QUESTION - I have found a
chocolate brown emulsion on my engine's dipstick or the underside
of the valve cover. DO I have a cracked head?
ANSWER - It is unusual for
a cracked head of blown head gasket to open a passage between
the engine oil and coolant. It usually takes a crack in the engine
block. When this happens you get lots of steam coming out all
over. It is very noticeable. Or at least it was the one time it
happened to me.
Your most likely cause:
Hot air is less dense than cold air. This means that when an
engine is at operating temperature there are less molecules of
air inside the engine where the oil resides than when the engine
is cool. Hotter air can also carry more water vapor molecules
than cold air can.
As an engine cools, the air inside the engine block cools down
becoming denser. This creates a slight vacume. Air is drawn into
the engine block to equalize the air pressure.
If the air sucked inside the engine is moist and the engine gets
cold overnight a dew can deposit water from the air into the inside
surfaces of the engine.
If you drive the car long enough for the engine to come up to
full operating temperature the water vapor gets "burned" out of
If you do not drive the car long enough to "burn" the water out
of the engine during periods of high humidity when the nights
get cool you get a build up of moisture in the cooler parts of
the engine such as the valve cover and dip stick tube. This combines
with the oil to create a chocolate brown emulsion.
A normal product of engine combustion is water vapor. A little
gets forced through the rings from the combustion chamber aggravating
The additional water in the crank case will hasten the formation
of acids in the oil and you should change the oil and filter a
little more often. It will not cause immediate problems.
Basically you are looking at a normal condition that occurs during
certain weather conditions usually in cars that are driven short
distances. The appropriate response is to change the oil a little
more frequently and wipe the emulsion build up off the dipstick
to keep it from rusting.
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