You may have noticed that your engine starts to make strange noises coming out of the valve cover and you have lost power.
These things can actually be caused by sludge inside your engine. When you remove the valve cover, you may see a sticky, oily substance all over the engine. This sludge forms over time as the engine oil breaks down. This usually happens when using lower quality engine oil.
Because the lower grade oil is often heated by the engine heat and constantly stirred during engine operation, the oil tends to decompose, resulting in a sticky substance.
To counteract this, there are several tips on how to remove engine sludge and options that many choose because too much engine sludge accumulates on the engine.
What exactly is engine sludge?
The sludge that you see all over the inside of your engine when the head is exposed is a combination of a few things that your car runs on. The sludge is a mixture of engine oil that has been oxidized, and dirt and soot that are in the air that the engine takes in for combustion. Water vapors make the sludge wet, and sometimes when coolant leaks from the interior, the coolant is also mixed into this sludge, making the substance sticky.
If you change the engine oil and oil filter together with it in time, your engine will be better protected against this sludge formation.
Engine Sludge Symptoms
As the only way to see if the engine is contaminated with the sludge is by looking at it, the valve cover must be removed. But this is something that not every car owner can do himself. But fortunately, there are some signs and symptoms you can look for that will tell you whether or not sludge has accumulated in your engine.
If you happen to encounter these problems with your car, it could possibly mean that your engine has become dirty and it is time for you to remove the engine sludge:
- You experience low oil pressure in your car
- You hear clicking sounds from the tappet
- Your oil check light comes on
- Draining of engine oil is slow
- There is a visible greasy and oily substance inside the oil filter
If your engine develops sludge, most of the sludge is usually visible just below the head near the tappet area. The sludge causes the tappets and their hydraulic jacks to operate noisily, which is audible in the form of rapid clicking or ticking. The reason for this is that there is not enough oil to lubricate the springs and the rams because too much sludge gets to the place where the sludge is.
The tappets in the engine control the movement of the air intake and exhaust valves, and they move up and down very quickly, which is why most of the mud can be seen in this area. The oil breaks down quickly because there is a lot of heat and mixing. When the engine sludge is removed, the noise disappears and the tappets and springs can work smoothly.
Low oil pressure and oil light comes on
This is because the sludge causes the oil to slow down as it circulates. This causes the oil to lose its pressure and your oil light to come on. This creates a problem for the engine because the engine does not get the oil to where it is needed. The oil pressure can also be lost at the oil filter. If the oil filter becomes clogged, the oil will slow down as it passes through the oil filter before it enters the engine. Under these conditions, it is better to remove the engine sludge as soon as possible to avoid further problems.
Engine Sludge Removal Tips
There are in fact simple sludge removal techniques that are used for routine car maintenance rather than engine sludge removal. But first you need to understand that old engine sludge can get really hard like stone and the only way to get it out completely is to take the engine apart and clean it thoroughly.
However, there are some tips you can do to remove light engine sludge and prevent these stone-like formations from happening.
- Change your oil regularly
- Use the Liqui Moly Pro-Line Engine Flush. You can find it here: Liqui Moly 2037 Pro-Line Engine Flush
- Flush the old engine oil completely and pour in new, good quality oil
- Replace the oil filter with a new, high-quality one
- Ensure that your gasket isn’t damaged or there isn’t an oil leak
Remember that even if you use a product such as the Liqui Moly, the sludge will become loose in the engine oil, and to remove it, you will need to make several oil changes to actually remove the dirt from the sump. As I said before, I really recommend removing the engine sludge manually by taking the engine apart and cleaning it by hand, so that no dirt gets into the engine where you don’t want it!
What if the head gasket is bad?
A damaged gasket lets the oil escape from the head and also lets dirt and dust get inside. This will cause the sludge to settle more quickly. Before you change the engine oil or get a new oil filter, you should have the gasket replaced. During gasket replacement, you can ask your mechanic to manually clean the sludge over the tappet and springs to keep the engine extra clean. Otherwise, compressed air is usually used to force the oil and sludge out of the engine, thereby cleaning it.
Change the engine oil at the right time along with the oil filter
Do not wait until your engine oil turns black before changing it. This is when the engine loses its original properties and begins to fail, giving it that black color. If you change your engine oil according to your car manufacturer’s instructions, this will ensure a longer life for your engine and prevent the formation of sludge inside the engine. It is therefore advisable to always change the oil filter when changing the oil, otherwise, the dirty oil residues in the old oil filter will mix with the new oil. Even if the amount of old oil would be minimal, this dirty oil will eventually ruin the new oil as well.
Hi, I’m Magnus, the owner and the writer of Mechanic Base. I have been working with cars for 10 years, specialized in diagnostics and troubleshooting. I created this blog because I was tired of finding false information on the web while looking for repair information. I hope you enjoy my content!