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Is an Engine Flush Good or Bad?

Should you be concerned using Engine Flush?

To flush or not to flush. (One of our best sellers here in Sioux Falls)

It’s a question whose answer is obvious in the bathroom, but vigorously debated in the garage.

Let’s get right to the point. Is an engine flush good or bad?

Spend a few minutes perusing online forums and you’ll find a range of answers to this question, often involving a 1980s Trans-Am, Camaro or other car that someone thrashed on for years, parked in a pasture for a decade and now wants to revive with an engine flush.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is an engine flush?
  • How deposits and sludge form
  • Can engine sludge be removed?
  • Is an engine flush necessary?
  • Engine flush as part of maintenance
  • 5 benefits of an engine flush
  • Engine flush products
  • Watch: How to do an engine flush (video)

What is an engine flush?

An engine flush is an aftermarket chemical additive designed to clean accumulated deposits, sludge and other gunk from your engine. You pour it into your engine’s oil-filler port and idle the engine for about 10-15 minutes. It mixes with the oil and circulates through the engine, helping dissolve sludge and clean deposits. Then, you drain the oil (along with much of the gunk, in theory), change the oil filter, add fresh oil and return to the business of driving.

How deposits and sludge form inside an engine

If it did its job, your engine’s performance will return to the heady days of its youth, when it delivered maximum power and efficiency. Over time, however, harmful deposits and sludge may have accumulated, causing power and performance loss.

The tiny openings in the oil pickup tube screen can easily plug with sludge, starving the engine of oil.

Deposits and sludge can form for several reasons, including…

  • Frequent short trips that don’t allow the oil to fully warm up and evaporate moisture
  • Ingestion of air-borne dirt
  • Fuel dilution
  • High heat breaking down the oil

As it settles, sludge can clog narrow oil passages or the screen on the oil pickup tube, restricting oil flow to vital parts, especially the upper valve train. Deposits can cause the rings to stick, reducing engine compression and horsepower.

Can engine sludge be removed?

Yes. The proper detergents in the correct concentration can dissolve engine sludge, deposits and varnish. Ideally, sludge won’t form at all; however, sometimes mechanical issues arise, such as a leaking head gasket, and the formation of sludge occurs. If sludge does form, the oil’s detergents help dissolve and disperse sludge to clean the engine.

This is more challenging than it sounds. For starters, the oil must perform several functions, not just help prevent engine sludge. For that reason, oils contain a limited concentration of detergents (compared to an engine flush product) to ensure room in the formulation for other additives that protect against wear, fight oxidation, combat rust and more.

An engine flush product, on the other hand, is designed solely to clean. AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush, for example, contains nothing but potent detergents, making it a more effective cleaner than motor oil. Plus, it cleans at the molecular level, ensuring deposits are dissolved and properly exit the engine with the oil when it’s drained. This is important since some motorists fear that an engine flush will free large chunks and cause an avalanche of debris to clog passages inside the engine. AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush guards against this scenario.

Is an engine flush necessary?

A good engine flush can help loosen deposits and dissolve sludge, returning your engine to like-new condition. However, in old engines with high miles, sludge may be the only barrier keeping oil from seeping through worn or cracked seals. Removing the sludge exposes the seals for what they really are – junk. Soon, your engine begins leaking oil, and you’re mind instantly associates the engine flush product with an oil leak.

In reality, the seals were already bad; the flush simply revealed their true condition.

If you suspect your vehicle falls into this camp, leave well enough alone and skip the engine flush. It’s probably not worth trying to revive an engine in such poor condition without first fixing the bad seals or other defects.

In effect, you’re choosing your problem: either sludge and deposits robbing performance or, if you clean the engine, the seals showing their true condition.

An engine flush is part of a good maintenance regimen

But that’s not to say an engine flush is never a good idea. In fact, it’s often the first step in helping restore a neglected vehicle to top-notch performance. And, often when you buy a used vehicle, that’s what you’re getting – a vehicle whose owner found antiquing on Saturday afternoon more enjoyable than changing oil or dropping the transmission pan. Consequently, your “pre-owned” ride, while not complete junk, may boast a sketchy maintenance record.

