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Engine Sludge – What Is It and How It Can Be Prevented

Engine sludge sounds about as bad as it looks. If you compare the engine to a heart, you could imagine that the sludge is similar to clogged arteries. Like your body, everything may appear fine on the outside, but inside everything is slowly deteriorating and clogging up. Don’t let this happen to your engine. Here’s what causes engine sludge and how you can prevent it.

Motor oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle. An adequate supply of clean motor oil is vital for the longevity of your vehicle for lubricating and cleaning the engine. It allows moving parts to operate smoothly and also helps to maintain the optimal temperature of your car.

What Is Sludge?

Oil sludge is a thick, dark oil, carbon, and dirt that generally appears in large clumps. Normal, healthy oil shouldn’t be too dark and have some thickness while still in a fluid-like state. With frequent use, motor oil will accumulate contaminants such as dirt, carbon, fuel, and other debris. It begins to break down and oxidize over time due to the intense heat of the internal combustion engine. Thick engine oil will soon begin to clog the oil passages within your engine. In addition to the damaging effects of retaining heat and raising the temperature of your engine, the sludge will coat the gears and other vital moving parts, forcing them to work harder. The added stress will cause damage with each stroke of the engine, often by the time it is noticed, it’s too late.

How Will I Know If I Have Sludge?

Your vehicle is an intelligent machine that is equipped with many complex functions controlled by the vehicle’s computer. The computer communicates with gauges that will help identify when something isn’t right. The first communication you’ll receive from the vehicle will come from your onboard warning system on your dashboard. The check engine light or check oil light will illuminate. At any time if sludge is identified in the oil pan when draining the oil, it’s an indicator of very high levels of sludge in your engine.

How Do I Prevent Oil Sludge?

Routine, scheduled maintenance is the best chance for extending the life of your vehicle, period. Frequent oil changes and an occasional engine flush are a must. An engine flush can help loosen deposits and dissolve sludge, restoring your vehicle to a like-new condition. Frequent checks of your oil levels are equally as important. Test the level and top off when necessary. Refer to your owner’s manual or talk to a trusted technician for recommendations on scheduled maintenance for your particular vehicle. Neglecting oil changes and other maintenance on your vehicle’s engine can be a major contributor to internal combustion engine problems, causing severe engine damage, requiring replacement.

From engine sludge prevention to engine troubles, maintenance is key. Avoiding simple maintenance, especially with recommended oil changes, could void your warranty. Pro Tip: Take caution when purchasing a pre-owned vehicle – always ask to see maintenance records, prior to the sale. Oil changes should have been performed on a regular schedule. If not, there’s a likelihood that sludge could have been an issue at one time. Even if proper maintenance is performed after the purchase, it may be too late. There may be enough damage to the engine to cause eternal sludge formation.

Proper maintenance through an automotive service center like Sun Devil Auto is the key to a long-lasting vehicle. In the severe climate of Arizona, frequent maintenance is essential. From routine oil changes to scheduled maintenance such as flushes, belts, hoses, and other vital services keep your vehicle on the road for many miles. Investing a small amount of money into your vehicle for maintenance will help to prevent major, costly repairs down the road. When you know your car is properly maintained by Sun Devil Auto you’ll drive confidently knowing your car is fit to drive in the hot, dusty conditions that are unique to the Grand Canyon State. Call or stop by any of our Sun Devil Auto locations to speak with our knowledgeable and friendly Service Consultants to discuss your vehicle maintenance schedule. Don’t let oil sludge stop you, stop oil sludge before it starts!