Metal Shavings in Oil – Reasons, Effects, and Solutions

Metal shavings in oil will affect the performance of the vehicle’s engine, and if it is not resolved on time, it will lead to more engine problems.

Metal Shavings in Oil (1)

In this guide, you will learn about the common reasons for metal shavings inside your engine’s oil and their fixes.

What are Common Causes of Metal Shavings in Oil

The common causes of metal shavings in oil are oil breakdown and damaged engine bearings, as well as poor oil maintenance. Other causes of metal filings in your engine’s oil include wear and tear, defective filters, damaged piston rings, and defective engines.

  • Oil Breakdown

The engine oil can be likened to the blood of a car engine. It flows through an automobile’s engine, lubricating its components. Oil performs varying functions, such as reducing friction, cooling, sealing, cleaning, and protecting moving parts. The oil is responsible for maintaining the engine’s performance by reducing friction between moving parts.

However, the continuous use of the oil can cause it to break down, and it will be unable to perform its function. The breakdown of the engine’s oil will increase the friction between moving parts, and if this continues unchecked, it will lead to more problems. The consistent friction will cut out metal filings inside the engine, reaching the oil filter.

Nevertheless, some filings are so small that they pass through the filter. Over time, these filings accumulate in the engine with pooled oil but get stirred up anytime the engine is run. Another possible cause of friction is if the oil level has become low and is not replenished as when due. This will lead to chipped-off metal filings that collect inside the engine’s oil.
  • Damaged Engine Bearings

Engine bearings perform a similar function to engine oil: they reduce friction. The topmost function of bearings is to support moving parts like the crankshaft and connecting rod and allow for smoother rotation during engine operation. They protect the crankshaft from damage by micro-sized particles and are used to determine the oil pressure.

Bearings play a role in reducing energy consumption and also support the camshaft and its rotation. A damaged bearing can cause metal filings inside the oil, and the damage often results in severe reconditioning work in the engine.

Most bearings are usually coated with additional plating material such as aluminum or copper, which aids the smoother operation of the engine. The fatigue of this material can lead to bearing damage. The prolonged operation of the bearing will cause the secondary metal around it to begin to wear off, resulting in metal filings inside the oil.

The bearing can also slice off into shavings inside the oil. If the overlay flakes from the copper or aluminum lining continue unchecked, it will lead to engine failure. Furthermore, damaged rod bearings can cause oil contamination due to copper or aluminum shavings and possibly cause the engine to knock.

  • Poor Oil Maintenance

Oil is needed for an engine’s smooth operation. Regular oil changes improve the engine’s performance, prolong its longevity, and help the vehicle achieve peak fuel mileage. The failure to change the engine’s oil regularly will lead to other problems inside the engine.

Causes of Oiled Metal Shavings

Rare oil changes are one of the main causes of metal shavings. This is because poor oil maintenance will result in more wear and tear inside the engine, and since there is no lubricant between the moving parts, the internal components will begin to experience damage.

The increased friction between the engine components will create metal shavings, and if this continues unchecked, there will be more damage to the engine. So, not changing the engine’s oil can affect its performance.

  • Defective Oil Filter

The oil filter is a mechanical component that prevents contaminants, dirt, and unburned fuel from circulating. It keeps impurities away from the engine oil so that they don’t interrupt the lubricating function of the oil.

However, if the filter becomes worn out, it will be easier for metal flakes and other impurities to get into the oil. A defective filter won’t be able to perform its primary function properly, and if it is not fixed on time, it can lead to further engine damage.

  • Damaged Piston Ring

Every piston has a circular, metallic ring that fits into grooves in the piston walls. The rings enable the easy fit of the piston inside the cylinder. The rings provide a seal that prevents leakage of compressed gasses around the piston and keeps the lubricating oil from seeping into the combustion chamber.

The metallic split ring, which is attached to the outer diameter of the piston, improves heat transfer to the cylinder wall from the piston. Like other mechanical parts of the internal combustion engine, the piston’s rings are prone to wear as they move up and down the cylinder bore.

The higher the mileage an automobile covers, the more the chances of the piston’s ring becoming worn. A worn piston ring will likely get stuck and not contract, leading to a breakdown of the ring. The damaged piston ring often falls into the oil pan, causing metallic shavings inside the oil.

These metal shavings from the piston ring will cause the vehicle to lose compression and eventually affect its performance. So, a damaged or worn piston ring will affect the engine’s operation.

  • Defective Engine

Another common reason for metal shavings in oil is a defective engine. The continuous use of the engine can cause some internal damage, such as a broken piston or a worn-out bearing, which can lead to more problems for the engine. Increased wear and tear in engines can produce shavings inside the oil. The shavings also appear in overheated or overworked engines.

  • Wear and Tear

Oil constantly passes through the engine’s moving parts, performing its lubricating function. However, due to the speed of the moving parts and the constant use of the vehicle, various components of the vehicle may wear and tear. Also, some metallic flakes may be chipped off with time.

As the engine’s oil consistently passes through the worn-out components, it slowly shaves off metal pieces that fall into the oil, causing problems for the engine. Wear and tear makes it easy for the oil to slice off these moving parts because they have become weak.

Common Fixes for Metal Shavings in Oil

The common fixes for metal shavings in oil are the evaluation of compression or leak down, analysis of oil condition, and replacement of the filter. Other possible solutions are to change the oil, inspect the engine and fix any faults, and carry out an engine rebuild.

