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How Engine Sludge Forms. And How To Prevent It.

AMSOIL Signature Series virtually prevented engine sludge on this oil pick-up screen.

Engine Sludge Is Easily Avoidable

Engine sludge.

It’s a back gelatinous substance that wreaks havoc in engines. And long before the engine’s demise, engine sludge can foul engine sensors and interfere with performance. Some mechanics call it the “black death.”

How does motor oil, which is fluid, become a semi-solid paste or gel inside an engine?

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • How engine sludge forms
  • The effects of engine sludge
  • Synthetic oil helps prevent engine sludge
  • High-quality additives fight engine sludge
  • Severe service invites engine sludge

How engine sludge forms

Engine sludge is the result of a series of chemical reactions.

The lubricant degrades as it is exposed to oxygen and elevated temperatures. The higher the temperature, the more rapid the rate of degradation. In fact, every 18°F (10°C) increase in temperature doubles the rate of oxidation.
Many people still believe any oil is fine as long as you change it often but 95% of the brands out there do not address that inch of protection when you really need it!! We’ve all had issues where the engine is overheating or some situation where adequate lubrication isn’t available. AMSOIL offers 75% more protection when you need it and our diesel oils offer 6X more protection than required by industry testing.

The by-products of this reaction form highly reactive compounds that further degrade the lubricant. Their by-products react with other contaminants, forming organic acids and high-molecular-weight polymeric products. These products further react, forming the insoluble product known more commonly as sludge.

What begins as a thin film of lacquer or varnish deposits on hot or cold metal surfaces and bakes into an expensive mess.

The effects of engine sludge

Sludge can block the oil passages and oil-pump pick-up screen, resulting in oil starvation. Often, the negative effects are cumulative rather than sudden.

Many engines with variable valve timing (VVT) use oil-pressure-operated mechanical devices to change valve timing, duration and lift. Sludge can plug the solenoid screen or oil gallies and impact the operation of VVT mechanisms, eventually leading to a costly repair bill. Sludge reduces efficiency and increases time and money spent on maintenance.

Who doesn’t want a cooler engine? Sludge, even the early stages prevents the engine from dispersing heat efficiently. Why would you risk a Group III “synthetic” which does leave deposits adding to or resulting into an engine which struggles to exhaust heat.

Synthetic oil helps prevent engine sludge

Fortunately, sludge and varnish deposits are something oil manufacturers can control. Using thermally stable synthetic base oils reduces the rate of degradation (oxidation). (Yes – and that is “Real 100%” Synthetics – not the ones they currently call “Fully”..

Anti-oxidant additives help reduce the rate of degradation as well. One of the most widely used is zinc dithiophosphate. Not only is it an excellent oxidation inhibitor, it is an outstanding anti-wear additive as well.

High-quality additives fight engine sludge

We can further address many of the issues occurring after the initial oxidation stage.

Additives, such as detergents and dispersants, are commonly part of motor oil formulation. They help promote the suspension of contaminants within the oil and keep them from agglomerating.

Detergents, which are also alkaline in nature, assist in neutralizing acids generated in the sludge-building process. Anti-oxidant, dispersant and detergent additives are consumed during use.

To achieve maximum life expectancy, use an oil with high concentrations of anti-oxidant, dispersant and detergent additives.

AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil, for example, has 50 percent more detergents* to help keep oil passages clean and promote oil circulation. It provides 90 percent better protection against sludge**.

Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil was subjected to the Sequence VG test to measure its ability to prevent sludge. Signature Series produced an oil pick-up tube screen virtually free from sludge. Our unique combination of detergents and high-quality base oils control oxidation and sludge to keep engines clean and efficient.

PDF of the test where AMSOIL has this done (Southwest Research)

AMSOIL Signature Series virtually prevented engine sludge on this oil pick-up screen.

Buy Signature Series

Severe service invites engine sludge

Equipment operating conditions also influence the likelihood of sludge or varnish issues.

Stop-and-go driving, frequent/long-term idling and operation in excessively hot or cold weather can increase the likelihood of sludge and varnish, especially if using more volatile conventional oils. If sludge has already formed, you can use an engine flush to clean sludge from your engine.

Interestingly, most auto manufacturers note in their owner’s manual that operation under any of the above conditions is considered severe service and requires more frequent oil changes.

From a mechanical standpoint, things like adding too much oil to the oil sump, antifreeze contamination, excessive soot loading, excessive oil foaming, poor engine-combustion efficiency, excessive blow-by and emission-control-system issues can all lead to the formation of sludge and varnish.

By practicing good maintenance and using properly formulated, premium synthetic lubricants, like AMSOIL synthetic motor oil, your vehicle won’t succumb to the “black death.”

