Metal Shavings In Oil Pan – The Main Culprits?

Metal Shavings In Oil Pan – The Main Culprits?

June 6, 2023 0 By CarGuy

Have you noticed that there are metal shavings in oil pan and you want to learn why these metal shavings appeared inside of the oil pan?

If that’s correct, you are in the right place because, in this article, there will be a lot to cover. First, we are going to learn what are metal shavings in general, then we are going to cover the causes of metal shavings in oil pan and also how to tackle this problem in your car. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the article.

What Are Metal Shavings?

Metal shavings for those who don’t know are metallic flakes that are found in the oil pan.

Let’s say you flush the oil and you removed this pan and in the bottom of the pan you found sludge with fine metal particles.

These metallic flakes are caused by internal combustion engine wear and tear. These shavings are basically debris that is created by the engine. The size of these metallic flakes depends on where they come from.

This is the important bit. Understanding the causes of where these flakes come from is really important to understand how to tackle this problem and more on that, we are going to further elaborate in the following chapters.

Causes Of Metal Shavings In Oil Pan

Now that we learned what are metal shavings, we can move on and learn more about the causes of metal shavings in your oil pan. What could be causing this problem? Let’s elaborate more on that in the following chapters.

1. Bearing Wear

The most common cause for metal shavings in oil pan is bearing wear. If you don’t know, inside of the engine you have main bearings and rod bearings.

The main bearings keep the crankshaft in position, while the rod bearings allow the pistons to move up and down.

These bearings are often made out of soft multi-layered materials such as aluminum, brass, or copper. These are extremely soft materials.

Aluminum is silver, while copper is reddish brown in color. If you find some particles like these in the oil pan, this means that probably either the rod bearings or main bearings have failed.

Whenever there is wear, there will be an increase in these particles in the engine oil. And it is important to react quickly before the problem becomes bigger and you have increased engine damage.

2. Broken Piston Rings

The second common wear and tear are broken piston rings. These are the rings that seal the pistons and allow your engine to create compression and keep the oil in the oil compartment.

There are compression rings and there is an oil control ring. These components are easy to identify when you have them in the oil pan.

If the shaving resembles part of a ring, then this is definitely a broken ring. These broken pieces can be a fraction of an inch, up to one inch or more in size.

In this case, you highly likely will need complete machine work and the engine has to be refurbished completely and these components to be replaced with new ones.

Which can be expensive and sometimes the question is if the repair is worth it at all in the first place.

But more on that we are going to elaborate more later on after we learn the last prime cause for metal shavings in oil pan.

3. Shaven Material From The Engine Internals

And the last cause for metal shavings in oil pan is shaven material from the camshafts, pistons, or cylinder walls.

Whenever there is a piston slap, which is a situation when you have a piston that rubs against the cylinder walls, you will have this situation when there is shaven material that will be collected in the oil pan.

Also, whenever the camshaft rubs against worn lifter rollers, you will also have metal shavings in the pan.

Both of these situations are expensive to fix. But if the problem is because of worn out rollers and a worn-out camshaft, you will be able to fix the engine without replacing it.

If the problem is caused by wear on the cylinder walls, you will highly likely have to do major machine work and rebuild this engine.

Metal Shavings In Oil Pan Symptoms

When it comes to the symptoms of this problem, in many cases there will be practically no symptoms besides these metallic flakes.

But if the problem exacerbates, you will start to notice some issues with the engine. For example, if the problem is caused by worn roller lifters and a bad camshaft, there will be ticking noises coming from the rockers.

In case there is an imbalance of the piston caused by bad rod bearings, you will experience a piston slap, or in worse cases, engine knock. This problem is also known as rod knock.

If there are pieces of piston material, you will also experience a drop in compression. Whenever you have a drop in compression, the engine will simply not like to run well and will often not be able to start or it will stall.

Doing a compression test in these situations is probably one of the smartest things in order to determine the extent of damage without disassembling the engine.

How To Tackle Metal Shavings In Oil Pan?

Tackling the problem is not that easy. The first thing you would want to do is to make sure what material is this.

For example, if the material is copper, there is a high chance that this is because of bad rod bearings. In this case, removing the rod caps and investigating the damage is crucial.

Some engines are prone to develop rod bearing wear. For example, if you have a BMW M-model with an S55 engine, you will highly likely have to replace these bearings.

If the debris resembles a piece of a broken piston ring, then you will highly likely need to do a rebuild of this engine.

If there are ticking noises whenever you have this issue, there could be wear and tear on the lifter rollers and the camshaft of the engine. This problem is repairable without having the engine rebuilt.

Overall, these are the most common scenarios for this problem. The important thing is that you get the engine diagnosed on time by a professional. Since if you only mask the problems out, the engine will not go for a really long time.

It’s a matter of time when and how the engine will fail and you will have to replace it completely. And this can be pretty pricey. More on that, next.

Cost To Fix Problem With Metal Shavings In Oil Pan

The cost to sort this problem out is not cheap. It can go from $500 and up to a few thousands of dollars. Why is this the case?

Well, there can be a number of causes for this problem. For example, if you need new rod bearings, you will probably pay the cheapest price since these bearings can be replaced without removing the engine from the car.

Other problems, like a worn-out camshaft, will require more extensive work and you will have to pay up to $2,000 to get this issue sorted out.

The worst case is the situation if the engine does not hold compression and there is cylinder wall damage.

In this case, the cylinders will have to be re-bored and re-measured, and then new bigger rings installed. Or if the bore is too large, even new pistons.

This will cost you both time and money. So, if the engine is not a high-performance engine, you might be better off getting a used one from a junkyard.

For most older cars you can find one for a few hundred dollars. Or if you want to do the rebuild you will have to pay a few grand to get the job done.

That’s why if the engine holds sentimental value, we advise that you do a rebuild. If the engine does not hold any sentimental value, you are better off replacing the engine with a different one.


The problem with metal shavings in oil pan can be really frustrating to deal with. This issue is such a headache to a lot of owners on a day-to-day basis.

And honestly, it is not cheap to sort it out. You will pay a good penny in order to get these issues removed from the engine. Which in most cases, results with a completely new engine since repairing the existing one is out of the question.

That’s why, do the maintenance regularly and make sure that you put in quality engine oil to avoid these problems if you don’t have them yet.


What Are Metal Shavings In Oil Pan?

Metal shavings in the oil pan are small metallic flakes found in the oil pan of the car. These flakes can be copper, aluminum, brass, iron, or pieces of piston rings.

Causes For Metal Shavings In Oil Pan?

The main causes for this problem are irregular oil changes. The more you delay the oil changes, the more the engine will suffer. And consequently, the rod bearings will start to wear, there can be also cylinder scarring and wear on the cylinders, as well as wear on the camshaft and lifter rollers. When these components wear down, they start to create metallic flakes.