In these cases, a potent, detergent-based flush can help prepare the engine for new oil, loosening sticky valves or rings and helping remove harmful sludge. While not a required step when switching to AMSOIL synthetic motor oil, we do recommend flushing your engine if you want to give your vehicle a fresh start.

5 benefits of an engine flush

1. Prepares your engine for new oil

An engine flush helps loosen sticky valves or rings and remove harmful sludge and other contaminants. By cleaning the engine prior to installing fresh oil, you ensure the new oil functions as intended and delivers maximum protection. The oil won’t last as long or protect as well if it must contend with sludge and deposits from the previous oil.

By the way, we don’t require use of AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush before switching to AMSOIL synthetic motor oil, but we recommend flushing your engine if you want to give it a fresh start.

2. Helps increase fuel efficiency

Contaminants circulating throughout the engine can lead to oil breakdown and increased viscosity – and higher-viscosity oil requires more energy to circulate throughout the engine. Sludge and deposits on engine parts can also increase resistance, which wastes fuel to overcome. Cleaning the engine helps ensure parts move efficiently, maximizing fuel economy.

3. Helps reduce emissions

If deposits in the piston-ring lands cause the rings to stick, oil can migrate into the combustion chamber, where it burns. This not only leads to harmful deposits, it also increases exhaust emissions as the burned oil exits the tailpipe. A good engine flush helps free stuck rings and reduce oil consumption, in turn reducing emissions.

4. Helps reduce heat

Excessive heat is bad for your engine and the oil. Extreme heat reduces engine efficiency while increasing the rate at which the oil oxidizes (chemically breaks down). Sludge and deposits act as insulators that prevent the engine from dissipating heat as designed. Flushing your engine helps ensure it manages heat properly for optimum efficiency and oil life.

5. Convenience

This might not apply to every engine flush, but it applies to AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush. It delivers results after just one application. And it only takes 10-15 minutes to use. Plus, you can safely use it in gas or diesel engines and automatic transmissions. While some solvent-based flush products require a cumbersome disposal process, AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush uses a detergent-based formulation. As such, you can dispose of it easily with waste oil.

Cylinder head pre-cleanup. Note the sludge around the valve springs and push rod openings.

Post-cleanup with AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush, the cylinder head is noticeably cleaner.

Engine Flush Products: I use AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush

For the record, I’ve used AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush on three different pre-owned vehicles in my time, and it’s worked great. One of them, a 1999 Honda CR-V, accumulated more than 220,000 miles before rust forced me to replace it. Another, an Oldsmobile Intrigue, ran great until a computer problem forced me to trade it off…for the CR-V. The third ran great, but I sold it off after it, too, rusted out.

In sum, flush your engine if you want to give your vehicle a new lease on life. AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush, as the name indicates, also works great for cleaning automatic transmissions. Check out this post to determine if a transmission flush or pan drop is better for you. But if you have any reservations about disturbing sludge or deposits that may be holding your old, high-mileage engine together, consider skipping it. It’s up to you.

How to do an engine flush

If you are looking for the best way to flush your engine this weekend, here’s a quick video that will walk you through the process, courtesy of MyJeepStory.

Signature Series Motor Oil Protects Engines From Low-Speed Pre-Ignition

SIGNATURE SERIES Protects Engines from Future Industry Problem

LSPI can destroy pistons and connecting rods, bringing an engine to a standstill in seconds. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like General Motors (GM)* have addressed the issue by designing tests to gauge a motor oil’s ability to prevent these destructive events. Signature Series achieved 100 percent protection against LSPI1 in the industry-standard test.

OEMs have been aggressively downsizing engines to meet strict fuel economy and emissions standards while improving power and torque. Most new engines today use some combination of turbochargers, direct-fuel injection and variable valve timing to make more power than their larger counterparts while delivering improved fuel economy.

