When your engine oil oxidizes, it breaks down and mixes with different contaminants to form sludge. Improper maintenance and letting the engine overheat (which in turn heats the oil) are some of the things that accelerate the process. Sludge can block oil passageways, which may lead to engine sieve – a costly type of damage that costs thousands of dollars to repair. It's good to know if there is sludge in your engine oil so you can deal with it before it causes serious problems. Here are some of the signs that point to engine oil sludge:
Heat absorption is an essential function of engine oil. Thus, the engine may overheat if the passageways are blocked and the oil cannot flow freely. This is because the heated oil will not flow back to the pan, where it usually cools before re-circulating. An overheated engine experiences myriad problems, such as detonation (spontaneous combustion of air/fuel mixture), damage to different parts (such as pistons), and even loss of power.
Clean oil circulates the different parts of the engine without any hindrance. However, sludge interferes with this efficient circulation, and if it finds a way through (for example if the seals are worn), may cover the spark plugs. If this happens, then the plugs may not produce the necessary sparks for igniting the air/fuel mixture, and an engine misfire ensues. This may also lead to difficulty starting the car.
Malfunctioning Oxygen Sensor
An oxygen sensor monitors the amount of unburned oxygen in the exhaust gases. Your car's onboard computer uses this information to calculate the amount of fuel being burned. If the sensor gets covered by oil sludge, it starts sending wrong signals to the car, which leads to inaccurate fuel readings. The result is reduced gas mileage and increased emissions. The same thing can also happen without sludge in the oil, which is why periodic replacement of oxygen sensors is necessary, but the presence of sludge in the oil makes it almost certain.
As mentioned before, sludge slows down the flow of oil and may also block some of the passageways. This reduces engine oil pressure, and your car starts behaving as if it has low oil. For example, the oil pressure indicator may light up even if there is enough of the fluid in the engine.
Oil is the lifeblood of your car's engine, so take any oil-related problem seriously. Ignoring these signs may worsen the problem and lead to considerable damage to your engine. This is one of the reasons you should change the oil according to the car manufacturer's specifications; it reduces the risk of sludge formation.
Contact a service like 59 Auto Repair to learn more.
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