You could use alias to make `ls` always run `ls -color=always`
alias ls="ls --color=always"
.. or do you have either /etc/DIR_COLORS or ~/.dir_colors? Not sure if it's a distro thing or not but I have /etc/DIR_COLORS which is referenced in my ~/.bashrc file like so:
eval $(dircolors -b /etc/DIR_COLORS)
The dircolors app uses the file contents to create a shell variable and export it so ls always uses the color.