Motor oil can develop into sludge faster than you may think. Sludge is a dark and thick mixture of oil and dirt that is formed by oxidation and contamination of the engine oil. It can affect engine efficiency by reducing its ability to lubricate moving parts effectively and cause major damage to your car when not cleared out immediately.
It may seem that oil sludge is an inevitable problem for all car owners but, it’s not impossible to avoid. In fact, it can easily be dealt with and removed from your engine by simply increasing the frequency of your oil changes.
Table of Contents
- The Importance Of Regular Oil Changes
- What Is Oil Sludge?
- What Does Sludge Do To An Engine?
- What Causes Engine Sludge To Develop?
- How To Remove Engine Sludge
- How To Prevent Sludge From Developing
The Importance Of Regular Oil Changes
Regular oil changing is a must to keep your engine’s internals clean. Changing your car’s oil removes all excess debris created by the friction of your engine running and allows for maximum lubrication at all times. A well-lubricated engine means fewer restrictions on moving parts, allowing them to work at their peak efficiency.
What Is Oil Sludge?
Sludge is no doubt one of the most common and stubborn problems of many car owners. Hence, it’s important to understand what it actually is. Sludge is a semi-solid gel-like substance that appears in engine oil when it breaks down and becomes contaminated.
What Does Sludge Do To An Engine?
The Engine in your car is a highly complex and precise machine. It has tight tolerances and requires exact amounts of inputs to achieve maximum outputs, and engine oil is vital to that process. The thickness and viscosity of oil are measured in weights. Think of that label on oil quarts that says 10w-20 or 5w-30.
Your engine requires a certain oil type, amount, and weight to perform optimally. Sludge is a thick contaminant that reduces the amount and viscosity of your oil.
Constricts Oil’s Ability To Lubricate Engine Internals Effectively
When the oil develops into a sludge, it loses its lubricating quality which is essential for internal engine components to work properly.
Oil sludge first appears on top of the engine and spreads through the valve cover and other internal parts of the engine. It can also cause blockage on the siphon and block oil from circulating through the engine.
The lack of lubrication caused by oil sludge hinders and slows down the smooth circulation of oil throughout the engine parts. The reduced oil circulation can increase friction and prevent your engine to cool down. When this happens, overheating is very likely to take place. All moving parts of your engine will also be affected and become more susceptible to wearing out faster.
What Causes Engine Sludge To Develop?
There are a couple of reasons why sludge can develop in your engine. Although each reason may be different, it is in my experience that it’s usually a combination of them that takes place for most people.
Oil Breaks Down From Prolonged Usage
When oil is used for a long time, it will break down or deteriorate in quality due to the heat and pressure from combustion cycles. Improper maintenance and cooling can also lead to moisture accumulation in oil further reducing its ability to lubricate your vehicle’s engine effectively.
When the oil breaks down, its chemical composition and additives transform creating solids that often build up. The solids force the oil to become thicker and in turn, lose its lubricating ability resulting in a more abrasive texture and further accumulation of dirt. As this process progresses, the sludge becomes thicker and more destructive
The longer you keep sludge, the more pressure you put onto your engine. In addition to overworking your engine, sludge can also result in increased oil consumption and even permanent damage to your pistons, rods, and bearings.
Inferior Quality Oil
Using cheap and low-quality oil is a recipe for disaster. Inferior quality oils oxidize and break down faster resulting in improper lubrication and contaminant accumulation.
Cheap oils can cause other problems like gel-ing in cold weather. Gel-ling is when oil reaches a temperature beyond what it can handle and becomes a gel similar to sludge and can’t lubricate the engine.
I personally use Valvoline products in all my vehicles, they’ve been around forever and offer a great quality product, usually at the most attractive price. They offer oil change services too!
Whichever brand of product you do choose make sure it’s something you’ve researched to be a quality brand. Cheapest isn’t always the best, especially when it comes to engine oil.
Inferior Quality Filters
To put it simply not all engine filters are created equal. Ideally, you want a filter that has more layers of filtration (more paper ridges for the oil to filter through) with solid metal construction.
If you can’t tell whether or not you have a good filter just stick to buying OEM parts. This insures that you get a quality part that was designed to do the job properly. For an idea of how different filters can be just check out this video from Nate’s interactive auto on youtube.
How To Remove Engine Sludge
Removing engine sludge is easier than you think. The easiest way is to follow the oil change and maintenance schedule that your vehicle manufacturer recommends.
Doing more oil changes is always good and ensures your oil is clean. For those of you that haven’t been following the maintenance on your vehicle that closely, fear not, there are other methods that you can use to clean your engine.
Use A Quality Engine Flush
An engine flush is one of the easiest and most effective ways to remove engine sludge. An engine flush makes use of an additive that has detergents that are used to dissolve the contaminants in your engine oil. Chemical sludge removers like Liqui-Moly engine flush can easily be purchased in leading automotive shops and online stores.
To do an engine flush, you will have to prepare your chemical sludge remover first. Make sure that your chemical sludge remover is of high quality to ensure optimum effectiveness and avoid other problems. Remember to only buy from your trusted sources to avoid buying a second-rated item.
Add the chemical sludge remover to the old oil in your engine and turn the engine on while the vehicle is parked. Allow the engine to idle for about 10 to 20 minutes. This will allow the chemical solution to dissolve all the sludge in the old oil.
Finally, You can proceed to change the oil as usual. As you drain the old oil, the engine sludge should be flushed out as well.
How To Prevent Sludge From Developing
Good quality maintenance is the key to keeping your car running for a long time, and preventing sludge is a result of good practice.
For an in-depth guide to all things, car maintenance check out our guide here.
Use A Quality Engine Oil
Synthetic oil is highly refined and only carries little impurities. It creates hardly any deposits and friction that could affect the efficiency of the car’s engine. Compared to oils made from fossil fuels, synthetics offer better wear protection, longer oil change intervals, and better heat cycle protection.
All of this adds to better protection for your engine.
On the downside, synthetic oil can cost more compared to conventional oil. Its price is about two to four times higher than the price of regular oil. Nevertheless, synthetic oil is the go-to choice for optimum engine performance and most modern vehicles require it.
Don’t Go Past Oil Change Intervals – it’s better to change your oil earlier than later
Putting off your car’s regular oil change will surely result in the degradation of engine oil performance and possible damage. When the oil sits in your engine for too long, it will break down. Soon, it will develop into a dirty abrasive that effect your engine’s performance. When there is sludge, your engine will have to work harder due to the lack of lubrication and increased friction. Oil sludge also decreases its ability to absorb heat leading to major issues in your car.
Always remember that changing the oil of your car’s engine plays a major part in your car’s performance and maintenance. Make it a habit to follow your car’s oil change schedules or change your motor oil earlier.