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Metal Shavings in Oil: Causes, Symptoms, and Fix Guide


So you just found some metal shavings in your engine oil. What next? First off, take things easy. It is not the end of the world, you know. You will see why this situation might be worrisome to you; there are ways around it; you just need to know what they are. The good news is, since you are here, you will get all the answers you were looking for when you ran that internet search for ”metal shavings in oil.”

 So what’s the big deal about metal shavings, and how do they get into the oil?

The average combustion engine comprises several parts made from different metals. The repeated contact of these metal components generates metal debris, known as metal shavings. You probably want to see how these minute metal contaminants got into the oil and how they affect the engine. Well, the answers to these questions are in the rest of the article. Read on.

What Are the Causes of Oil Contamination?

The engine oil gets contaminated once foreign particles are picked up via vents, additives, combustion, and natural wear and tear from an extended operation. Some of these contaminants include soot, dust, acid, dirt, carbon, water, and metal shavings.

.Some contaminants include soot, dust, acid, dirt, carbon, water, and metal shavings.

How Metal Shavings Affect Your Engine Lubrication?

If you do not keep the oil at its optimal level, metal shavings will begin to build up. Failure to change the oil makes these particles accumulate to the point that they block the engine’s flow to the enginee’s parts. This leads to inadequate oiling of the engine parts, and over time, the vehicle’s performance is affected as the components begin to malfunction.

Having metal contaminants in the engine oil adversely affects engine lubrication because it is often an indication of severe engine damage.

Where Do Metal Shavings Come From?

 Combustion engines require the movement of their different components at high speeds to create the power the car needs. The movement of these components can create friction between the metal parts when there is no oil.

A situation where engine components like the bearings and bushings begin to rub against each other leads to wear and tear that generates metal debris. From there on, the situation deteriorates as they continue to rub against each other, leading to more metal debris than the oil filter can handle.

So far, you have read about one of the reasons why you find bits of metal in the oil. There are other reasons, though. The situation where you find metal flakes in the oil can also be caused by the type of lubricant and the quality of gasoline used. Low-grade engine oil can cause performance-related issues that ultimately lead to the presence of metal shavings. The same also applies to the fuel used in your vehicle.

Besides, dysfunction in your turbocharger could also generate metal shavings.

How Serious Is The Problem? Can I Drive With Metal Shavings In Oil? How Many Miles Can I Drive?

There will always be some pieces of metal after the engine has worked for a while. In most cases, they are easily picked by the oil filter. So in such cases, you can drive around. The presence of metal impurities becomes a severe problem once some engine failure results in the occurrence of the metal shavings. In such a situation, your best bet is to ascertain the source of these contaminants by running an oil analysis where you confirm the type/size of metal debris and its color. Avoid driving around with metal shavings in the oil. Depending on how severe the metal shaving issue might be, it is recommended that you fix it once you notice it. That way, you can avoid causing catastrophic damage in the end. Your best bet is to get an experienced auto mechanic to look over your car once you discover the presence of metal contaminants in the oil.

Symptoms of Metal Shavings in Oil 

Here’s the part where you learn how to tell when your engine oil has metal shavings and what you can do about it. Paying close attention to the way your car performs will help you get the most from it. So as you drive around, you should watch out for certain things because that’s how you know when there is a problem with your car, like when metal shavings begin to appear in the oil. So what are the symptoms to look out for? Here they are:

So as you drive around, you should watch out for certain things because that’s how you know when there is a problem with your car

Shaky Idling

This is one of the symptoms that you will notice if there are slivers of metal in the oil. An idling vehicle is meant to be still. That is a sign that the engine is well-lubricated. However, if there are metal shavings in the lubricant, you will notice that the vehicle will vibrate rather intensely. Why is this so? The quality or level of oil is responsible for this. Once the engine does not have enough oil or the lubricant’s quality is low, the components will grind against each other, causing the vibrations that you notice while the vehicle is idling. In such a situation, you should seek professional advice.