  • Evaluate Compression or Leak Down

A compression or leak-down test helps in evaluating the health of the engine. The internal combustion engine must undergo compression to produce power, so performing a compression test measures how much compression each cylinder is generating.

Fixes for Metal Shavings in Oil

Likewise, a leak-down test helps you to determine where the engine is losing compression. The test is useful in finding out which cylinder is losing compression so that you can fix the problem. The evaluation can be performed using a leak-down tester and an air compressor.

  • Analysis of Oil Condition

One of the ways to fix shavings inside the oil is to analyze the oil condition, which is termed “used oil analysis.” Used oil analysis helps in determining the health of the engine over time. The analysis can be done by collecting used oil samples when replacing the engine oil. This analysis is often carried out by top auto care companies that offer diagnostic and repair services.

Professionals at such companies will evaluate the condition of the used oil to track wear in the engine. For example, increased copper levels mean that the rod bearings are wearing out rapidly. The auto care specialists are good at interpreting the different possible results obtained from the used oil analysis and providing fixes to such problems.

As a precaution, if you want to send oil to any auto care company for used oil analysis, ensure that you are only collecting oil seeping out of the vehicle. Also, the drain pans used on other vehicles are always dirty and often contain contaminants that will affect the oil analysis. So, work with a clean drain pan when changing the oil.

  • Replace the Oil Filter

A worn oil filter should be replaced with a new one. The removal of the old filter helps to eliminate many shavings. If you have the necessary tools, changing the filter is easy. The first step is to loosen the oil filter catch or cap so that the oil drains more easily.

Afterward, place an oil drain under the drain plug, usually beneath the engine block or near the crankshaft. Drain the oil by removing the oil plug, then replace the plug. Locate the filter by looking for a metal cylinder attached to the engine block. The location of the filter depends on the vehicle’s model, so consult the manual to know where it is situated.

The next step is to move the oil drain pan underneath the filter and screw off the component. If you cannot remove the filter by hand, use a filter wrench to loosen it and put it facedown in the pan, then allow it to drain for 24 hours. Lubricate the gasket on the new filter using clean oil and install it on the engine block. Then pour fresh engine oil into the sump.

However, before you start this process, ensure that the engine is off. If the engine is hot, wait for at least thirty minutes before commencing the procedure. Also, wear gloves before removing the filter so your hands will be oil-free.

  • Change the Oil

If poor oil maintenance is why metal shavings are inside the oil, you can fix it by changing the oil. The old oil should be drained from the sump and replaced with clean oil. The new oil will act as lubricant inside the engine, help reduce friction, and cool the heating moving parts. It will also perform sealing, cleaning, and protection functions.

You can change the oil yourself if you have the experience or work with a professional. Also, ensure you use the standard oil recommended for the vehicle, as there are different oil types for different car models.

Furthermore, it is not enough to change the oil once. You need to make a habit of regular oil maintenance so the problem doesn’t occur again. Besides checking the oil level regularly, keep a schedule of the oil maintenance so you know when to change the oil.

  • Check and Fix the Engine

Sometimes, the issue might be with the engine, so inspect it thoroughly for faults. Evaluate the engine for damaged parts and fix them. Some parts will have to be replaced with new units, which is where a mechanic comes in. Unless you are an experienced professional when it comes to internal combustion engines, the evaluation of the engine should be done at an auto repair shop.

A mechanic is skilled at detecting worn-out engine parts and replacing them with new parts. Nevertheless, in some rare cases, the only solution will be to rebuild the engine, which is usually costly.

Frequently Asked Questions

– What Amount of Metal Is Normal in Oil?

No amount of metal is normal in oil. The presence of shavings inside your engine’s oil should be a source of concern and should be fixed as soon as possible. Metal pieces inside oil can only be excused if it’s a brand-new or newly rebuilt engine.

– How Harmful Are Shavings Inside Oil?

Shavings inside the oil are very harmful. It can damage the engine’s components, leading to poor performance. The shavings inside the oil can clog hoses and inlets or outlets, blocking oil from distributing correctly and leading to engine overheating and engine failure in the long run.

– What Are the Signs of Metal Shavings in Oil?

The signs of metal shavings in oil include a lack of engine power, ticking noises, warning check engine light, rough idling, and engine knocking sounds. Thus, you should take the vehicle to an auto shop for diagnosis and quick repair.

Metal Shavings in Oil

Are Metal Shavings in Oil a Result of Using Low-Quality Oil Filters?

Are metal shavings in oil a result of using low-quality oil filters? In some cases, yes. Certain oil filter brands to avoid may not have the necessary filtration capabilities to effectively remove tiny metal particles from the oil. This can lead to the presence of metal shavings in the oil, potentially causing engine damage if left unaddressed. Ensuring the use of high-quality oil filters is essential for maintaining the health and longevity of your engine.


Having read this article and the frequently asked questions, you should know what’s amiss once you spot metal shavings inside the oil.

Here is a summary of the main points discussed in the article:

  • The common reasons behind metal shavings in oil are faults due to wear and tear, damaged engine bearings, and poor oil maintenance.
  • Changing the filter to a new unit and replacing the motor oil helps to remove shavings and other impurities.
  • A compression or leak-down test helps in evaluating the health of the engine to take necessary steps.
  • Analyze the oil condition to determine whether the engine is experiencing wear.

With the information provided in this article, once you discover metal shavings inside the oil, you can fix the problem yourself or with the help of a professional.

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