Metal Shavings in oil - What to Do (& Why)

A few things are certain to alarm car owners, and one is metal shavings in their oil. It is important to act quickly if metal shavings are found in the oil, even if your routine maintenance has been completed. 

Oil contamination can cause many problems. We will examine the causes and provide solutions. Your next steps will be examined to make sure your vehicle is running as intended. 

Índice de Contenido
  1. Why do metal shavings occur in oil?
  2. Different types of Metal Shavings
    1. 1. Iron Shavings
    2. 2. Brass, bronze and copper shavings
    3. 3. Molybdenum or Chromium Shavings
    4. 4. Aluminium Shavings
  3. How can metal shavings be used in oil?
    1. 1. Rough Idle
    2. 2. Engine Noises
    3. 3. Motor Knock
    4. 4. Slow Acceleration
    5. 5. Dashboard Warning Lights
  4. How to fix your car when you discover metal shavings in the oil

Why do metal shavings occur in oil?

Bad rod bearings and main bearings are the most likely causes of copper metal shavings found in motor oils. If it’s aluminum or metal, it could come from the pistons, a faulty oil pump, or worn camshafts.

Proper engine lubrication is essential in order to maintain the proper operation of all parts. Motor oil is essential to maintain the engine's life and prevent metal pieces from grinding together. 

Sometimes some metallic debris may be introduced to the internal parts due to the high speed pistons or a lack in lubrication. In a few instances, this wouldn’t be a big deal as the metallic particles were caught in the filter and removed during a tune-up. If oil has a lot of metallic shavings, this could indicate that metal parts are being lost. 

RELATED: What is the Normal Oil Content of Metal?

Different types of Metal Shavings

1. Iron Shavings

Iron shavings can be found in oil. This indicates that there is a problem with one or more rotating parts within the engine. Both the crankshaft and camshaft are made of iron.

Additionally, many parts of the valve train can also be made out of iron. Either way, you are facing a serious repair that shouldn’t be delayed. 

2. Brass, bronze and copper shavings

Brass, copper and bronze all display a distinctive appearance, which is unmistakeable from others. You might have a busing if you see colored shavings in your oil.

A defective bearing in the engine could also be the cause. These parts may be small but can cause major problems for the engine if they are not replaced. 

3. Molybdenum or Chromium Shavings

It can even look like aluminum. The pistons themselves are made of chromium or molybdenum.

You can tell that these shavings indicate worn pistons. It is possible that the piston rings have broken. 

4. Aluminium Shavings

The engine's exterior wear can cause these shavings. Aluminum shavings can be caused by several components that are worn out. 

It’s possible that you are dealing with the overhead camshaft bearings. It could also be caused by the aluminum caps.

Motor Oil In Bucket

How can metal shavings be used in oil?

1. Rough Idle

Everything should run smoothly when your car is idle. But, if your car is idle and vibrates or shakes it could mean that you have metal shavings in its oil.

When there isn’t enough lubrication for the engine components, the metal pieces begin to rub together. The oil will eventually absorb the metal pieces that have fallen off over time. A rough idle indicates that the engine is not working as it should.

2. Engine Noises

When the engine doesn’t get the right amount of lubrication, you will likely notice some strange sounds. Because oil isn’t moving freely in the engine, you could start to hear some ticking noises.

These sounds may be present at all times in some instances. Sometimes, the ticking sound is only heard when you start your vehicle. 

3. Motor Knock

Engine knocks are a sign that your motor is failing. If you neglect to change your oil or filter regularly, it can lead to engine knock. 

Oil contamination can build up over time, putting internal components under greater stress. You should take engine knock seriously before it causes damage. 

4. Slow Acceleration

A decrease in engine performance can always be a sign that there is something wrong. If you are stepping on the accelerator pedal but aren’t seeing a response, you should take notice.

Decreased engine power means that the motor can’t work as it should. You might have to put additional pressure on the engine because of the oil contamination. 

5. Dashboard Warning Lights

A Check Engine Light or the Oil Pressure Warning Indicator might come on. Some vehicles will have an Oil Change Reminder or Service Engine Soon light. 

You might also notice warning signs that your vehicle may be experiencing decreased power. When you see an indicator, it’s a sign that you should have the vehicle looked at right away. 

RELATED: Service Engine Soon Light – Meaning, Causes & Fixes

How to fix your car when you discover metal shavings in the oil

Motor oil should contain very little metal shavings. This will often mean that there's not much wear. There are often many metal shavings in the motor oil, so if you notice this, your engine may be having problems.

While you hope that fixing engine problems would be cheap and easy, it isn’t usually the case. It is possible to become more expensive if you don't act quickly. Even a small fix like changing the oil can quickly become a major overhaul of your engine. 

For a complete inspection, take your car to the mechanic. The mechanic will determine if the damage is irreparable and what it can be repaired. Sometimes a component can be repaired, but sometimes a rebuild of the engine might prove to be more effective. 

The cost of rebuilding an engine can add up quickly. Depending on the type of car you have, your engine rebuild will cost $2,000 to $2,000. The engine rebuild allows you to replace many parts of the motor. The following steps will be required to perform an engine rebuild:

  1. The engine covers, hardware, valves and hardware are taken off.
  2. Repairs will be made to rings and pistons.
  3. All new gaskets, seals, are installed. 
  4. Other issues may be dealt with simultaneously. 

If you drive a small, compact car, an engine rebuild shouldn’t take long. However, if you have a pickup or SUV with a large V8 engine, it’s going to take some time. However, with proper engine maintenance and regular oil changes, you won’t ever need to worry about metal shavings in the motor.

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