How Much Metal in Oil Is Normal? Everything Explained

Have a vehicle with metal particles in its engine oil? Don’t freak out! Well at least, not yet. Not before you learn how much metal particles are normal.

But is it normal to have metal particles in your engine oil? Is your engine totaled? What are the necessary steps to take to prevent the issue?

The good news is, it’s not. In this article, I will discuss everything regarding metal in your engine oil and the safety concerning it. Read till the end to find out!

Why Do You Find Metal Shavings in Your Engine Oil?

No matter the vehicle you have, the engine oil will collect small metal particles. These particles are so small, they go unnoticed. These are tiny metal particles.

The engine oil is there for lubrication. With time, the oil wears down or breaks down. As a result, the engine skips adequate lubrication.

And as the metal parts grind against each other. The rubbing also produces heat.

The physical friction and heat combined break down the metal shavings. They get dispersed in the oil.

Is It Normal?

The gathering of metal in oil is normal. No machine is perfect and with time this happens. This is why we change engine oil after a certain interval.

How to Spot Metal in the Oil?

As they are invisible to the naked eye, how to spot them? There are a few ways.

  1. Use a magnetic drain plug. The magnetic drain plug captures metal debris in the engine oil. Mostly those that your oil filter misses out. They are made with a special material called neodymium magnets.
  2. Pour the used oil into a pan after cutting open the filter. Before draining the oil for inspection, make sure it is clean. Very little flakes of metal can be seen.
  3. Check out the fuel filter for small metal scrapings. 10-20 pieces would be the concerning amount.
  4. Metal scraping buildup sometimes causes pressure drops or ticking noises. But these symptoms manifest in many other issues as well.

How Much Metal in Oil Is Normal?

We will inspect the regular amount of metal scrapings in terms of mileage on the engine. Metal particles are normal on the engine after you have crossed 10,000 miles. Finding metal scraps anywhere below 5,000 miles is problematic.

Unless there is no problem with your engine (like a recent breakdown, recovery from which includes periods of available metal scraping in the oil), this situation is alarming.

If you see metal particle build-up suddenly, it indicates a sudden wear-out of important engine parts. And the thing to remember is, you shouldn’t be able to see the metal particles. But if you are seeing big particles,

What to Do?

You can make a thorough engine check. Calculate the metal build-up every 10 hours. If the problem persists, check the metal bearings and metal parts. Change the oil and fuel filter.

How to Eliminate Metal Shavings from Your Engine Oil?

The metal build-up may cause rattling noises in your engine. It may also significantly diminish the performance of your engine. To prevent this, you may take some important steps.

You will need to completely take off the engine covers, valves, and necessary components off. Then give the piston rings for repair after taking them out. Make sure you have diagnosed your entire engine. If there are any issues, solve them accordingly.

Change the oil of your engine and fuel filter as well. Clean the cooler kit. Brush off all the metal shavings if there are any.

When you have bearing failures, you are in for financial turmoil. Because changing bearings that are rapidly deteriorating costs as much as an engine removal and overhaul. So it is better to go for the latter. In this case, to save you some money, you can get an engine from the junkyard.

Does it Cause Permanent Damage to the Engine?

Metal scrapings in oil usually cause rough idling, decreased power-up due to low pressure. It also causes ticking noises and engine knocking. The engine knocking can be due to low compression.

But the oil scrapings do not cause permanent damage to the engine. However, in many freak cases, the metal scrapings can enter important engine components. This might render the engine completely useless.

Is It Safe to Drive with Metal in Oil?

The thing with metal shavings is, they remain dispersed in oil. They are free to move. So if by any chance, the shavings end up in the space between the bearings and crankshaft journals, damage can occur. The damages include scratches or gouges.

These shavings can also block or restrict oil passages. This drops in oil pressure. This restricts oil flow in critical engine components.

While driving, your engine might suddenly stop due to this. This can cause a problem if you are driving in the middle of nowhere. Or during cold. Might also cause accidents on highways.

Misconceptions Regarding Metal Clearing

Some misconceptions persist in the internet community regarding the metal clearance from the oil. Some are discussed below:

Oil Filter Catches All Metal Shavings

Yes I know, the oil filter is responsible to keep the oil pure. And it does so too! It does catch metal shavings. But it cannot catch all of them. It cannot catch minuscule, microscopic metal flakes. This is why only an oil change can save the engine.

Metal Shavings Are Restricted to Engine Oil Only

Metal shavings travel around everywhere. So when they find metal in engine oil, customers usually stop investigating further. But upon continuing investigation, they may have found metal shavings in transmission fluid as well.

Cost of Removing the Metal Scrapes

We know that an oil change, or some metal parts change or a complete engine overhaul is necessary for removing metal scrapes.

Changing the oil of an engine costs around $65 to $125. Changing metal parts can have various costs depending on the type of damage and the severity.

Whereas an engine overhaul costs around $20,000 to $40,000. This is the worst part. So it is better to get one off the junkyard which will cost significantly less.

Final Words

Metal in the engine oil can be quite an expensive deal for you. However, it is okay if you take early precautions and action. It can save you from losing an engine eventually due to failed bearings. The best thing to do is to accept it as a part of the vehicle’s life cycle and maintain routine check.

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