Oil or Chocolate Milk?

When draining oil for an oil change, I noticed that it has a dark brownish orange color with swirls, and greenish yellow deposits on the bottom of the drip pan. The oil doesn’t smell like gasoline, and the coolant doesn’t seem to be down. But could this still be coolant in the oil, meaning a leaking head gasket? The car is a 95 Olds Achieva 2.3 liter quad 4 engine.

Gasoline in the oil will normally be evaporated when the engine reaches it’s normal operating temperature. If you have not been adding coolant, keep an eye on it by cheking for the cholate milk on the dipstick. I really don’t think you have a problem right now IF it is not using coolant.

“Gasoline in the oil will normally be evaporated when the engine reaches it’s normal operating temperature?” Go back to whatever planet you came from. We have enough idiots here! Think about it. What happens to that evaporated gas after the engine cools down again? Yep, it turns back into a slightly more liquid form because it is in a sealed environment and drips right back into the oil along with new by-passed gas. If you don’t smell gas in the oil, it ain’t there to begin with.
You need to consider who changed your oil the last time, and what kind of oil did they use? Synthetic or standard. For that matter, what kind of oil did you put into the system since the last oil change? Was it different then what was previously put in?
Look, there are too many factors here to consider. Like what residual liquids did you have in the container you caught the old oil in? Are you consistently putting antifreeze/water mixture into the radiator (Or is another driver of the car adding oil or water that you don’t know about)? The other questionable factor is obvious. Were you sure you knew what you were doing when you bought a GM product?
If you aren’t routinely topping off your radiator, and you don’t smell gas in the oil, you don’t have much to worry about.
Also and ultimately, why are you keeping this GM liability on your pocket book? My wife talked me into buying her an Olds Bravada. It has 95,000 miles on it and it sounds like it is getting ready to pitch a connecting rod. I’ve replaced water pumps, two head gaskets, several water temperature sending units, been through three sets of ball joints, and various interior comfort gadgets. My Explorer has 225,000 miles on it and I’ve only replaced oil, batteries, and tires. Do yourself a favor and trade that heap in for a Ford. GM hasn’t made anything worthy of their prices since the 60’s.

Don’t hold back, Norm. Tell us how you really feel about GM!

Unless gasoline is contantly being added to the oil, gasoline in the oil will evaporate as Wizard says. It will vaporize and be drawn through the PCV valve where it will then be burned in the engine.
My feeling is that this could be a coolant dilution problem. It does not take much coolant to cause a problem like this either; a measly cup could do it.

If the vehicle were mine I would consider getting a cooling system pressure test performed.
I’d also like to know the story behind all of the repairs on the Bravada. Chronic repairs of the same problem usually points to the the repairer being at fault.

If one bought ball joints from NAPA, O’Reillys, etc. and they failed repeatedly then how is this GM’s fault? Some say that Ford Explorer ball joints must be replaced every 25-30k miles so how did you get so lucky with this one?

Most certainly, ok. Small amounts of gasoline will vaporize and get vented to the intake on all cars built in the past 40 years. And a few ounces of glycol and water will cause crankcase oil to froth and quickly trash any engine. Quad-4s are notorious for such failures.

I have had good luck with many makes of cars, certainly Fords and General Motors among them. And the 3.8L GM engine is as bullet proof as the 3.8L Ford engine is looking for a place to die. But then, there was that Vega 4 and the Ford 4.9.

Like was mentioned, keep an eye for coolant loss and a light brown ‘sludge’ on the bottom of the oil filler cap.

You MAY have the start of a failing intake manifold gasket and not a head gasket.

Now, a word for the obnoxious poster named beefy norm.

Posters come here to ask for help with a wide variety of vehicles.

As with the majority who post, there are sometimes strange questions/statements within the post. This is usually due to a misrepresentation or belief of vehicle symptoms or perhaps simply a case of the jitters.

Saying things like you did does not help anyone here, so speaking on behalf of the poster and our cast of forum regulars, I would ask you to refrain from verbally abusing any posters.

