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Plastic Bits Clogging Oil Screen (Photo Included)

4455 Views 10 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  John_E
I recently acquired an '02 Passat 1.8T Wagon (auto) w/ 175k miles in really nice shape (runs and shifts flawlessly, not even a door ding) except that the oil pressure light flickers above about 2500rpm. It needs an ABS module, but other than that, it's great.

I assumed (dumb, I know), it was sludge from a PO not using synthetic oil clogging the screen and causing oil starvation at higher rpms.

I purchased a new German-made oil pump and screen, and dropped the subframe to replace the pump and found that the screen had no sludge, but was packed full of small white hard plastic bits, all about 3mm-5mm in size that resembled pieces of a chain rail guide liner as I've seen used in some engines. There was a few of these in the pan, but the oil pump had done a great job of collecting 99% of them. The pan was pretty clean otherwise, and the bottom end of the engine looked normal for the miles on it.

I snapped a photo of some of what I picked out on my workbench (attached).
Organism Pest Insect Darkling beetles

Engine bottom end (old oil pump still in place)- No excessive deposits I could see.
Engine Auto part Automotive engine part Vehicle

Removing the valve cover I saw no chain guide on the cam chain end that looked like white plastic on the hydraulic cam chain foot, and the tensioner for the oil pump chain, both of which were black material and intact with no broken corners.

So I am at a loss to know where the plastic could have come from, so am asking here (after doing searches that mentioned junk in the pan, but nothing that looked like my recovered pieces).

The engine was quiet and ran perfectly before, as it does now with the new pump and screen (and no oil pressure light now, of course), but I am a bit nervous wondering if there is something disintegrating that will cause FUTURE problems.


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This is exactly what happened to my 1st Passat.
Long story short (my whole deal has been well documented here on this forum) I purchased my now daily driver, a 1998 GLS V6 5sp manual FWD in July of 2006.
I bought the car knowing it had some serious issues with the engine. At the time I had no idea what the problem was.
I drove the car for 3 months and the valve train finally let loose. Parked the car for a number of years and finally one day got back at it.
When I took the valve covers off the passengers side CCT had the plastic shoes completely gone. Then the oil pan came off. The plastic shoes got all ground up into chunks and sucked into the oil pick-up screen, just like yours.

I was lucky and didn't experience any cam bearing journal damage. However, both CCT's and all the cam followers were complete junk.

What happens is, conventional motor oil when left unchecked / neglected will attack the plastic shoes on the CCT's and cause them to become very brittle. The bits and pieces bounce around in valve train for a while until they get flushed down into the oil pan and then sucked up into the pick-up screen.

I have seen other cars with similar issues. Plastic in the oil pan but all the shoes and oil tensioner is all intact. That comes from your dumbass Joe the Hack mechanic that replaces the CCT shoes but doesn't bother going after all that foreign material left inside the engine. And then he charges you an assload of money for doing a job well done.
It's exactly why many of us here do our own wrenching. Most mechanics are like politicians, they can't be trusted.

When this happens and the CCT(s) is replaced or repaired, that is the time to switch over to full synthetic oil. Synthetic oil does not cause any issues with the plastic shoes.

There are a total of 3 pieces of plastic inside the 1.8 engine. two pieces on the CCT (shoe on top and bottom) the other piece of plastic is the chain tensioner on the oil pump.
New oil pumps have a revised piece of plastic from the original design.

I would remove all plastic that can be found, I'd even use a shop-vac on the head to suck out any left over pieces. Swap out the CCT for a new one. Put it all back together.
Put in some cheap conventional oil, new oil filter and a full can of Sea-Foam and run that engine for a few days. Drain the oil and put in fresh Synthetic oil and oil filter of your choice and you should be good to go.
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Here's a shot of that oil pump chain tensioner, from a 1.8t rebuild I did a few years ago.

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I need to make an adjusted statement about my post #3.

I stated that are 3 pieces of plastic inside the engine. While that is true, for some it may not. Depending what year/version, some cars came with a windage tray on the bottom end and a splatter tray on top of the cams.
The 1.8t engine that I rebuilt did not have those items in it. So that would be 3 pieces of plastic. But please note with the trays you could have up to five pieces of plastic inside the engine.

The tray on the bottom directly below the crankshaft is a windage tray, this prevents oil from being whipped to the sides of the engine from the crankshaft spinning at high RPM's.
The tray on the top of the cams is to prevent all the oil splatter whipping of the cams to stay contained within an area to help prevent excess oil being sucked into the PCV system.
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