Sludge - What It Is And What It Does


Sludge…the very word conjures up thoughts of something dark and ugly. It is actually a gooey, tar like substance that deposits itself inside your car’s engine.  One of the roles of motor oil is to keep your engine cool so it has to be able to take the heat…when it fails to do so these deposits form in the engine.  Some vehicle’s engines have more trouble than others due to poor design.  Their passages are smaller and they actually bake the oil inside the engine.

To find out if your car is one of these select models of vehicles prone to sludge problems, you can key in the words “engine sludge” online and get a great many articles about these cars and light trucks. You will see that you aren’t alone if you are experiencing the dreaded sludge problem. If you are shopping for a used car and need some valuable information, this is a good place to start.  Cars that were lease returns, rentals or had owners that didn’t have proper maintenance performed on the vehicles also seem to be plagued with the sludge demon.  They may look like good deals but before you sign on the dotted line, check maintenance records as well as a make/model history to be safe.  The last thing you want to experience after you buy a “good used car” is a hefty $5,000 bill to replace the engine on a low mileage vehicle!  This could happen even if you get the oil changed regularly but the prior owner did not. Strangely, manufacturers have not issued recalls due to sludge problems.  Fortunately the Internet is available for all to do their due diligence before they purchase a used car.  

The best way to prevent an oil sludge build up in your engine is to have it serviced quarterly.  Back in the day your oil was checked every time you pulled up to your full-service gas station and got a fuel fill up.  Today it is usually only checked when you take it in for service.  Since owners’ manuals are stretching those service intervals out further and further we are seeing more sludge than we used to. 

The old adage of “the best defense is a good offense” definitely applies to sludge prevention.  


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