When you notice debris or metal shavings in your car’s oil, what automatically comes to mind is that you are about to have a bad driving experience. However, metal shavings might not always be harmful as you can assume. Some amounts of metal shavings are normal, but it is always good to take precautions when you notice metal flakes.
So, how much metal in oil is normal?
It is a normal part of the wearing of the engine to find some metals in the oil. The oil filter in the engine helps to catch metal flakes, but it is not in a position to gather all of them. So if your oil has about less than ¼ teaspoon of metals, chips, or whiskers, then that is normal and is acceptable.
However, it is essential to note that the average mileage for your car to start showing metals in oil should be about 10,000 miles.
if you are having trouble driving your car because of the metal shaving, it would be good to have your vehicle checked. Many metal shavings might damage your vehicle’s engine, so know when the amount of metals is not okay.
Are you interested in learning more about the issue of metal in oil?
This article is about to answer all your questions, so read on!
What are Metal Shavings in Oil?
Metal shavings, also called flakes, metal debris, or chippings refer to the accumulation of small metal particles in the engine.
Metal shavings result from continuous oil friction in the engine’s moving parts, and you will mostly find them around the dipstick, oil filter, and crankcase.
Metal oil is acceptable, but many metal shavings is not good and might shorten the engine’s life span, or it might cost you a lot to repair some of the most expensive parts for your car.
Accumulating metal shavings in the engine imply increased wearing out of the bearing and other parts. The debris is then deposited in the engine oil before they are discarded.
When there are many metal shavings in your oil, the engine will be more contaminated, lacking proper lubrication.
Thus, the more dirty your oil is, the more metals will be in the oil because when the oil is contaminated, it will have more friction between moving components of your car.
Here are the different types of metal shavings;
- Bronze/Copper/Brass– these metal shavings are part of camshaft bearings, turbo thrust bearings, wrist pin bearings, crankshaft, and worn bearings.
- Iron– metal shaving of iron can easily be tested using a magnet. Iron metal shavings are usually from your vehicle’s parts that rotate like camshaft, crankshaft, and other valve train components.
- Chromium/Molybdenum– they result from wearing out pistons or piston rings.
- Aluminum– this type results from wearing out of the bearing’s surface. It is usually because the camshaft usually holds the camshaft in its position.
How Metal Shavings End Up In Motor Oil
There are both good and bad news. The good news is that metal shavings in engine oil are somewhat rare. When this occurs, it might limit the engine’s lifespan or necessitate costly repairs.
The engine includes several moving components. These parts are almost entirely made of metal. When the oil begins to degrade and fails to provide sufficient lubrication, metal shavings are deposited in the oil. Because the metal components rub against one another.
Imagine using a nail file to style your nails. The result is a powdery residue. This is caused by friction between the fingernail file and the file. This is essentially what occurs within a poorly greased engine. When the engine is operating at 3,000 RPM, for instance, all the moving parts are in constant contact. A piston with a 3.5-inch stroke, for instance, travels seven inches every revolution. At 3000 revolutions per minute, the piston is going 1,750 feet per minute with just a thin layer of oil protecting it. Without adequate lubricant, the heat & friction between metal pieces would produce metal shavings. The sizes of metal shavings vary, but the vast majority are tiny.
What Causes Metal Shavings in Oil?
Almost all parts that makeup vehicles are made up of metal; sometimes, the oil starts to break down and fails to lubricate properly.
Poor lubrication leads to metals grinding against each other leading to metal oil.
Since the oil in the car pass through many moving parts and the parts are always at high speed, some amount of the metals chips off with time as part of engine tear and wear.
The oil filter helps catch metal flakes, but it cannot capture all of them. Thus, it is vital to check the oil and oil filters regularly and replace them when need be for the maintenance of your car.
Along with the apparent tearing and wearing out, another major cause of the building up of metal shavings is bearing damage.
Engine bearings are mostly tri-metal or bi-metal structures, and lower-friction areas like copper, brass, and aluminum, when bonded to steel, make it more efficient and last longer.
When looking at the cause of metal shavings in the oil, you can check out those material compositions.
If the metal shavings are not magnetic, they result from engine bearings. Alternatively, if they are magnetic, it results from steel in the engine crankshaft or other engine parts.
- Insufficiently frequent oil changes.
- Increased oil consumption is caused by damaged cylinder walls or piston rings.
- Clogged oil pathways result in oil flow restriction into the engine components.
Signs of Metal Shavings in Oil?
When you are familiar with how your car starts or handles, it will be easy to notice when something is not right.
So, always ensure you pay attention to your vehicle to know its state when you are behind the wheel or start to drive it.
Here are signs of metal shavings in oil;
1. Ticking Noises
Mostly, you will get strange noises from the engine when it is not getting enough lubrication. Meaning, the oil does not move freely in very crucial components of the engine.
When there are metal shavings in the oil, they prevent the smooth flow of oil into the engine. Thus, if some vital engine parts stop receiving enough lubrication, they will stop working correctly.
