Metal Shavings in Oil Explained and 7 Problems it can Cause


Good drivers always care for their vehicles. They know the value of regularly servicing their cars. For your vehicle to perform optimally, then you must consider doing both critical and preventative maintenance procedures.

Your vehicle’s health is dependent on these critical procedures.

  • Change your air filters
  • Replace worn-out tires with new ones
  • Wheel balancing and alignment
  • Oil filter and oil replacements

Oil filter and Oil replacements are majorly affected by metal shavings. These are fine metal debris that finds their way in oil and hence the engine. When metal shavings enter your engine, it is a matter of when and not if your engine will stall.

How do metal shavings get into the engine oil?

Think of oil as the blood that gives your engine life. Your car is full of moving parts. Without lubrication, these moving parts will grind into themselves and wear out fast. Oil passes through all these moving parts.

Now, picture sandpaper and the effect it has on wood. Now imagine it with the speed that pistons move in the engine. The best oil in the world will still have metal debris as the metal slowly chips off little by little.

The work of the oil filter is to catch these little metal shavings. And it does an excellent job at that. But it is not perfect. Eventually, some metal shavings will slip through and enter your engine. It is why you should change both your oil and oil filters regularly.

Signs that your oil has metal shavings

metal shaving in oil

Always pay attention to your car. From the minute you put it on the ignition, listen to the engine rev, follow the lights on the dashboard, and see if the check engine light is on. Good drivers know the state of their cars every time they drive it.

Rough idling

When your car is on the idle mode, it should be calm and still. But if it vibrates and shakes, then your oil might be the reason.

If there is a problem with sufficient lubrication in the engine, your engine is in trouble. Lack of lubrication means vital pieces of your engine grind against one another. If this continues for long, your oil quality becomes compromised.

Strange engine noises. Ticking sounds

Engine noises happen when your car’s engine is not getting enough lubrication. It means that oil is not moving freely within the vital engine components. Metal shavings in the oil prevent the smooth flow of oil in the engine. Eventually, when your engine stops getting lubrication in some parts, it stops functioning well.

Reduced power

If you drive a car that struggles to gain acceleration power, you will know immediately. When your car loses its power, it could be because of several things.

A decrease in engine power means that your engine is working harder under stressful conditions. The decline in power is a sign of a damaged oil filter and contaminated oil.

Engine knock

Your car should not run for long without changing your oil. The longer you take before changing your oil or oil filters, the more debris builds in your engine. An engine knock is a severe case and happens when your car uses dirty oil for a long time.

White smoke coming from your car’s exhaust

Under normal conditions, the fuel of your vehicle should never mix with engine oil. But it happens. When a mixture of gasoline and oil burns, it produces white smoke. White smoke indicates that your pistons and their ring seals are wearing out. The result is oil getting into the cylinders.

Burning of engine oil means a lack of proper engine lubrication. If you spot a white smoke from your exhaust pipe, visit an auto repair shop immediately.

Other related warning signs

Modern car designs rely on computer technology to perform simple diagnostics. Your dashboard has warning signs and lights that flash once they sense a fault. Popular warning lights include

  • Check engine
  • Oil pressure warning
  • Service vehicle soon
  • Oil change reminder
  • Reduced power warning

Do You Need a Total Engine Rebuild if You Find Metal Shavings in Your Oil?

A lot of people think that fixing this problem is easy and cheap. That isn’t the case. If you let this problem go, it’s going to be very expensive to fix it. In fact, by the time you even realize there’s a problem, it might be a very major repair instead of a minor fix.

When you take your car to the mechanic, they’ll check to see what sort of damage has been caused to your car. Remember – it’s not the metal shavings that causes a problem. The fact that metal shavings are in your oil is a sign that something else is seriously wrong. For example, you may need certain parts of your engine replaced. But this may require an entire engine rebuild.

If you need to rebuild your engine, it will be rather expensive. In fact, expect to pay at least $2,500. And that’s just the starting point. It could be much more expensive. It depends on how bad the damage is and what kind of car you have.

In order to do an engine rebuild, your mechanic is going to have to do the following:

  • Take off the engine covers, valves and hardware
  • Remove the pistons and rings so they can be repaired
  • Fix any other issues they find in your engine

If you have a small car, this may not be as difficult for the mechanic to do. However, if you have an SUV or truck, it can be a two-man job. This means the mechanic is going to have to charge you almost twice as much per hour. Make sure you ask before they do the work. If it’s going to cost as much as the car is worth, it may not make sense to do the repairs.





Our latest articles on Maintenance Tips