Engine Sludge – Act Quickly or It’ll Kill Your Engine

Sludge affects both petrol and diesel engines and is surprisingly common. Sludge is a gooey, tarlike deposit that reduces or shuts off oil circulation and can mean thousands of dollars to repair or replace an engine that has seized. Sludge also directly causes oil consumption, power loss, high fuel consumption, oil pressure problems, hard starting, blow by and overheating. The problem is well recognized globally, by motoring authorities, and the mechanical servicing industry. In Europe, engine sludge is back to the top of the agenda again, for the first time in about 20years. Routine engine flushing has once again become the norm throughout both USA and Europe.

Cost Effective Maintenance first became aware of severe sludge issues with small diesel engines in the mid-1980, and successfully developed a Flushing Oil Concentrate to safely remove heavy, persistent engine sludge without dismantling engines…a major breakthrough in reducing costly repairs, labour and vehicle downtime.

How bad and how costly is the problem?

The RACQ advise that sludge can affect almost any make of later model petrol engine and can cause extensive engine damage. Even high-quality prestige vehicles have not been immune from the sludge demon with Lexus, Saab and Audi a few in that category. Globally, some 3.3 million Toyota engines have been sludge damaged, and Toyota has been involved in a major class action. Destroy these types of engines, and it’ll cost you $4000 to $8000.

Nowadays, a lot of modern low-emission truck diesel e.g. Detroit Diesel Series 60, Cummins M11 and Signature engines, Caterpillar 3500 series engines, old Perkins, Detroit 2 strokes, Hinos, etc that can suffer sludge problems join the ranks.

Older mechanical type diesel engines, commonly used in 4x4s & light commercials come with rebuild costs of $6000-8000. Later model common rail type diesel cost around $15,000. Truck type diesel, such as Detroit Series 60 will cost over $20,000 to rebuild. Large mining type engines will see you out of pocket by $250,000 upwards. If sludge prevents its flow, the result WILL be very expensive. Fortunately, there is a window of opportunity to remove accumulated sludge, before an engine seizes, and with regular, effective flushing the risk of further sludge damage can be avoided.

Sludge is an aviation safety risk!

There are serious safety concerns within the aviation industry. Les Lyons is a CASA engine technical specialist. He reports that ‘a Piper PA-28 Warrior operating under visual flight rules in the UK, suffered a crankshaft fracture and resultant loss of the propeller in flight. The event resulted from oil sludge initiated corrosion inside the crankshaft front bore. Combustion by-products combine with water accumulating in the sump through condensation. The resulting mixture of combustion by-products, water and oil are highly corrosive’.

According to Lyons: “Having a propeller fall off in front of your eyes is one thing, not being able to feather the prop on a failed engine in a twin prop can be just as frightening. The most common reason for a piston engine aircraft propeller not feathering is oil sludge. Engine oil sludge builds up inside the propeller hub to a level where the feathering mechanism cannot overcome the sludge build up.”

How can you fix the sludge problem? Fortunately, CEM’s Flushing Oil Concentrate (FOC) makes the solution very cheap and so easy that anyone who changes their own oil can do it. FOC is formulated on purpose-specific detergents which directly target normally persistent sludge and also heavy deposits of carbon that have accumulated, which can cause piston ring sticking and power loss. All these deposits are dissolved and suspended in the oil to be safely removed. FOC will literally restore pristine cleanliness to the engine crankcase. In most cases, one flush is all it takes. The 30-minute job is detailed below:

  • Step 1. Drain the old oil out hot. That way you remove as much contaminant as possible first up & you get the best possible clean up result.
  • Step 2. Add fresh oil to the engine. You can use cheap oil for this part of the job. Run the engine to warm up the oil, and then add the Flushing Oil Concentrate (125mL for 10L oil capacity). The Hilux takes 6 L oil, so Matt added about 75mL Flush. Landcruisers and Patrol 4.2L diesels need 125mL for a 10L sump. Series 60 Detroits need 500ml for a 40L sump.
  • Step 3. Run the engine at a fast idle parked up for 30 minutes. For most 4x4s, this means 1500-2000rpm. For Larger truck type motors (eg Series 60 Detroits, Cats, Macks, Cummins, etc), run at about 1,200 RPM.
    With, brand new oil and FOC, and see how it looks after 30 minutes. It’s picked up all the old persistent sludge from around valve gear, oil galleries, etc, and hard baked-on carbon from piston ring grooves, skirts, oil coolers etc. This oil is pretty dirty, but the engine crankcase (the oil wetted side) is now very clean!
  • Step 4. Drop the oil again, and watch all the build-up muck go out with the flush.
  • Step 5. Add a good quality engine oil and new filter, and it will now easily last for the whole recommended oil service period. At this stage, many customers choose to also add the AW10 Antiwear to the oil for added protection, and quieter running.
  • Step 6. As a final check, make sure there are no leaks, take it for a quick run and recheck the oil level.

Congratulations! You’ve got yourself a clean crankcase and clean oil. That’s a great start to obtaining long engine life. Other things you should aim for are clean air and fuel (replace filters regularly), clean fuel injection system (use a quality injector cleaner regularly), and clean combustion and exhaust spaces (use FTC Decarbonizer to clean up these deposits).

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