Volvo Oil Change – How To Avoid The Oil Sludge Disaster
I recently came across a 2002 USA TODAY article about a very expensive but preventable oil sludge disaster that affected Toyota engines.
Affected models included: 3.0-liter V-6 and 2.2-liter four-cylinder engines in more than 3.5 million 1997-2002 Toyota Camrys, Avalons, Highlanders and Siennas and Lexus ES and RX 300s
Expensive solution: A Complete Engine Rebuild.
The oil sludge problem affected not only Toyota but other makes and models as well.
Toyota, rightly claimed that the problem was caused by going too long between oil changes. To fix the problem, Toyota had to redesign the affected engines.
The oil sludge problem was worse in areas that experienced cold winters and hot humid summers, temperature extremes.
For example, the Washington DC area experiences cold winters and the summers are usually hot and sticky. 5W-30 motor oil is recommended because it provides execellent all season protection to solve this temperature variation problem (maintains it’s viscosity ‘flow-ability’ at both low and high temperatures). Mobile 1, 5W-30 full synthetic oil is a popular brand that is suitable for the latest vehicles with extended drain intervals. Other car makes affected by oil sludge build up between 1997 and 2004 included;Audi, Chrysler, Dodge, Hyundai, Lexus, Saab, and Volkswagen.
What is Oil Sludge?
This is when oil turns into a thick gel, caused by the breakdown of contaminated oil.
Oil will first turn to dark hue because of it’s solvent nature or cleaning properties. When you examine the oil dip stick, you will observe the dark engine oil deposits (suspended carbon particles or soot).
Dirty oil combined with moisture and sulfur contaminants begins to thicken into a oily stew. Left undrained, dirty oil will eventually turn into a thick gel that sticks onto engine parts.
The gel loses it’s lubricating properties and excess friction and wear begins to take place. As heat builds up in the engine, the gel begins chocking the life out of your poor engine. Finally, the poor engine gets starved off it’s life blood, kicks a couple times, rolls over and dies.
Service Advisories: Many companies such as Volkswagen, issued out technical bulletins to remedy the problem by switching out dinosaur juice (mineral oil) for fully synthetic oils.
So, why did vehicles – 1996 and newer models suffer oil sludge disasters?.
Five reasons why;
- Financial challenges are forcing more and more people to ignore regular oil changes. Tight budgets, rising gasoline prices, auto loans, high unemployment, and the list goes on. I had one customer who schuduled a service appointment only because her radio was not working. Change my engine oil or fix my radio? hhmm.. let me think.
- Cheap mineral oil, cheap oil filters of suspicious quality, and inexperienced technicians is a recipe for disaster. Recently a young trainee – helper at our dealership changed the oil for a 2005 S40 Volvo but forgot to add new oil. The customer called us a few days later to let us know she had been driving with the oil warning light on. We came this close to replacing an entire engine. Mistakes do happen.
- Higher combustion temperatures contribute to sludge formation because of tougher federal emissions standards enacted in 1996. Car manufacturers have raised engine operating temperatures and increased exhaust gas recirculation (EGR).
- Fuel economy pressure for improved Miles Per Gallon (MPG) requirements by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has led to new engine designs. Modern engines with hydraulic lifters, tight tolerance bearings and miniature oil filters require active monitoring of oil pressure. Tighter bearing clearances for new engines favor lower viscosity motor oils to maintain oil pressure. As engines age the bearing clearance increase due to wear and tear and lose a certain amount of oil pressure. Synthetic oils can bear higher load pressure but regular low viscosity mineral oil will break down faster and turn into a sludge (consult your car manual for recommended oil). Mobil 1 High Mileage fully synthetic motor oil is designed especially for engines where conventional oil has been used, and where these conditions have been experienced; severe service, extended oil drains, poor maintenance, and multiple owners. Mobil 1 High Mileage 10W-30 has the following benefits; Reduces the sludge and deposits that conventional oils can leave behind, contains special seal conditioners to prevent oil leaks, extra anti-wear additive to protect critical engine parts.
- Worn-out coolant takes on an electrical charge that chemically acts like acid on engine parts promoting sludge formation. Rising engine temperatures can be a result of low coolant levels. So, watch out for the low coolant warning light, you may have a leak. A warning light comes on when the fluid levels are dangerously low. So, have your car fluids monitored at regular intervals.
Some cars like BMW do not have a sludge problem despite longer oil drain times (service intervals). BMW engines are designed take up to 7 or 8 quarts of oil, almost twice that of the average car and calls for the use of full synthetic oil.
Do some research on the next vehicle you intend to purchase, make sure it does not have sludge build up problems. Manufacturers struggle to build cars that meet stringent emissions and environmental standards at the lowest possible cost to them. Like all companies, they are ultimately responsible to their shareholders.
Following the BMW example we know that Full Synthetic Oil prevents sludge build up, if you cannot afford it then use a synthetic blend. Consult your car manual for recommended oil and drain intervals.
Our Volvo Service Center uses 5W-30 Castrol Syntec Blend Oil, at a cost of $49.95 for a basic oil change, and Full Synthetic Castrol Syntec oil change will cost you $69.95. Come see us soon.
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