Does this oil color look okay?

I did the oil change in my 06 Corolla. It’s a great car with 185k miles. Never had an issue with it and always do regular maintenance (tranny fluid, oil, coolant etc). When I removed the drain plug, the oil was a brown color. It wasn’t frothy or anything. When I put some on my finger it didn’t look as brown. Is this normal?

No, brown is not good. That can indicate water in the oil. From where? Depends on your answers;

Are you needing to add coolant regularly? Have you short tripped this car a lot and not changed the oil in a long while?


Shoot, I forgot to video my last oil change. Did the expected amount drain out? Did you get 4 qts? Approx?
Duh, I don’t care how much you added at oil change. How much did you drain?

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Let the car sit overnight to cool down. Remove the radiator cap. Start the car and see if there are bubbles in the coolant. If so, you likely have a head gasket leak. It might help to have a friend with you to start the car or look at the radiator as the car starts up.


Car has been short tripped everywhere since the last oil change. I haven’t driven the car more than 5 miles at once in a very long time. I don’t exactly know how long it has been since the last change. It was about 4k miles since but it was over a year ago at least

Yes. I had to fill the car with the normal amount (4.6qt)

Ok I can give this a try! Head gaskets have never been done in this car

As a short trip only driver, you should be changing the oil every 6 months, even if you haven’t driven a whole lot of miles. The conditions to which you are subjecting your engine qualify as “severe service”–i.e., the worst thing for the engine as a result of the accumulation of water vapor in the oil. Water vapor is a normal byproduct of combustion, so it is automatically produced when the engine is operated.

Someone who wants to keep his engine in good condition will try to prevent that water vapor from staying long term in the motor oil, because water isn’t a lubricant, plus running the engine with badly water-contaminated oil leads to the build-up of damaging oil sludge in the tiny oil galleries of the engine, and the result is… not good. :grimacing:

In addition to changing your oil more often, you should make it your business to take the car out on the highway once a week for a drive of 30 minutes–or more–in order to “cook off” the water that is accumulating in your oil.

Additionally, I strongly suggest that you clean (or replace) the PCV valve and the hose that leads to it.


That builds up condensation in the oil… that is what you are seeing in the brown color.

You are seeing brown because EVERY manufacturer and oil company recommend you change your oil every XXXX miles OR XX months whichever comes FIRST. There is always a time specified. You went beyond a year so you see the results. It is very hard on your engine’s life. So stop doing that.

Since you take such short trips, I’d suggest you change oil every 6 months no matter what the mileage is. If you use full synthetic oil, 12 months should be OK if you take the car on a longer trip (20 minutes or more) at least once a month.

edit: @VDCdriver just beat me to the post!


Why would they? They only get replaced if they fail.


Thank you for your thourough answer. I normally do the oil every 6 months but this past year was different. I will try to take it on longer drives this time around. Also what would a pcv valve replace help in this case?

There is no reason to throw parts at this car. Not a pcv, not a head gasket. There is NO reason to beleive either is an issue.

Just change your oil more frequently and take it on a longer drive once in a while.

Would a sevenal hour highway trip in this car have caused the oil to turn back to the proper color?

I agree with not throwing parts at it, but–at the very least–the OP should give the PCV valve the “shake test”.
If he does decide to replace the PCV, at least it will probably cost him less than $9.

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My opinion, somewhere in the middle:
Do the next oil change early, 3 months, to remove the remnants of the brown goop.
Pull the PCV valve and clean it out with carb cleaner or similar solvent.
Check that the PCV hose is clear of gunk.
Take a 20-30 minute highway drive once a month.

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A shake test would be to make sure it still rattles inside right?

That is correct.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that exact light-brown color, but something close to that is pretty normal when I drain oil out. My car’s oil tends to go from clear, to amber, to dark brown, to black.

I’m guessing @Mustangman is correct, there’s water in the oil that is coming from water from the combustion process which is condensing in the oil. This happens in all cars, but the water evaporates out with higher engine temperatures. Your driving style apparently is preventing those temperature from occurring frequently enough. I had a problem with water accumulating in my Corolla’s exhaust system over the past 3 years since it has been off the road and only drive-way idled due to Covid-related complications. To address this problem I turned the vehicle around so the exhaust system was pointed downhill, and starting idling the engine weekly at 1500 rpm for 15-20 minutes rather than monthly at 800 rpm for 5 minutes. It worked for me, no more water in the exhaust system…

I had a 61 Dodge with a V8. I drove 1 and one half miles to work, one mile to church and 2 miles to the grocery store. I changed the oil when it got 1 quart overfull and the exhaust system every year.

Maybe a good idea but my Accords ‘Maintenance Minder’ firmware was willing to let me go much longer than a year and more than 6 months with only a trip of less than 6 miles stop and go. I had a dealer clerk tell me that the Maintenance Minder was what to go by and I did not need an oil change(maybe an undertrained clerk of course)

But I will pose a hopefully on topic question: My GF has a 2010 Corolla and really does not go anywhere with it. I can not drive it for a trip because she will not allow me to adjust the side view mirrors. Will letting it idle for a half hour (or more) be better than nothing?
I wish I had read the Synth oil advice before her inspection this month.