What is Engine Sludge? | Baltimore, MD | AutoStream Car Care Center

What’s All Over My Engine?


It’s sludge! And if you’re seeing it on the outside of your engine, what do you think the inside looks like? Worse than the outside, for sure.

As oil ages, it loses some of its essential properties. Ideally, and in a fresh state, motor oil (whether conventional, synthetic, or synthetic blend), clings to the metal engine parts, lubricating them to reduce friction. Also, the oil picks up dirt (which acts as an abrasive material) and suspends it, keeping it away from the moving metal parts. Finally, the oil absorbs heat from the engine, allowing the properly cooled parts to last longer. It can’t perform these functions when it ages and breaks down.

When engine oil breaks down, it allows metal shavings from the improperly lubricated parts to sluff off and circulate through the engine. Add in loose dirt that can no longer be trapped by the oil, and you have sludge, the dark congealed goo that not only makes a mess but also damages your engine. It sounds like you need to have AutoStream of Baltimore, Maryland, change your oil!

A Pound of Cure

Once you have a case of engine sludge, your professional automotive technician will have to take corrective action to remedy the problem. At the very least, your mechanic may have to use a chemical solution to flush away the sludge. More advanced cases may require him or her to take the engine apart and physically remove the build-up. Advanced sludge build-up can clog the circulation of oil to the point of catastrophic engine failure, resulting in the need for a complete engine replacement. Thus, allowing sludge to collect or ignoring the problem once you detect sludge can become very complicated and/or expensive to correct.

An Ounce of Prevention

The best way to prevent engine sludge is through routine maintenance, so you should have your oil changed regularly. Many drivers will do well to follow their vehicle manufacturer’s recommended schedule.

However, if your vehicle is an older model or if you frequently drive under strenuous or stop-and-go conditions, you may need to consult with your automotive service technician to determine the oil change frequency most appropriate for your car. Also, you may want to consider whether your vehicle is identified as being unusually susceptible to sludge and its related problems. (Consumer Reports offers a list of cars with the greatest numbers of unusual sludge complaints.) Motor oil and sludge is certainly an example of the adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Save yourself trouble and expense by having Baltimore, Maryland’s AutoStream change your oil regularly.

Written by Doug Grills