Metal Shavings In Oil – How Serious Is This Problem?

Metal Shavings In Oil – How Serious Is This Problem?

July 21, 2021 0 By CarGuy

If you have pulled out your oil dipstick recently and seen metal shavings in oil it means that the situation is serious. But you don’t have to panic, because metal shavings in oil don’t mean that your engine is totaled. Especially if they are fine metal shavings in oil.

Through time engines know to wear and develop some issues. Piston rings don’t seal as they used to. Bearings start to get to the copper level, and the overall health of the engine worsens and even metal shavings start to appear in oil.

There are many reasons that can cause this situation, and the number one reason is probably the delayed maintenance. If the engine was not properly maintained, issues like this may appear.
In this article, we are going to learn everything about fine metal shavings in oil, why they appear, and how to get rid of metal shavings in oil. We also going to learn how to do some preventive maintenance to your engine and make sure that these things do not happen in the first place. So, without further ado, let’s get into the topic.

What Are Metal Shavings?

Metal shavings are small metal particles that you can spot inside the oil. A good engine with good oil should not have metal shavings in any way. The oil, if changed recently should look clear and if you put some of it on your fingers it shouldn’t have any resistance when you rub your fingers with it.

With old oil, the test should give the same results even though old and burnt oil can be a bit thicker and dark black in color. If there is nothing wrong with it, the oil should not contain metal shavings at all.

In order to prevent some of these issues, it is recommended to change the oil every 7,000 miles with good quality oil. This will give you that extra security and will keep your engine safe from oil sludge buildup.

What Causes Metal Shavings In Oil?

Metal shavings in oil are caused by irregular oil changes or a worn-out engine. The first symptoms of this problem are fine metal shavings in oil. These particles are few micrometers in size, but as the problem progresses, they get bigger and bigger. When this problem exacerbates you can even see a piece of metal in oil pan or metal chunks in oil pan.

The last two are the symptoms that your engine decides to give up on you and let your down. If the engine has more than 200,000 miles this is expected. Engines usually last from 150,000 up to 350,000 miles if you are lucky.

There are a few examples that reach the 500,000 mark and some even 1 million, but these instances are very rare. Usually, these engines are not driven hard and went through regular oil changes. If you don’t run the engine too hard and you do your maintenance regularly, you are probably going to get away from these issues, but if you found some metal in your oil. It is time to take care of this issue and in the next chapters, we are going to explain how you can do it.

Metal Shavings Contaminate The Oil

If the oil filter gets clogged from debris in the oil and doesn’t filtrate the oil as it used to. These fine particles will start doing some damage inside the engine.

The low lubricity and these metal shavings will start eating the rod bearings and cause play inside the crankshaft. Your crankshaft will also get damaged by these fine metal particles.
At first, there will be some microscopic lines, but as the problem progresses the bearings will start to fall apart and the engine will start its travel into the twilight zone.

Also, the cylinder walls may be scratched by these metal particles and these scratches will potentially ruin the compression of the engine.

A loss of compression occurs when the piston rings or the cylinder walls fail. There is less compression inside the cylinder and this means loss of power and protentional catastrophic damage inside the engine.

If there is a lack of lubricity and metal shavings the cylinder walls will take the most of the damage and start to develop big grooves. This can be resolved with machining work, but if it’s too far gone it will scrap the engine. So, the best thing is to take action as soon as you spot these metal shavings in oil. Take your car to your mechanic’s shop and diagnose the problem.

How To Get Rid Of Metal Shavings In Oil DIY?

The simplest way to get rid of metal shavings in oil is to flush the oil. If your oil hasn’t been flushed for a longer period it is a good idea to flush it a few times in close intervals of about a couple hundred miles.

By doing this you will eliminate the sludge that is inside of the engine from the irregular oil changes. It is also quite useful after the last oil change to remove the oil pan and clean it off from all the sludge that is inside. This sludge can also contain a lot of metal shavings. These shavings are a protentional hazard and need proper removal.

Drain the oil from your engine and then unbolt all of the bolts from the oil pan. Give the oil pan a good clean with water and degreaser. This will make sure that there are no contaminants left inside the oil pan and your engine will be safe.

Get a new oil pan gasket and mount the oil pan on the car. Make sure that you torque the bolts to the right spec, not too much but also not too loose because the oil will start to leak from the gasket. After you are done, fill the car with good quality synthetic oil and a quality oil filter. A quality brand will make sure that the oil will be perfectly safe and the filter will do its job properly.
Also, when you buy oil, make sure that the oil is as in the factory spec.

Make sure that the viscosity is correct for your application. Since we answered this question about how to get rid of metal shavings in oil now let’s see what if you find bigger pieces of metal in the oil pan.

What if I find Chunks Of Metal In Oil Pan?

Finding chunks of metal in oil pan can be a nightmare, to be honest. This is bad news for you and your engine.

If you find some metal chunks, make sure that you inspect them very well and see from where they come from. If they are pieces of piston rings this can be some good news for you. But if they look like rocks, it means that your engine is potential scrap metal.

If you find some piston ring pieces it means that your piston rings are broken on one of the cylinders. In this case, the best thing to do is to measure the compression of each cylinder.
For this job, you will need a compression tester. This tool is fairly cheap and you can get one at your local car parts store.

How To Measure Compression?

Then you need to remove all of your spark plug wires or coils and remove one of the spark plugs. Then you need to connect the compression tester to that cylinder. After you connected the tester, give it a crank on the ignition. Crank it until it builds enough pressure. Check the readings and make sure that they are above 100-120 and they are consistent with all of the cylinders.

Some engines may crank higher and can go to 160 or 180. This depends much on the compression ratio of the engine. After you checked the cylinders, you will probably get one or more with lower compression readings. These cylinders will need new piston rings.

This means that the whole engine needs to come apart starting from the head and the oil pan. Then the cylinder walls need to be inspected if there is damage to them. If there are small lines a little honing will do the trick. But if there are deep grooves it will need some machine work.

This can take a lot of time and a lot of money. So, if it’s an engine of not big importance you can replace it with a used engine. Much simpler process and cheaper in the long run.

If you find some bigger pieces of metal that are not piston rings then there is a big chance that your engine is going to fail. This engine is probably drinking a lot of oil as well. This means that the engine is completely worn out and needs a total rebuild if the block is savable or replacement with a new engine. Depending on which route you want to take.


In this article, we discussed about metal shavings in oil. Why do they appear and what does this situation mean. Then we discussed how to get rid of metal shavings in oil.

Lastly, we covered what can you do if you find chunks of metal inside the oil pan. This is the worst-case scenario and you definitely want to avoid this. Do your oil changes regularly if you want to be free from these problems. A fresh oil and filter will improve the engine’s longevity and also it will save a lot of money in the long run.