2. Rough Idling
Your car should always remain still and calm when in an idle state. However, if it vibrates and shakes, the oil is the problem.
If your engine lacks enough lubrication, it will affect essential components and start grinding against each other.
Over time, your oil will get debris and metal shavings, compromising its quality.
3. Engine Knock
You should avoid running your car for a long time without changing the oil. More debris builds up around the engine when you run it for long without changing the oil filter.
Engine knock is one of the severe cases and primarily happens because your car has used dirty oil for a long time.
4. Reduced Engine Power
When the engine power reduces, the engine is under a stressful state and working harder than usual. The reduced power thus indicates that either the oil is contaminated or the oil filter is damaged.
If you start your car and struggle to accelerate, its engine power has reduced.
5. White Exhaust Fumes
Your vehicle’s fuel should never mix with engine oil under normal circumstances. If gasoline and oil burn, it will produce white smoke. White smoke shows that pistons and their ring seals are getting worn out, making oil get into the cylinders.
When engine oil burns, there is no proper lubrication of the engine. So, if you see a cloud of white smoke coming from the exhaust pipe, take your car to the repair shop nearby for proper inspection.
Also, note that if your check engine light starts flashing, it might also be a sign that your oil has metal shavings.
How Much Metal in Oil Is Normal
Oil filters help to catch debris and metal flakes. Sometimes, after oil passes the engine for an extended period, the engine oil might collect some metal flakes. There could also be a problem in the oil filter hence the failure to gather all-metal shakings.
Those metals could be bearing backing materials, steel from the crankshaft, or other engine components.
Primarily, the oil will start gathering metals after covering about 10,000 miles. So, if you find metals in your oil before your car goes beyond 5,000 miles, then there is a problem, and it is a cause for an alarm.
Wondering how much metal in oil is normal?
If your oil has about less than ¼ teaspoon of metals, chips, or whiskers, then that is normal. However, if you spot 20 to 40 metal particles in your oil filter, changing the oil filter and the engine oil would be best. After changing oil, you should inspect the filter within 10 hours to note any improvements.
It is not possible to spot such metals, so you will need to use a magnet for checking.
Also, ensure you take this problem of metal in oil seriously because if you don’t, it can damage your engine over time.
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What Does It Mean When You Find Metal Shavings in Your Oil?
It means that your oil could be contaminated. The more contaminated it is, the more your engine will lack proper lubrication creating a snowball effect.
The dirtier your oil is, the more metal shavings are likely to be in the oil. When the oil is contaminated, the moving parts have more friction.
Why You Need An Oil Filter With Magnets
In a well-maintained engine, metal shavings in the oil are relatively rare. Nevertheless, you should use an oil filter fitted with magnets. Your vehicle’s most costly component is the engine. Therefore, it is always prudent to take measures.
Magnetized oil filters are the greatest precaution to take in this scenario. If your engine’s oil is contaminated, you will not realize it until it is too late. Magnet in the filter will capture any ferrous metal particles in the oil, assuring you that your engine is in good condition.
Disposable filters don’t often have magnets but some reusable oil filters do.An example is the PurePower! lifetime oil filters have neodymium rare earth magnets of the highest quality. These magnets are the most powerful on the planet. They generate a powerful magnetic field inside the filter. Additionally, they can capture even the tiniest metal particles.
Can You Drive A Car With Metal Shavings In Oil?
Driving a car with metal shavings can be risky, so if you have to, take precautions.
Metal flakes might block the passing of oil. When the passage of oil is restricted, it is likely to drop the oil pressure and limit flowing to essential engine components leading to premature engine failure.
How Do You Clean Metal Shavings Out Of An Engine?
You can clean metal shavings from your engine by crushing up a magnet using a hammer, removing the air filter, and putting the magnet chunks in the intake while it runs.
It will help shoot the metal attached to the magnet out of your exhaust.
What does an oil filter catch?
The oil filter helps to remove waste. It collects all the dirt, harmful debris, and metal flakes in the oil to ensure the engine runs smoothly.
Metal flakes in oil can be dangerous, but it is normal and acceptable when it does not gather too many metals. So if your oil has metals, do not start freaking out yet.
The best thing to do is to avoid accumulating so much dirt, metal flakes, and debris in your engine oil by ensuring regular maintenance of your car. It will ensure that the oil filter remains clean and that your engine is not damaged by metal flakes or debris.
An oil change will cost you as little as $50, which will be cheaper compared to the risk of replacing some parts of your car.
So, how much metal in oil is normal? About ¼ of metal flakes is normal and will not harm your engine.
However, if many metals have accumulated in the oil filter, you can check for signs like ticking noise, rough idling, engine knock, reduced engine power, and white exhaust fumes.
Therefore, if you notice those signs, it would be best to take your car for a proper check-up to avoid damaging your engine.
Hi I’m Marshall based in 1478 Doctors Drive Santa Monica, CA. I’m your DIY Car Repairman with more than 5 years experience in automobile repair, a skill I learned from my old man.
I started this blog to share my experience on both simple and technical aspects of your car.