Ticking Sounds in the Engine

Ticking sounds are often indications that there is an issue of insufficient oil. One reason for this is the accumulated shavings in your car’s oil. These prevent the oil from flowing around the engine, and as such, the parts are not well oiled. The ticking sounds that you hear occur if these parts aren’t moving smoothly against each other.

Reduced power

The presence of slivers of metal in the oil can clog your engine and make it difficult for the engine to function optimally. As a result, it begins to work in a problematic manner since the oil no longer moves around as it should. Ultimately the engine starts to lose power, and acceleration and movement become something of a struggle.

Engine knock

This is a major reason why driving a car with shavings in oil is a considerable risk that you must avoid at all costs. It is because accumulated metal shavings can contaminate the oil to the point that it becomes ineffective. The contaminated oil can then cause the engine to knock, a situation that ultimately happens after you have driven the car for a long time.

White smoke

White smoke is another indication that your oil is contaminated with metal splinters. You will notice the white smoke once your car starts to burn a mixture of engine oil and gasoline. This situation only occurs because there is inadequate oiling of the engine’s parts. Get an auto mechanic as soon as you notice this.

Poor Driving Experience

A well-maintained car offers a great experience. However, the presence of metal shavings in the oil changes that. This is because contamination by metal debris creates many problems that threaten the engine’s health and performance, leading to a poor vehicular experience.

What I can do myself? 

It is simple—preventative vehicle maintenance. No car (old or new) is safe from contamination via minute metal particles, especially if you drive around a lot. 

Change your motor oil and oil filter frequently. Ideally, you should change your vehicle’s engine oil with the right kind of oil after three months or after doing about 3,000 miles to 5,000 miles. It is best to change the oil with new cars after 50 miles, 500 miles, 1,500 miles, 2,000 miles, and 4,000 miles. 

Try to always check your oil by observing the way it looks on the oil dipstick. The ideal color is brown. If it is darker than that and you find some metals, then there is a problem.

Thankfully, modern cars can implement simple diagnostics. So once a fault is detected, the vehicle’s dashboard will show a warning sign or light. That’s why you always want to pay attention to the dashboard for any of these signs/lights:

  • Oil pressure warning
  • Reduced power 
  • Service engine soon
  • Check the engine
  • Oil change reminder 

 You could also analyze the oil using specialized kits sold at auto shops. These kits will help you detect issues of oil contamination as soon as possible. Try as much as possible to follow your vehicle’s servicing schedule as strictly as possible. Once you notice metal shavings in oil, you have to do an oil change because the oil filter might have taken much of the contaminants. This will require you to have a professional implement an inspection of the engine to ensure that it is functioning optimally. If you still notice these contaminants, you may have to loosen and clean your oil pan. Do not forget the oil contaminants could be a result of worn-out bearings or failing engine components.

When Do I Really Need A Mechanic?

Driving a car with metal chips in the oil is a bad idea. Get an experienced auto mechanic to look over your car once you observe such a situation or after taking some necessary measures. Why? Because the presence of metal debris in the oil is a pointer, there is something wrong with your vehicle. Except you are a seasoned mechanic with the right tools, you will need an expert to figure out why you have metal shavings in the lubricant.


You should not take the issue of metal flakes in oil lightly because it is often an indication of more severe problems. Due to the abundance of information on the internet, many car owners often opt to care for such issues themselves. However, that might not be a good idea because, in this case, there is only so much you can do. 

You can fix this issue by preventative maintenance procedures like regular oil changes and oil filter replacement. Once you notice that there are pieces of metal in your oil, the problem is beyond your jurisdiction, except you are an expert auto mechanic yourself. 

Now that you know a thing or two about the relationship between metal shavings and engine oil, why not share this post with friends and family. That’s after dropping your comments. Cheers!

Now that you know a thing or two about the relationship between metal shavings and engine oil, why not share this post with friends and family. That’s after dropping your comments. Cheers!

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