Metal Shavings in Oil

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    How bad is it if the mechanic tells you there are metal shavings in the oil when they changed it? Is an engine rebuild required?


    It really depends. Exactly where are the shavings? If they appear in the oil pan when you drain, they it is really unlikely there’s a problem? Other than changing the oil and filter when the shavings appear, there’s nothing especially troublesome about some oil shavings in the oil.

    The reason, frankly, is that your car’s engine is made of metal, and, despite the oil within the block parts will wear. Those parts where by way of shavings entering the oil. Now, if there are not all that many, then, there’s no problem, as I have explained.

    If on the other hand, if there us a huge noise or bang preceding the presentation of shavings in the oil — shavings here is really relative — they you have to expect there’s trouble. Still, it might not mean it’s time for an engine rebuild. It might mean there is a huge plug of engine buildup that has come free and worked its way down to the oil pan. Or, it may mean that a huge backfire may have occurred — it happens — and in this case, no, there’s not a problem.

    Here’s where an engine rebuild may be necessary. If your car has had a meltdown of a metal part due to overheating or running with low oil, for example, then it is quite possible you have fried the crowns and rings on one or more pistons and they have to be replaced. In this case, the rebuild would require a pretty deep engine strip and rebuild because you have to take off tne engine covers, valves, and hardware, and then the top half of the engine block to expose the pistons so they can be removed at the wrist pins and repaired. You will likely need to have not only the pistons replaced or machined and then have an oversized set of rings installed on each piston. It can be expensive, depending on the number of pistons that have to be replaced. Each piston would likely require its cylinder machined, as well — the source of metal shavings.

    In this case, you are looking at a minimum of $2,500 — starters — depending on the internal damage and number of pistons.

    I can go on with the number of things that might go wrong and cause lots of metal-to-metal contact, requiring engine rebuilds, but you can see they are expensive from this one example.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if there is another, followup question I can help you with.

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