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Grinding Gears...gone fishing!
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi guys,
I figured my friends with all the 1.8's should read this one, not that you dont already know about it.
Sludge: Jumping through hoops to make a case



Some 4.7 million engines sold in the U.S. may be prone to developing sludge.
Photograph by Rocky Carr
A killer named sludge may live in your engine and can choke the life from your car, regardless of maintenance or mileage. And the automakers whose engines are susceptible to sludge still aren’t always eager to help.

Sludge often forms when oil oxidizes and breaks down after prolonged exposure to high temperatures. The baked oil turns gelatinous and can block vital oil passages, which could lead to repairs exceeding $8,000 or even an engine replacement.

While sludge often results from poor upkeep, notably not changing oil at prescribed intervals, some engines from Audi, Chrysler, Saab, Toyota, and Volkswagen appear prone to it (see the chart below).

The Center for Auto Safety says it has received about 1,300 sludge complaints since 2004. Toyota, the company with the most engines in question, cited 3,400 complaints through 2002 but hasn’t provided an updated number since. And while about 4.7 million engines sold in the U.S. may have sludge-prone designs, the problem rate as reflected in our reliability data is very low. But that’s little solace to those affected by it.

The automakers initially blamed these concerns on poor care and resisted covering repair costs. However, all but Chrysler have begun replacement or repair programs, even for those who bought their vehicles used. Chrysler says it will handle sludge complaints individually.


AUTOMAKERS play tough

These programs put the burden of proof on the owner, however. While Toyota, Lexus, Audi, Saab, and Volkswagen have extended engine coverage to eight years from the original purchase, the deals come with fine print.

Volkswagen’s policy requires that customers produce all oil-change records. Saab will repair or replace its engines only after its own maintenance review, and Toyota asks for proof of at least one oil change a year.

Those conditions would require attentive record-keeping for original owners, but it could cause headaches for used-vehicle owners.Even with the extended engine warranties, some consumers are denied repair compensation when they first approach the manufacturer.

When Sarah Bolek’s 2001 Volkswagen Passat hit 59,000 miles in 2004, the engine succumbed to sludge. The repair estimate was $9,000, says Bolek, who lives in Boyds, Md.

Despite the warranty, Volkswagen originally turned down her reimbursement request. The automaker objected to two oil changes because a shop had not recorded the vehicle’s mileage. Still, all the oil changes were within recommended intervals.

“They kept telling me it was my fault,” Bolek says. Meanwhile the car was out of service for four months.

When contacted by CR, the company said that it was investigating Bolek’s claim and that it had paid for part of the repair. A week later, it picked up the balance of Bolek’s bill.

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, says consumers must be persistent with dealers and manufacturers concerning sludge. “Too few consumers complain beyond the dealer,” he says. “Manufacturers know that every hurdle they create will make more consumers drop out.”


HOW TO FIGHT SLUDGE

Consumer Reports urges vehicle owners to keep thorough records of their automobile maintenance and repairs and make sure all receipts contain the date, mileage, and vehicle identification number.

CR also recommends that owners of vehicles with sludge-prone engines use an American Petroleum Institute-approved synthetic motor oil or change oil according to the “extreme use” schedule in the vehicle’s manual.

Synthetics have a higher tolerance for extreme heat and flow better in cold temperatures. When using any oil, be sure it meets manufacturer viscosity guidelines.

Changing oil on the extreme use schedule (and saving the records) provides evidence that you tried to protect the engine from sludge.

Used-car buyers considering those vehicles should locate one with complete maintenance records.







Engines in question



Makes

Engine

Models and years

U.S. engine population*New-engine warrantyAudi/Volkswagen

1.8L 4 turbo1997-2004 Audi A4,
Volkswagen Passat

447,0008 years/unlimited mileageChrysler/Dodge

2.7L V-61998-2002 Chrysler Concorde, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Intrepid, Dodge Stratus

797,000None. Chrysler will handle on a case-by-case basisLexus/Toyota

3.0L V-61997-2001 Lexus ES300,
Toyota Camry, Toyota Avalon, Toyota Sienna;
1999-2001 Lexus RX300,
Toyota Camry Solara;
2001 Toyota Highlander

1,577,0008 years/unlimited mileage2.2L 41997-2001 Toyota Camry,
1996-99 Toyota Celica,
1999-2001 Toyota Camry Solara

1,757,0008 years/unlimited mileageSaab

2.0L 4 turbo2000-02 9-3 hatchback,
2000-03 9-3 convertible

82,0008 years/unlimited mileage2.3L 4 turbo1999-2003 Saab 9-5,
1999 9-3 Viggen

68,0008 years/unlimited mileage* Source: Analysis from Ward’s Auto Info Bank (approximate).
 

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LateAPXR said:
Auto RX would help to eliminate any sludge that has already built up right?
Lets hope you are right. I did it, but how would one ever know?

Thanks for posting the article.
 

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I've been contemplating using it but I am not able to easily change my oil (my apt complex does not allow us to work on our cars) that frequently.

The reason I ask is because if I take off the oil cap there is obviously sludge on the bottom of the cap itself. Really spooked me when I first saw it.

I'd just like to know if Auto RX can clean out the sludge deposits before it gets bad. I haven't noticed any ill effects yet and I'd like to keep it that way.



From those who've done it, how difficult is an Auto RX treatment to do?
 