Taking it a step further which many of our customers do – to make sure your vehicle is always running in peak condition one thing is to have your oil analyzed. I do it not so much to see how the oil is doing but to measure what may be going on in the engine to deplete detergents or to test for any out of typical wear levels, fuel in the crankcase, and to see if the viscosity is still on par.  Oil analysis kits are easy to use especially when you have the dipstick extraction pump.

*vs. AMSOIL OE Motor Oil
**Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30 in the ASTM D6593 engine test for oil screen plugging as required by the API SN PLUS specification.

AMSOIL vs. Mobil 1: How We Perform

AMSOIL vs. Mobil 1: How We Perform

AMSOIL & Mobil 1 – Compared

Most lists of top-10 performance mods include a turbocharger, supercharger, nitrous oxide or updated engine tune. Increasing the engine’s oxygen intake also increases fuel, which boosts power.

“If you love Mobil 1 you should  use Dollar General motor oil. It’s real good too” lol…

While all that extra power is great, it puts additional demands on your engine oil.

(See our 5 Ways to Boost Horsepower for Under $500.)

Horsepower riding on a sheet of paper

Your main bearings – and, for that matter, the time, money and effort invested in your vehicle – rely on an oil film that’s thinner than a sheet of paper. Adding horsepower increases rpm and engine stress, placing even more stress on the oil. Many enthusiasts make compensatory upgrades to the crank, pistons, cam, etc. to handle the additional pressure.

The shear importance of oil 

In this scenario, upgrading the motor oil is often overlooked. But it’s an important consideration since engine upgrades can increase shearing forces, which result in viscosity loss. And viscosity is the most important property of oil.

Check out this post for details: What Does Viscosity Mean (and How Does it Affect Your Engine)?

Shear results when one layer of fluid moves in a direction different from another layer of the same fluid.

Shear (often called mechanical shear) occurs when one layer of oil moves in the opposite direction of another layer of the same oil. A great example occurs between the piston and cylinder wall. These two oil films move in opposite directions under intense heat and pressure. This is why high-horsepower, high-rpm engines create increased possibility for viscosity loss due to shear.

This scenario can shear, or tear apart, the molecules of viscosity-improver additives, which are used to extend the viscosity range of the base oil. The application and type of base oil determine the type of viscosity improver. Some viscosity improvers resist shear better than others. And some synthetic oils don’t need viscosity improvers at all due to their ability to withstand shear.

A breakdown in protection

If the oil loses viscosity due to shear, it can fail to provide the required level of wear protection. Think of the force transferred through the piston, rod and crank to the thin oil film protecting the bearing. There’s not much room for error.

AMSOIL uses naturally shear-resistant base oils combined with top-tier, shear-stable viscosity improvers. AMSOIL synthetic motor oil withstands extreme heat and shearing forces, exceeding industry standards and outperforming competing brands. In fact, it fights viscosity breakdown 46 percent* better than Mobil 1. It stands up to the devastating effects of high-horsepower, modern engines for maximum protection.

 

FIND AMSOIL FOR MY VEHICLE

*Based upon independent testing of Mobil 1 Annual Protection Full Synthetic and AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30 in the Kurt Orbahn test, oils purchased on 05/03/18.

Safetey changing oil at 3,000 Mile? Why not 50 or 100 miles?

Safetey changing oil at 3,000 Mile? Why not 50 or 100 miles?

Busting the 3,000 Mile Oil Change Myth

Changing your oil every 3,000 miles is a practice passed down for generations. The origin likely stems from the noble effort to provide consumers with a simple vehicle-maintenance rule that left plenty of room for error.

Marketed by fast lubes

Fast lube chains, which first entered the market in the 1970s, adopted and amplified the message through sustained marketing campaigns. Owned by major oil manufacturers, fast lube chains had a financial interest in seeing customers frequently and selling more oil, the vast majority of which was conventional.

Endorsed by your dad and mechanic

While this timeline helps provide context, it does little to address the emotional connection to changing oil every 3,000 miles. The reason so many motorists dutifully change oil every 3,000 miles is because their fathers and their mechanics – two of the most influential groups in automotive circles – told them they should. For many people, the 3,000-mile oil change is a tradition that ties them to the person who taught them many important life lessons, like how to keep your car running properly.

Tradition updated with new technology

Many families pass down traditions, and while the spirit of the tradition is upheld, many elements are updated to reflect current technology and lifestyles. Your call to a distant relative during the holidays may now require Skype instead of a rotary phone. Likewise, your annual family vacation may start at the airport instead of in the family station wagon. In the case of the 3,000-mile oil change, we can preserve the noble spirit of taking good care of our vehicles by establishing a habit of changing oil periodically, but not necessarily every 3,000 miles.