This scenario seems like all upside for drivers. But today’s smaller, hotter-running engines pose significant challenges to lubricants. The latest is a phenomenon called low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI), also known as “super knock,” which can destroy pistons and connecting rods.

What Is LSPI?

LSPI is another version of engine knock, which has been around since engines were invented. In this case, it occurs under low-speed, high-torque conditions in turbocharged gasoline direct-injected engines – like when you’re taking off from a stoplight. LSPI is the spontaneous ignition of the fuel/air mixture prior to spark-triggered ignition. This form of pre-ignition is more destructive than typical engine knock.

No Magic Bullet

Just as your engine relies on a balanced network of components to function, the motor oil needed to protect it requires additives with the right qualities at the right quantities. While adding more of one ingredient or reducing another seems simple enough, small composition changes can have big impacts. We were determined to find a solution to the LSPI problem without sacrificing the performance of Signature Series in any way.

GM LSPI Test

OEMs like GM have addressed the issue by designing tests to determine a motor oil’s ability to prevent LSPI. The GM LSPI Test records the number of peak pressure events during high-load operation in a turbocharged engine over a five-hour period. Passing the test is required to meet the GM dexos1® Gen 2 specification.

Perfect Score

We armed Signature Series with an advanced detergent system that protects against harmful deposits and LSPI. Signature Series Motor Oil achieved 100 percent protection against LSPI in the engine test required by the GM dexos1 Gen 2 specifications – zero occurrences were recorded throughout five consecutive tests.

API SN PLUS Specifications

API SN PLUS is a recently released specification that was requested by the automobile industry to protect passenger vehicles from LSPI. AMSOIL anticipated this change, and the current formulations of Signature Series, XL and OE synthetic motor oil all meet or exceed the specification. Look for updated product labels featuring the new API “donut” in the near future.

Your customers can be confident that AMSOIL synthetic motor oils protect their modern engines against LSPI, helping their vehicles deliver years of reliable service. For more information on the dangers of LSPI, visit www.amsoil.com/lspi.

 

Example of piston damage due to an LSPI event observed during the testing of a competitor’s motor oil. The red arrows indicate sections of the ring land that have broken away from the piston.

Achieved 100% Protection Against LSPI1

Can I Use Diesel Oil in My Gas Engine?

Thoughts on using Diesel Oils in Gasoline Engines

It’s common for some owners of gasoline-powered vehicles to favor diesel oils over their gasoline counterparts.

An article from AMSOIL’s Blog by John Baker

The simple answer: Yes, provided the diesel oil meets the appropriate specifications and viscosity requirements of your engine. For example, if your gas engine calls for a motor oil that meets the API SN specification, you can safely use a diesel oil of the correct viscosity that meets the API SN spec. For the typical gasoline application, a diesel oil isn’t required and the more appropriate choice is a quality gasoline motor oil for both performance and value.

The detailed answer: It’s common for some owners of modified gasoline-powered vehicles to favor diesel oils over their gasoline counterparts. Many assume diesel oils are more durable and more capable of withstanding the increased heat of a powerful, turbocharged engine. Others lean toward higher-viscosity oils to protect against wear, and it’s sometimes easier to find a 40- or 50-weight diesel oil than a gasoline motor oil. Others favor the increased detergency of diesel oils. (which is my reason for using them in my 1983 AMC Eagle station wagon BTW.)

While you can use a diesel oil in your gasoline engine, provided it meets the appropriate specifications and viscosity requirements, there’s far more to the topic than that, as I learned after talking to Mark Nyholm, AMSOIL Technical Product Manager – Heavy Duty.

Can diesel oil safely be used in gas engines?