Thank you and by all means, enjoy the forum. We try to keep things light around here.

I’ve had 3 Ford products and all of them had serious problems well before 100,000 miles. Fords stink. I’ve had 6 GM products and all of them have performed admirably for me. GM rules. Everyone has their own experiences Norm, don’t think that yours are basic truths of life.

How does the dipstick look? Can you see/feel inside the valve cover for the “frothy” chocolate milk substance? I’d wipe the dipstick clean and check it a few times both before and after running the engine for the froth. I’d also stick my finger inside the valve cover(engine OFF) and swipe it around and then look at it for the same stuff. Most times . . . this indicates coolant in the oil from a broken seal . . . like a head gasket, (could be other seals though) oil mixing with coolant, or more correctly coolant getting into the oil. I don’t know about the Quad engine specifically . . but most times this must be dealt with right away or more serious stuff will happen rather quickly. Good luck! Rocketman

Greenish yellow sounds like (looks like) the color of anti-freeze and the bottom is where the watery stuff wants to go. The overall color of the oil means a lot. You don’t have to have a blown head gasket to get that color. A stuck PCV will do the same thing. The quad four has a lot of power and will go quite a while even with a blown head gasket. The one quad four that had that problem did have a blown head gasket. At least you can get the gasket kit anywhere. Sounds like a project. If not for the powerful engine, I would say to move on to your next car. That engine was the last excitement that GM had after Saturn fizzled out.

Had the car at a GM dealer today. Showed them some of the oil I think is contaminated. They say the oil is normal. I want to take it elsewhere and get more opinions. I’ve never, in my 42 years of driving, seen oil that wasn’t black when it was changed except the time a boat I had took on water, and oil in the inboard engine was a shade of brown, but lighter if I remember correctly from 10-1/2 years ago. I am wondering if some ingredient in coolant may have been able to mix with the oil, in the Acheiva, and turn the color brown; isn’t Glycol a petroleum derivative? I live about a mile from an oil refinery, and sometimes I smell that Glycol smell coming from there. Just speculation, about coolant altering the color of oil.

You definitely have water in the oil. That is true.

Ditto to the beefy norm comments.

I’m sorry, I forgot to mention that the dealer said it passed a cooling system pressure check. And that this is my mother’s car, and she mainly only drives short stop and go trips. The oil doesn’t get much wear between changes, so as a rule I change it every few months, or rather the owner’s manual says I’m supposed to change it that often, or after 3,000 miles. I had changed it last October, after low miles driven, so it wouldn’t have to be black as fully tenured oil is. But I just can’t remember the oil being that shade of brown, or seeing the yellow green deposit in the bottom of a drain pan before. Maybe water from the bumper dripped into the pan, I don’t remember if there was water on the car from any melted snow or not. But thanks for all the comments and advice, gentlemen.

good and tight

now that the furor over the initil comments have died down…

next time you have a chance, look under the car for the tell tale green drips, (typically from the water pump) it would only take a couple of drips (while you were draining the oil) to accumulate. since the water/antifreeze was not blended well with the oil, and stayed seperate in the pan i would not suspect it was from a head gasket.

sounds like just draining together at the end.

Thanks, cappy, I’ll do that. I have smelled coolant after the car has been driven. I had a problem a few years ago with the thermostat gasket leaking, after a coolant flush and fill. No matter how carefully I installed the new stat and gasket, I could not get it to stop leaking slightly. I finally surrendered and put in stop-leak type stuff and the leak stopped, at least for a while. I don’t think it would have dripped that much into the drain pan though, if the pan was directly under the stat location. But I’ll check around under there.

No coolant on floor under water pump or stat location. Don’t know how that small pile of yellow green sediment got at the bottom of oil drain pan. No more can be done to check into this concern, it seems. But I’ve started keeping an eye on coolant level, and had noticed shortly after bringing the car back from the dealer that they added coolant, overfilling the expansion tank. When the engine is completely cooled down for a long time, the coolant level is way above the “Full Cold” mark. This is frustrating! Shouldn’t we expect the qualified, trained professional technicians to do things right?