Since the advent of the 3,000-mile oil change, advances in lubrication and automotive technology have rendered it outdated, like adding water to automotive batteries, replacing ignition points and adjusting the carburetor. Now, many vehicle manufacturers recommend changing oil every 5,000 miles or longer, with BMW calling for 15,000 miles between oil changes.

Synthetic motor oil technology

Synthetic lubrication technology plays a significant role in moving beyond the 3,000-mile oil change interval. Synthetic motor oil offers better wear protection, improved resistance to temperature extremes and increased cleanliness properties compared to conventional oils. For that reason, it’s safe to use them longer than 3,000 miles.

AMSOIL products provide confidence with additional protection that goes beyond the standard. It’s what your dad or grandfather may have called the “belt and suspenders” approach. For example, AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil…

  • Provides 75% more engine protection against horsepower loss and wear than required by a leading industry standard.¹
  • Achieved 72% better protection than required by a leading industry standard2, providing ultimate protection against extreme heat and the harmful deposits that can plague turbochargers.
  • Achieved 100% protection against LSPI.3

So, while it’s vital to change your oil and take care of your vehicle, it’s also important to advance your methods in lockstep with the latest technology. And modern synthetic oils have made the 3,000-mile oil change as dated as the rotary phone.

FIND AMSOIL PRODUCTS FOR MY VEHICLE

1Based on independent testing in the ASTM D6891 test using 0W-20 as worst-case representation.
2Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30 in the GM turbo coking test.
3Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 5w-30 motor oil in the LSPI engine test as required for the GM dexos 1® Gen 2 specification.

What’s the Minimum I Should Drive My Car? And Other Winter Car Storage Tips

Keep the battery on a slow charger

What’s the Minimum I Should Drive My Car? And Other Winter Car Storage Tips

The roads are home to all kinds of vehicles. Daily drivers that clock thousands of miles each year. Seasonal vehicles that only clock hundreds. And then there are some whose odometers move only when being loaded or unloaded from a trailer.

In any instance, winter vehicle storage is sometimes inevitable.

What to consider when storing your vehicle for winter

There are several things to consider when storing a vehicle. Read on for some tips to ensure your vehicle is ready to answer the call when you awaken it from its storage-time slumber.

1) Seek shelter

There are plenty of good locations for storing your vehicle. Here are a few.

  • Garage – If you own a garage, it’s the obvious first choice to protect your vehicle from the elements, pests or thieves during storage. Ensure that all entries are secure, including windows or side doors.
  • Storage facility – If you live in an urban area or you don’t have access to an enclosed space, consider renting space at an indoor storage facility. There are businesses geared toward storing vehicles. Depending on your region’s weather, some offer both indoor and outdoor options.
  • Friends or family – If the above options don’t work, call in a favor with a family member or good friend who has space in his or her garage, shed, barn or other secure building.

Outdoor storage isn’t ideal, but if it’s your only option, buy a quality weatherproof cover that will protect your vehicle from the elements. There are tons out there ranging from low quality to virtually impenetrable, so do your research to find the best one capable of properly covering your ride.

Covers are effective at protecting the body of the car, but consider the underside of the vehicle. Parking on a concrete slab will help avoid moisture from the ground collecting under the cover and causing rust damage from the bottom up.

2) Clean your vehicle before storage

When you let your car sit for long periods of time you want to make sure it’s thoroughly clean. Even small amounts of the following can damage the paint.

  • Water droplets
  • Salt from the road or the air
  • Sand and dirt
  • Bird droppings

Show your vehicle some love by washing it well, completely drying it with a shammy and giving it a proper coating of wax. If you’re really feeling fancy, use a clay bar to remove dirt trapped inside the paint.

Inside the vehicle, vacuum all dirt, debris and crumbs. Even small crumbs will attract insects and rodents.

3) Keep out the undesirables

Speaking of which, mice and other rodents love finding a good stationary vehicle to hole up inside for the winter. They’ll build a nest in an inconvenient place, chew through wires and wreak general havoc during their uninvited stay.

Keep them out by closing off any entry points such as the exhaust and air intakes. Dryer sheets are an effective deterrent, so try placing those in and around the vehicle to deter them from considering your vehicle as a winter home.

4) Check fluids & fill ‘er up

Perform an oil change prior to storing a vehicle. This will keep the engine from holding harmful contaminants for a lengthy period of time.

Add a fuel stabilizer to prevent the gas from deteriorating, then fill up the gas tank to prevent moisture from accumulating. AMSOIL Gasoline Stabilizer is an excellent choice. It’ll inhibit the oxidation process in stored fuel, which will help prevent sludge and varnish from clogging injectors, fuel lines, carburetors and other components. Keep the fuel as fresh as possible since deteriorated fuel makes up the highest percentage of problems associated with vehicle storage.

