Motorcycle Engine Oil Color – Detailed Guide with Chart

Motorcycle Engine Oil Color

Different oil colors together can form a rainbow. No seriously. Except there would be lots of black and brown.

As time goes on, the engine oil in a motorcycle goes from amber to red to brown to black. And each color tells a different story.

So what do different engine oil colors mean?

Here is the quick guide on different engine oil colors:

Engine Oil ColorWhat It Means
Amber or yellowishOil is new
Brown or lighterOil is in good condition
Black or darkerOil is in bad condition
Green or white tingesCoolant is mixed with engine oil

This is the summary.

Let’s dive in detail on how the oil color changes, what different oil colors represent, and what action should you take.

Engine Oil Colors

Each engine oil color tells a different story.

One color can say the oil is new. While the other indicates oil is filled with sludge.

So to decode which color means what (this feels like valentines day rose colors ;)), let’s jump in.

Amber in color

New engine oil is usually amber in color.

Motor engine oil

When you change the oil in your motorcycle, this is what the color should look like. And will look like. Provided you have completely drained out the old engine oil.

Another addon. If the engine oil is amber, it is most likely the oil will look clean as well.

Both provide the cue that the oil is new.

Pouring engine oil into the motorcycle

If your motorcycle engine oil color is amber, you are one happy man. Or a woman.

The engine oil is new and in great condition. No worries at all.

Red or Brown in color

We are following the oil lifecycle here.

The engine oil goes from amber to red to brown in its lifecycle over time.

As time goes on, the engine oil in your motorcycle changes its color from amber to red, reddish-brown, or brown in color.

The change in color is simply because of the usage.

There is nothing to worry here as well. No cause for concern.

The reddish brown oil color is a sign that the oil is in good condition. And is working properly.

Few mechanics are of the opinion reddish-brown color oil is a bad thing. This color indicates lots of metal particles in the oil. And it’s time to change the oil.

I have to disagree.

Engine oil’s function is to lubricate the engine components. And cool them as well.

Engine oil draining

In the process, it is normal to have metal particles.

The reddish-brown color is a sign of a healthy engine oil for me. Lubricating the components and in good working condition.

Black or darker in color

Now is the time to worry.

A darker shade or outright black in color is a bad sign.

If the engine oil has turned black, it is in poor condition. And needs to be replaced with new oil asap.

Engin eoil - black in color

As for why the oil turns black, here are the reasons:

  1. The oil is in use for a long time. It hasn’t been replaced.
  2. The oil has too much dirt and sludge formation.
  3. The oil might be burnt.

Whatever the reason maybe, if the oil color is black – you need to change the oil.

Why is that?

Black-colored oil indicates high-level dirt contamination.

Drained engine oil

Most likely, the oil is filled with sludge.

As a result, the oil’s lubricating properties are pathetic now. Their viscosity had changed. They don’t carry heat well. And are just not in good working condition.

So, what do you need to do?

We have discussed this. Change the oil. ASAP.

Riding your motorcycle with such poor oil leads to engine overheating. Which in turn leads to all engine performance problems.

So, change the oil.

Frothy texture with white or green tinges

This is the last one. Yet the most concerning one.

The oil is frothy and milky in texture, along with white or green tinges in it.

Frothy engine oil
This pic is of car engine oil. But the point still remains. The oil is frothy in texture and is not in good working condition.

What does this mean?

This frothy texture in the oil can mean 2 things:

  • The engine oil is mixing with the coolant; or
  • The engine oil is mixed with water

The latter is easy to address. But the former one is a headache.

Let’s break this down.

If the frothy texture in oil also has white or green tinges, most possibly, there is a coolant leak.

How to confirm?

Check the coolant levels. If it is low, that confirms it. Coolant is leaking and mixing with the oil.

Another trick. Check the exhaust.

If the exhaust smoke is white and not the usual grey one, another cue that there is a coolant leak.

If not, i.e., the coolant levels are high and there is no white smoke but, the oil still has a frothy and milky texture – then somehow water is mixed with the engine oil.

Now, what’s the solution?

If it is just water, change the oil.

If it is coolant leak, change the oil AND check where the coolant is leaking.

Most likely, the cylinder head gasket is the culprit.

The gasket is damaged or worn out and is leaking the coolant. So address that as well by changing it. (Easier said than done. You need to take it to the dealer or a mechanic).

Engine oil color chart

Okay, I got the gist. Can you make this easier?

Easier you say?

Here is the engine oil color chart for your quick reference:

Engine oil color chart

How to check the oil color

Checking the oil color is easy. Here are the steps.

  • Park the motorcycle first. And idle the engine for 5 to 10 mins.
  • Next, allow the engine to cool down. A 15-minute time is enough.
  • Locate the oil gauge. Then, take out the dipstick.
A guy taking out oil dipstick from the motorcycle
  • Optional. If you prefer a thorough check, clean the dipstick. Then, place it back in the oil and take it out.
  • The dipstick has some oil. Apply that oil on a tissue or a piece of paper. Even on your hand works.
Checking engine oil from the dipstick
  • Now check the color of the oil.
  • We have already detailed this above. But here is the quick guide:
Engine Oil ColorWhat It Means
Amber or yellowishOil is new
Brown or lighterOil is in good condition
Black or darkerOil is in bad condition
Green or white tingesCoolant is mixed with engine oil

When to change the oil

The frequency of the oil change depends on the make of the motorcycle, the type of oil you use, how old the motorcycle is, what condition the motorcycle and engine are in, and how you use your motorcycle – for short rides, long rides, etc.

The major parameter, however, is the type of oil you are using in the motorcycle.

As a thumb rule, here is the recommended oil change frequency:

Type of OilFrequency of Oil Change
Mineral Oil2000 miles
Semi-Synthetic Oil5000 miles
Synthetic Oil8000 miles


What color should the motorcycle oil be?

Ideally, the motorcycle engine oil should be amber or yellowish-red. But red color works too. The oil is in good working condition.

So, from amber to red and the shades of color between these two, the oil is good.

How to know if the motorcycle oil is bad?

If the motorcycle oil color is black or frothy in texture with a white or green tinge – then the engine oil is bad.

In addition, you can also check the smell and feel. A burnt smell or too much stickiness in the oil are other indicators of bad oil.

Before you go…

Engine oil selection has lots of nuances. And one of them is which oil grade to pick.

To simplify the oil grading system, we have written a guide on engine oil grades. You can check it out here.