Engine Sludge Symptoms, Removal and Preventative Measures Explained

If you want to keep your car running at its best for as long as possible, then it’s vital that you do regular checkups and maintenance. One thing that is vital for the longevity of your car engine is having an adequate supply of quality motor oil. Motor oil is the lifeblood of your car: it lubricates and cleans the engine, makes its movement fluid, but that’s not all. Having enough oil in your engine also helps to maintain the optimal temperature of your car, preventing it from overheating.

If you don’t want to encounter engine problems, you need to change your motor oil on a regular basis. Should you fail to do so, you are at risk: the oil can become too thick to function properly, and clog your engine in the process. This issue is known as engine sludge. Those who don’t learn about the signs of engine sludge are putting their vehicles at risk, which could result in very expensive repair bills.

Engine Sludge Defined

When your goal is to protect and safeguard the motor of your car, learning what engine sludge is and the impact that it can have on your vehicle is a good place to start. The oil in your vehicle is exposed to extreme temperatures that can cause it to break down over time; this breakdown is often accompanied with debris build up which further reduces the efficiency of your oil.

Santeri Viinamäki [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Santeri Viinamäki [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Many drivers are often not aware of the danger of engine sludge. You don’t have to repeat their mistake. Learning the most common signs and symptoms of engine sludge will help you avoid the risk of engine damage considerably. Failing to keep up with the proper preventative maintenance however, will cause engine sludge to build up faster than you might think.

Engine Sludge Formation and Damage

Each time you start your car, many moving parts work together to power the motor, and you need to lubricate those parts to prevent them from incurring damage. Coolant, water and dirt are just a few of the things that can contaminate your oil, making it less effective. As the oil works to maintain the health of your car, it will become oxidized (which means it’s breaking down), at this point it will start morphing into a thick gel.

In addition to retaining heat and raising the temperature of your engine, the sludge will also coat the gears and other moving parts that are inside your car, forcing them to work harder. The increased stress will quickly cause damage with each stroke of the engine, and some people only notice when it’s already too late.

Warning Signs

Even though most people miss the signs of engine sludge, you can easily spot the red flags when you know the signals for which to look.

By Wikiuser100000 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Wikiuser100000 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

If you have engine sludge, your oxygen sensor can start experiencing problems, and it can cause your motor to misfire, but you will also notice decreased fuel economy. If those problems occur after you have trouble starting your car, engine sludge is likely the source of the problem.

To get a clear picture, also keep an eye out for overheating and for spark plug misfires. Once the check oil light comes on you are already in a lot of danger, and driving your car is not a smart move.

Identifying and Removing Engine Sludge

Before you move forward, take a few extra steps to verify that you have engine sludge, and doing so does not need to be difficult. With your car turned off, open the hood and inspect the motor. Engine sludge is thicker than normal oil and will appear in small clumps. Some drivers opt to use a sludge remover, but it might not be enough if you want to keep your car safe.

When they believe that their car has engine sludge, some drivers attempt to handle the problem alone, but doing so can cause more harm than good. If you want to minimize the odds of engine damage, it’s critical to let a professional take a look at your car. A qualified mechanic will have the tools and knowledge needed to detect the signs of engine sludge, and the expert will let you know if it’s time to get an oil change.

Points to Consider

No matter how tempting, never ignore the check engine light when it comes on because the problem could be more serious than you suspect. When the check oil light appears, you will know that your car needs attention right away. As soon as you notice that your engine is getting too hot, you must open the hood and start looking for engine sludge.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr / CC BY 2.0.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr / CC BY 2.0.

Car owners often overlook the signs of trouble because they don’t want to pay for the related repair fees. It’s critical, though, for you to understand that finding a solution will become that much more complicated as time goes on.

Preventative Steps

Noticing the warning signs can work wonders to optimize the health of your car, but taking preventative steps is the best path for everyone. If you have not yet done so, take a look at your vehicle’s manual to determine how often you will want to change the oil. When living in the city, people often stop and accelerate at several traffic lights and intersections before reaching their destination. Repeatedly stopping and accelerating hastens the process of oxidation in your engine. If you don’t plan to travel far, consider walking or riding your bike instead of driving. In addition to engine sludge, not having enough oil can also cause serious problems. Always top your car off when you notice that the oil is getting low.

Final Thoughts

It’s no coincidence that one of the most overlooked engine problems is also responsible for the most costly repairs. For your car to function, many parts need to work together in harmony, and if anything falls out of place, the whole system becomes unbalanced. Overlooking engine sludge is a decision that most people will regret.

Searching for the signs of engine sludge, changing your oil regularly and reading your car’s manual will help you reach your goal. A little planning and effort now can save you a lot of trouble in the future, and you will be happy that you did the right thing.

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