5) Take it for an occasional spin

Start the vehicle every two weeks and take a short 10-minute drive if possible. A battery that is not used will soon lose its charge and lead to a headache later on.

If you’re looking at long-term vehicle storage, it’s not a bad idea to disconnect and remove the battery entirely. Or, purchase a battery tender and connect that instead. Doing so will deliver a regular charge to keep the battery from losing all power. Look for one with an automatic shut-off feature so it’s not overcharged.

Regular startups or a short drive will also keep the engine and all its components lubricated, which is another important area requiring regular TLC. Just be sure to remove any rodent-repelling measures you may have taken earlier, like the dryer sheets in the exhaust pipe.

If you aren’t in a position to conduct routine starts or short drives, you’ll need something to prevent surface rust from accumulating on engine components. A good coat of AMSOIL Engine Fogging Oil sprayed into the cylinders will do the trick.

6) Mind the Tires

This is another important area to consider, as they are what the vehicle rests on for the duration of the storage period. First, make sure the tires are properly inflated to the correct psi before storage. Sitting vehicles can create flat spots on tires that render them useless later on.

If you won’t be driving at all, roll the vehicle forward or backward a few inches from time to time.

You can do this when you conduct the occasional engine start to keep the battery alive and engine parts properly lubricated. For those who don’t mind a bit of extra work to ensure road-ready tires later on, you can also take them off entirely and replace them with jack stands.

Based on your environment you can pick a storage protocol and do the best you can. Just be aware that vehicles don’t like to sit for extended periods and need opportunities to “stretch their legs,” so to speak. They need to be started and moved at least once per year to keep seals from drying out and internals coated with oil. Follow our vehicle storage advice and your ride will be ready for the road when you are.

Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter

Getting prepared for Winter driving

Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter

Originally posted Nov. 11, 2016

With the worst of winter right around the corner, now is a good time to get your vehicle prepared for the worst. Being based in northern Wisconsin, we at AMSOIL talk a lot about how synthetic lubricants make life a little easier, as the cold air starts to pierce our engines and lungs.

Wherever you may be, nasty road conditions and winter driving can be dangerous, so it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. Weather.com blogged about how bad-weather car accidents are more deadly in the U.S. than many of the worst storms.

Snow, rain, fog and wet pavement all pose a hazard during the season. To be ahead of the game, here are some preparedness tips:

Garage Time

  • Battery check – Cold temperatures are a battery killer. Be sure you’ve got the juice to keep going. Check the terminals for corrosion that needs cleaning and ensure the alternator and belts are in good shape.
  • Antifreeze and coolant – Look for any radiator and hose leaks and top off the reservoir, if necessary. If it’s been several years since you’ve changed the coolant, be sure to get some fresh fluid in there.
  • Windshield wipers and fluids – Make sure the wipers are working and the blades are not worn. Fill the washer reservoir with a good-quality fluid that doesn’t freeze.
  • Brake system– Being able to stop is crucial when roads are slick. Look to see that the floor mats aren’t blocking the pedal. If you notice braking issues, have the brake fluid, pads, rotors and lines checked.
  • Tire pressure and tread – Tires should be checked monthly for wear and proper inflation regardless of the season. Make sure you have a spare tire, and keep a pressure gauge in the vehicle with you.
  • Fuel and oil level – It’s a good idea to keep your fuel tank at least half-full in case you get stranded on the side of the road and need to stay warm. Motor oil should also be topped off.

Emergency Roadside Kit

  • Flashlight – I like to carry an LED flashlight in my truck since they last a long time. But a traditional flashlight works well and tends to be brighter.
  • Tool kit – It should have the basics, including screwdrivers, pliers, an adjustable wrench and a socket set. Work gloves, tape, fuses and a good pocket knife or multi-tool are all handy to have as well.
  • Blanket – Not only does it keep you warm in winter, but it can also block out wind and help treat shock victims.
  • Jumper cables – It’s best not to settle for chintzy. Good-quality, thick cables with multi-strand wire, heavy duty clips and extra length can save you from headaches. Invest in four-gauge, 20-foot cables that won’t break the bank and will last a long while.
  • Food and water – Keep a stash of high-energy foods such as granola bars and nuts in the car.
  • Fire extinguisher – Often overlooked, but good to have. A multipurpose A-B-C type is the way to go.
  • First-aid kit – Any kit should contain bandages, gauze and prep pads to stop bleeding and prevent infection.
  • Other items to consider – Maps, shovel, broom, ice scraper and flares.

Even if you don’t get any snow, it’s good to be ready for any emergency. Got any more tips to share? Let us know in the comments.