Mark Nyholm: It depends on the specifications the diesel oil carries and the recommendation of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). The American Petroleum Institute (API) publishes its “C” category of specification for diesel oil (currently CJ-4) and its “S” category for gasoline motor oil (currently SN). It’s common for today’s diesel engine oils to carry both the API CJ-4 and SN specifications. Though they’re truly designed for diesel applications, they can be used in gasoline applications for those customers who want to use one oil in all applications. If the diesel oil carries both specs, feel assured the oil is safe to use in diesel and gas applications. If the diesel oil does not carry the “S” category, I strongly recommend against using it in gasoline applications.

Why do some motorists favor diesel oil over gasoline motor oils?

Nyholm: There are many reasons people choose the oil they use. Since oil is not top-of-mind with many motorists, it’s typical for people to purchase based on viscosity alone. Many gasoline engines today call for 5W-30, with more and more requiring 5W-20, meaning those viscosities are typically what’s readily available. So, if you’re looking for a 5W-40 or 15W-40, it’s often easiest to find that viscosity in the diesel engine oil aisle.

Others use diesel oil under the assumption it’s a more “heavy-duty” product and must be better than gasoline motor oils. They may have been told diesel oil is formulated with special components not available in gasoline motor oils, such as more robust detergency additives to handle the soot inherent to diesel engines. In their minds, diesel oils are analogous to better protection.

Do most gasoline engines really need some of the additives in most diesel oils?

Nyholm: Diesel and gasoline oils are formulated with a variety of additives that improve wear protection, corrosion protection, resistance to foaming, viscosity retention and more. Whether the application is gasoline-powered or diesel-powered, many of the same additives are used based on what we are asking them to do in the formulation.

Now, there are additives designed to manage the byproducts of combustion, and some of those byproducts change, depending on whether you’re burning gasoline or diesel. If you’re running a gasoline engine, it’s best to use an oil that contains the correct additives to handle the byproducts of gasoline combustion. The same holds if you’re operating a diesel engine.

When should someone use diesel oil in their gas engine?

Nyholm: If your gasoline engine is heavily modified to put out more horsepower, using a diesel oil can be beneficial. It’s likely modified engines will need a higher viscosity to withstand the increased stress. You can turn to diesel engine oils for those needs or you might want to consider a racing oil, depending on your engine modifications and lubrication requirements.

Many times the engine builder will help provide insight as to what success they have found. Outside of that, if you have a bone-stock gasoline-powered application it’s best to stick with a gasoline motor oil. They are designed for that type of application and have the components required to manage that engine. Sure, you can run a diesel oil in a gasoline application; however it’s likely the formula has additional components your gasoline application doesn’t require, which might end up costing you more money.

AMSOIL diesel for gas engines

AMSOIL formulates a complete line of gasoline and diesel oils for nearly anything you have. They’re dialed in to deliver outstanding protection for their intended applications. Consult the AMSOIL product guides for recommendations for your vehicle.

Sioux Falls has a LOT of classic cars.

Some of these are survivors (never been restored) which the motors have never been rebuilt. Assuming a good amount of deposits are in the engine, have no fear – AMSOIL synthetic products are perfect. One of the things that sets AMSOIL apart is the better quality seal conditioners. It is not a fact that “synthetics cause leaks”. The issue of causing leaks simply means that the oil is not engineered and built to prevent that. It happens more frequently with conventional motor oils of average quality due to profit requirements of the stock holders. That said our HDD (Heavy-Duty) Diesel AND Gasoline Engine Oil is often the best choice.  The detergents will help clean the engine while keeping contaminants in suspension while our high capacity Absolute Efficiency Oil filters remove the problem causing deposits. Many use our High Zinc AME Diesel 15W-40 as well for this purpose as it costs significantly less. Also be sure to check out our bypass oil filtration kits.  These partial filters will remove even more deposits you will never get out through frequent oil drains alone.  Guaranteed to filter 98% at 2-microns!

So here in Sioux Falls there is a better choice for all your engines. AMSOIL’s Sioux Falls dealer at 4610 W. 12th St. or call 402-933-3902.

Thank you!