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What is engine sludge?


Engine sludge is as nasty as it sounds, with more disgusting nicknames like “mayonnaise sludge” (soft consistency) and “black sludge” (hard consistency). Sludge is old and congealed oil resulting from excessive contamination, heat and oil additive breakdown. Sludge typically forms over a long period of time and generally builds up when a vehicle owner skips oil changes or travels many miles past the recommended oil change interval.

How does engine damaging sludge form?

One day your oil is shiny and slick but, over time, that incredible lubricant can become gunky and provide less effective protection for your engine parts. This is an extreme condition, but what could turn such a vital liquid into a gunky, engine clogging mess, you ask? Here are a couple scenarios.

Delaying your oil change is the main culprit. Over time, motor oil becomes contaminated with engine metals, acids and air humidity, eventually transforming into sludge. Waiting too long to change your oil will increase the likelihood of sludge infecting all the parts where motor oil travels. So don’t be a slacker, get it changed!

Don’t stress out your oil. Prolonged stress and under-hood heat can lead to sludge filled consequences for your engine oil. Humidity plays a big role in oil consistency. The more humidity that enters your oil system, the sludgier and harder the oil gets. Relieve some stress by changing your oil regularly before it wears out.

Sludge is no laughing matter. Allowing it to build up could mean serious trouble for your engine. Follow your vehicle’s recommended oil change intervals, take into account your driving habits, and save yourself the aggravation engine damaging sludge creates.

How do driving conditions affect oil?

Oil is kind of a drama queen. It only can withstand so much before it starts to become a hot mess.
Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these, call us. Seriously. A yes to any of these questions means you could probably benefit from an oil change more frequently to ensure your engine’s protected.

Do you constantly drive in high temperature conditions? Excessive heat causes the oil to breakdown resulting in sludge and engine deposits. High temperatures also cause oil to thin out; typically resulting in metal on metal grinding or wear in your engine. Ouch. Trust us, it’s as bad as it sounds. This problem typically can become even more severe if you tow heavy loads or if you leave your car running idle for extended periods of time. A higher grade oil will greatly benefit your vehicle in this situation. And that’s why we offer a full range of quality motor oils, honed by the liquid engineers at Kendall motor oils.

Do you frequently drive short distances? Get this: Repeated short distance driving means your oil may not have time to reach optimal operating temperatures. This enables water (condensation) and combustion bi-products, such as smoke, to dilute oil, accelerating the breakdown of your oil and shortening the lifespan of your engine components.

How do climate conditions affect oil?

It’s all about the extremes. Very hot or very cold temperatures will cause faster oil breakdown, requiring oil changes sooner. Here’s why.

Surviving frigid temperatures requires thinner oils. If you live in a very cold climate your oil gets thicker as the temperature drops. The end result? Oil is harder to pump during startup, potentially leading to accelerated engine wear and difficulty starting your vehicle. Remember, thinner oils are ideal during winter. The lower the grade (0W), the thinner the oil, the easier your car will start during those deep freezes.

Always make sure you are adding the proper Motor Oil to your vehicle. Check your owner’s manual or call us to determine the proper oil grade for your vehicle.

Thrive during hotter temperatures with heavier oils. For hotter climates, constant towing or idling, thicker oils are a must. That’s because hot under-hood temperatures can cause your motor oil to breakdown and thin out. If you don’t have a thick enough oil running through your system, your oil can become too thin, leaving engine parts exposed to metal-on-metal contact. Trust us, you don’t want to hear that sound.

How do I check the condition of my oil?

Unfortunately, simply looking at the oil or rubbing it between your fingers won’t tell you everything that is going on inside your engine. Wouldn’t that be convenient? Some symptoms that may indicate a problem with your oil are: low oil pressure, engine overheating or difficulty starting in cold weather. Check it yourself: Visually examining oil on your oil dipstick may help identify excessive oil thickening or water contamination.

  • Step 1: Park your car on a level surface. Parking on an incline will give you an inaccurate reading of your oil level when you pull the dipstick out.
  • Step 2: Wait until the engine is cold (oil expands when it is hot).
  • Step 3: Is the engine cold? If not, go back to Step 2.
  • Step 4: Withdraw the dipstick, wipe it with a paper towel or rag, and reinsert it all the way back until it’s back in place. Now, withdraw the dipstick again, hold it horizontally, and read the oil level on the dipstick (every dipstick has a safe oil level indicator).
  • Step 5: How does the oil look? Before you reinsert the dipstick, check the oil consistency. If your dipstick has a white, milky discoloration, this means excessive moisture has entered your motor oil. In this case, set up an oil change as soon as possible.
  • Step 6: Add oil as necessary by unscrewing the oil filler cap, which is about 3 inches in diameter and located on the very top of the engine and typically labeled ‘Engine Oil.’
  • Step 7: Recheck the oil level with your dipstick to make sure you’ve added enough oil.
  • Step 8: Screw on Engine Oil cap and make sure it is secured tightly.
  • Step 9: Get an oil change. If your oil level is low, how long has it been since your last oil change? It may be time to schedule one.