. You should check all symptoms of the car to determine what has caused the coolant to leak into the engine oil.
How do I know that there is a coolant leak?
There are certain symptoms to look out for to figure out whether or not there is a coolant leak mixing with the engine oil. The coolant levels are the first hint.
If you notice coolant level drops, but can’t find any outside leaks or exhaust pipe drips, then chances are that the coolant is leaking internally, into the engine oil.
If you notice this, you should check the oil level to see if the oil is getting into the crankcase. Another warning sign could be the smell of the oil. When you check your engine oil levels with a dipstick, take it out and inhale the smell.
Antifreeze, when mixed with oil, gives a sweet smell that is noticeable. If the dipstick smells sweet, then it is a sure fire sign that coolant has mixed with the oil.
Apart from this, the colour of the engine oil is also a good indicator. When you check your oil with the dipstick, examine the colour of the oil. When coolant mixes with oil, it gives the oil a milky colour, which means you have a coolant leak on hand.
How do I fix coolant leaks?
As mentioned earlier, coolant leaks are generally symptomatic of leaky or blown gaskets, overheating of the engine or engine block damage. In most of these cases, there is no option but to seek professional help to fix the issue.
If you see that coolant has been mixing with your engine oil, it is best to look for other signs of damage and first determine the exact cause. You should take your car to a mechanic shop and ask for the damaged parts to be replaced as soon as possible.
Once the damage is fixed, you would also need to replace the engine oil since it has been contaminated.
Can you drive a car with coolant in the oil?
Coolant and engine oil have completely separate functions in a car. Coolant is meant to prevent the engine from overheating and the engine oil is supposed to protect and lubricate the engine.
Since they have such differing functions, the components of the coolant and engine oil are very different too. This is why oil and coolant have separate compartments in the car and they should never mix.
If you notice oil and coolant mixing, you should take the car to the mechanic shop at once. Driving with coolant in oil will cause damage to the engine and would lead to more expensive engine repair later on, or even complete engine replacement. Hence, you should never drive with coolant in the oil.