Metal shavings in oil — causes and fixes
Be aware of the potential dangers associated with metal shavings in your oil.
One way drivers can prevent severe and unwanted problems from occurring in their vehicles is by regularly servicing and carrying out maintenance checks. The engine oil is a vital part of the vehicle that needs occasional checks and maintenance. It can get contaminated with iron filings, commonly called metal shavings. These metal shavings in oil can cause severe damage to the car if left unattended.
Here, we have listed the causes and signs of metal shavings and significant steps to take to ensure that drivers rid their engine oil of these metal shavings.
What causes metal shavings in oil pan?
Metal shavings don’t just materialize in engine oil. They arise from various reasons that are both caused by the drivers and occur naturally over time. Different components are in motion when the engine is active, most of which have metal parts. In moving, these components tend to chip off due to friction and thus find the highway into the engine oil. The contaminants mentioned above could arise from;
Worn-out piston and rings
A significant cause of metal shavings in the oil pan includes worn-out pistons and rings. When the pistons and rings get used for an extended period, they get stuck and cannot move freely as before and thus break down and fall into the oil pan. This process occurs naturally over time and is mainly not caused by the driver’s ignorance. However, it is essential to have a piston and rings changed to prevent further damage to the engine.
Worn rod bearings
Similar to the piston and rings, the rod bearings also cause metal shavings in the oil pan. Poor quality rod bearings tend to wear out quickly and thus contaminate the oil. When worn-out rod bearings get into the oil, they lead to severe damage like engine failure.
Irregular oil changes
The engine oil acts as a lubricant that promotes the smooth and easy movement of the engine parts over one another. When the engine oil is not changed regularly, it gets contaminated, and the contaminants can cause severe damage to the engine. Carrying out regular oil changes is a suitable way of ensuring that the engine doesn’t get damaged by metal debris or shavings in the oil.
Signs of metal shavings in engine oil
Numerous signs indicate that your engine oil contains abnormal metal shavings. Some of these signs indicate severe damage has already affected the engine. It is also vital to note that some cases of metal shavings in oil are normal while others are abnormal. The signs include;
An engine knock signifies that very severe damage has affected the vehicle. When the engine oil is unchecked for signs of metal shavings, the metal shavings build up and contaminate the oil, clogging vital parts of the engine. Engine oil is the sole lubricant for significant parts of the vehicle’s engine; when it is infected, it doesn’t perform correctly. When your engine knocks, it could mean that your engine oil has metal shavings.
Decreased engine power
Another point that your engine oil contains metal shavings is a reduction in the engine’s power. When the engine oil gets contaminated with this metal debris, the debris gets trapped in the vehicle’s filters, which can significantly affect power generation. The decreased engine power further leads to poor vehicle acceleration.
The engine oil is responsible for the smooth movement of the engine parts and acts as a lubricant that reduces the friction between moving engine parts.
When the engine oil gets contaminated with metal shavings, the engine parts’ smooth movement is compromised, which can lead to the features making noises. Also, the movement of the metal shavings between engine parts causes the tinkling noise you may hear when the engine is active.
White smoke from the exhaust
When you spot white smoke coming out from your vehicle’s exhaust, it means that the piston and rings have worn out. The piston and rings easily get worn out when the metal shavings in the engine oil continuously rub off on them, hindering their free flow.
The oil is a significant reason your car vibrates when in idle mode. For a vehicle to function correctly, the engine parts must be able to move freely and smoothly. When the engine oil gets contaminated with metal shavings, the engine parts grind against each other, causing the vehicle to malfunction.
Check engine warning light comes on
It is inadvisable to ignore sure signs that your vehicle gives off as these signs relay little information about the car. When the “check engine” warning light comes on, an easy way to spot that your engine oil is contaminated. The check engine warning lights indicate that the engine oil is contaminated and needs to be changed to prevent damage to the vehicle’s engine.
Are metal shavings harmful?
It is important to note that metal shavings in oil could build up over time from the constant movement of engine components. However, metal shavings in oil are harmful because they hinder the smooth movement of the engine components and can further damage the engine.
As mentioned above, metal shavings in oil can lead to;
- Engine knock
- Engine noises
- Decrease in engine power
- Rough idling
- White smoke from the exhaust
When you notice these signs in your vehicle, there is something wrong with your oil, and the engine may be damaged.
Is it normal to see metal shavings in oil?
As mentioned earlier, when the components of the engine function over time, they tend to chip off tiny metallic debris which can get into the oil and contaminate it. However, it is normal to see metal shavings in oil before your first oil change, but heat should become a thing of concern if metal shavings persist after your first oil change.
What to do when you notice metal shavings in your oil
Having a few bits of metal shavings in your oil is normal due to the engine component’s wear and tear over time. However, when the quantity of the metal shavings in the oil is abnormal, it poses a greater risk to the engine and should be handled immediately.
When you notice metal shavings in your oil, carrying out one or all of the following steps can help secure your engine.
Over time, tiny chips from the engine components wear off into the oil and contaminate it. The contaminants can prove fatal for the engine if not handled immediately. A quick way to get rid of the impurities in the oil is by having an oil change. The engine oil is the life of the vehicle as it promotes the smooth movement of the engine components over one another. Carrying out regular oil changes can help mitigate the dangers that metal shavings in the oil can cause.
A more satisfactory way of getting rid of metal shavings in oil is by having an engine rebuild. However, engine rebuilds are expensive and may not be affordable. Although the advantages of having an engine rebuild include;
- Addition of new gaskets and seals
- Replacement of piston and rings
- Removal of engine covers, hardware, and valves.
Visit the mechanic
The preferable thing to do when you notice metal shavings in your engine oil is to consult an expert immediately. In cases where you have no idea what to do or how to go about anything, it is always better to visit the mechanic.
As mentioned earlier, it is normal to find tiny traces of metal shavings in your oil. However, when the quantity of the metal shavings is more than normal, it threatens the engine. To ensure that your machine is safe, it is vital to regularly inspect every part of the engine that has worn-out parts replaced. Most importantly, drivers should carry out regular oil changes as the oil is the engine’s life.
What does it mean when there are metal shavings in your oil?
When you find metal shavings in your engine oil, your oil has gotten contaminated. It could be from worn-out pistons and rings, worn-out rod bearings, irregular oil changes, and engine damage.
Are metal shavings in oil bad?
Yes, metal shavings in oil are bad as they could lead to engine noises, decreased engine power, rough idling, white smoke from the exhaust, and worse still engine knock.
What would cause metal shavings in oil pan?
Metal shavings in oil pan could be caused by worn-out pistons and rings, worn-out rod bearings, or irregular oil changes.
How do I check for metal shavings in oil?
It is almost impossible to see metal shavings in oil with the naked eye because they are very tiny and blend with the oil. The oil filter is responsible for catching metal shavings, but sometimes the oil filter can’t catch all the metal shavings. However, to check for metal shavings in oil, you can conduct an oil analysis or use a magnet.