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Auto-Rx is super simple, follow the directions on their website (read the FAQ at their website and you get a discount!, they also have a forum on the site to chat in more detail)

I live in apartments too but use an oil extractor to make things more simple. I am currently at the end of my second cleaning phase as I followed the instructions for seal leaks (leaky 2.8 V6). :banghead: I had the issue of smelling oil while at idle at a stop light and noticible consumption. Since Auto-RX I have zero smell and zero oil consumption. :thumbup:

Okay, here's the kicker though.. Auto-rx works best with conventional oil, and that frightens a lot of turbo owners. But the fact is you are running the oil 1000-2500 miles between clean and rinse phases. So you are really in no real danger of causing additional issues by running dino oil and not synthetic. I would recommend during this time that you not drive the car like a raped ape every chance you get. It's a known fact that the 1.8t is very hard on oil. So a little spirited here and there, but not full out all over town and you'll be fine.

People often mistake varnish for sludge, to really see sludge and see if auto-rx worked liked promised as another member asked. You either gotta pull the valve covers and or oil pan before and after to observe the progress.. or you just gotta believe :lol: I know with my V6 when you pull the oil cap you can't see anything down under there because a metal plate is blocking the view, not sure if the 1.8 is the same?

I got my oil extractor (motive I think) from ecstuning, people here also like the pela model I think too. You can do a google search for oil extractors and see a few diff models. For a more detailed discussion on engine oil and additives you can also visit bobistheoilguy.com (I am not affiliated with any products or sites listed :p )

Hope this helps answer some of your questions.
 

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Very informative thread!!! What are the symptoms of a developing sludge problem and where can I buy Auto-Rx? Thanks. Aleks.
 

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What time is Matlock on?
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KOCMOHABT said:
Very informative thread!!! What are the symptoms of a developing sludge problem and where can I buy Auto-Rx? Thanks. Aleks.
Get the auto-rx from their website or the classifieds forum on this website.
www.auto-rx.net
 

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Sharky said:
That article is sloppy and poorly researched.
What else is new in [yellow] journalism? However, who can argue with their excellent bottom line recommendation to use synthetic oil and to keep fastidious records? I would add: 1) maintain your PCV system, particularly on the Toyotas; and 2) adjust your OCI to your driving style -- city and much suburban driving is severe, not "normal," service.
 

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jeffbaynard said:
What reason would sludge build up in a non-turbocharged engine, for example all the Toyotas? oh, what a feeling.
Toyota had a bad habit of giving far too long of a OCI there for a while..
 

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"The automaker objected to two oil changes because a shop had not recorded the vehicle’s mileage. Still, all the oil changes were within recommended intervals."

Within recommended intervals? Really? How, exactly, would anyone know that if the mileage were not on the repair order?
 

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Sharky said:
Toyota had a bad habit of giving far too long of a OCI there for a while..
True. Did they not also have a PCV problem, which they promptly rectified in later model years?
 

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ClarkSJ said:
What, exactly, is "sloppy and poorly researched" in the article?

"When Sarah Bolek’s 2001 Volkswagen Passat hit 59,000 miles in 2004, the engine succumbed to sludge. The repair estimate was $9,000, says Bolek, who lives in Boyds, Md.

Despite the warranty, Volkswagen originally turned down her reimbursement request. The automaker objected to two oil changes because a shop had not recorded the vehicle’s mileage. Still, all the oil changes were within recommended intervals."

The last sentence is STUPID. What they are probably saying is that though the two oil changes might have belonged in between two other documented oil changes, the customer had no way to prove at what mileage they were done.

Say you're at 10k miles, and you have the oil changed. You can't go to 18k, have the oil changed, then at 20k again and be covered under warranty.

You go 7k miles ONE time on a 1.8t and the dark cloud of sludge slowly drifts over your head at that point.

"CR also recommends that owners of vehicles with sludge-prone engines use an American Petroleum Institute-approved synthetic motor oil or change oil according to the “extreme use” schedule in the vehicle’s manual."

Really? Consumer Reports recommends it? How about CR recommend that owners follow the damn owner's manual making their own "recommendation," how would that be?

Is there some good reason that CR failed to mention the huge, giant majority of all sludge cars are ones owned by people who made no attempt whatsoever to maintain the car. The ones that have been "maintained" are on the ragged edge at best.

If they're going to talk oil, then they should have mentioned that not only is synthetic recommended strongly for the 1998-2003 cars (just as it was in the owner literature when the car was bought), but that it is REQUIRED for all the same cars still being made since last year.

I guess they believe their "suggestion" is better than informing their readers of the only thing that is going to keep their readers' engines under warranty.

As for the rest of it, I guess I just don't like vagueness. I doubt VERY seriously that the author of the article really understands what the hell they wrote about.
 

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Take a look at that photo. Is this what happens in our 1.8t engines? I was under the impression that, at least in 1.8t's case, the oil didn't sludge so much as "coke" into hard granules that choke the oil pick-up in the sump.

But that photo looks like what I remember seeing in "Car" magazine in the mid to late 1980's in cars with hot, high revving 4 cylinder engines with long OCI's. They used to call it the "Black Death," with the oil turning into the consistency of peanut butter.
 

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Sharky said:
Within recommended intervals? Really? How, exactly, would anyone know that if the mileage were not on the repair order?
I had the same immediate reaction. But if dates are written on the recepits, one can make an approximate judgement about mileage. It is far from full proof, but far better than having nothing at all.

This while sludge issue really seems like a combination of many factors:

1. Lack of proper maintenance
2. Lack of clear description and recommendation about "severe service" schedules
3. Lack of more direct and forceful recommendation about using at the very least an ACEA A3 oil (dealers are responsible here too)
4. Lack of minimal turbo cooldown
 
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