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Sludge Inspection Procedure



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Ellis, you know the old proverb: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

In other words, people who ignore proper maintenance are the only ones who need to worry about sludge.

Prevention is the way to go. People who do proper maintenance don't need advice on how to check for it.

The one plausible benefit of your suggested post might be for someone buying a used car, to check to see that it was maintained properly.

That said, another wise person in another forum sums up the sludge issue nicely with this: "I think there may have been a few people whose maintenence was somewhat questionable and their cars ended up with engine problems related to sludge. I think they are trying to force the issue with the manufacturer (Toyota) to get their cars fixed. They probably ran into a lot of resistance and as a result are very frustrated. I can understand their frustration, but not the attempt at over-emphasizing the severity of the problem. They probably got no satisfaction and feel victimized. I empathize, but I have no sympathy with them.

A suggestion Ellis--you would probably make a better contribution to the sludge topic if you spent more time telling folks how to avoid it.

It's really simple--just keep advising people to maintain their engines properly. It's not rocket science!

One question.

You have authored a large number of posts dealing with the sludge issue. All of them paint Toyota as the bad guy. Why is that?

Most of those instructions pertain to inspections and then cleaning. Once it is determined that parts have been properly inspected and cleaned, the objective must be to keep them operating by regular maintenance. The engines will last considerably longer when kept clean thru frequent oil changes, etc.

 

 

DB1 and Ellis, you don't seem to like Toyota much. Always reminding readers about the sludge controversy.

How come? It never was much of a widespread thing, and most of it was hyped by that lady who bombarded the net with her spinny propaganda.

I've owned MANY different cars and I've used synthetic in all of them and I've NEVER had any engine related failure nor any sludging problems. At one time I owned a 1984 Camry, a Tercel and now I own a 2003 Highlander with 64,000 miles on it and a 1991 Volvo 240 (4-cylinder cast-iron engine) with 188,000 miles on it and again, I've never had an engine related problems or sludging.

Here's what I think we're seeing with the sludge problem: Toyota makes millions of cars per year and I think there are only several thousand sludge-related complaints. Of these, statistically speaking, some of these sludging problems will happen to owners who neglected maintenance and some will happen to those who routinely maintain their cars! This is nothing more than the "statistical bell curve" in action. Granted, some models of any make may be slightly more prone to sludging, but in the scheme of things, Toyota's total is a statistically small number for certain.

Anyone who believes different is probably overly compulsive about some perceived wrong they feel has been done to them.

DB1 and Ellis, you don't seem to like Toyota much. Always reminding readers about the sludge controversy.How come? It never was much of a widespread thing, and most of it was hyped by that lady who bombarded the net with her spinny propaganda.

 

I've owned MANY different cars and I've used synthetic in all of them and I've NEVER had any engine related failure nor any sludging problems. At one time I owned a 1984 Camry, a Tercel and now I own a 2003 Highlander with 64,000 miles on it and a 1991 Volvo 240 (4-cylinder cast-iron engine) with 188,000 miles on it and again, I've never had an engine related problems or sludging.

Here's what I think we're seeing with the sludge problem: Toyota makes millions of cars per year and I think there are only several thousand sludge-related complaints. Of these, statistically speaking, some of these sludging problems will happen to owners who neglected maintenance and some will happen to those who routinely maintain their cars! This is nothing more than the "statistical bell curve" in action. Granted, some models of any make may be slightly more prone to sludging, but in the scheme of things, Toyota's total is a statistically small number for certain.

Anyone who believes different is probably overly compulsive about some perceived wrong they feel has been done to them.

I couldn't disagree more, "urconscience!" Is that "spinny" or "spiny?" Whatever. Are you suggesting that one lady made up all the issue of sludge in Toyotas? If so, you are inaccurate in your postings (the same may be said about the IP tracking information posted in another discussion).

I have followed the Toyota sludge matter for over five years now. I have corresponded with hundreds of Toyota owners as well. That's great that YOU have never had sludge; unfortunately, that has NOT been the experience of thousands upon thousands of other Toyota owners.

We respect what you think, urconscience, but we differ in opinion. Sludge in the Toyota is observed despite *proper maintenance*. The moderator has indicated this as well. The fact that Toyotas have sludge is not in any way related to the emotional make up of any person.....at least let's be honest and confirm this fact!

Many Toyota owners have had issues with the emissions control components on their vehicles either at the time of sludge or shortly thereafter. Many Toyota owners report blown engines with no plausible explanation by Toyota. This includes Corollas, too. Sludge occurs in Toyotas regardless of maintenance; this is fact.

Because some of the sites where Toyota owners go to cite such experiences have been sabotaged, the information is not as readily available as it was up until 2003. I suppose it was no accident that two major auto consumer forums went down at the same time.....never to be active again. Indeed, harassment of consumer advocates has been on-going.....guess someone wants to silence those "in the know" pretty badly.

I have found Ellis' and DB1's posts very valuable. There is no name-calling, no character assassination, no arrogance in their postings. There is no posturing to protect a corporation at all costs either.

It is important that all sides be heard in this discussion. Intimidation has no place here.....or should have no place here. Ellis and DB1 do not need to be challenged personally for what they post. Healthy debate is acceptable, however. I believe both could hold their own in such a debate based on their posts.

As for sludge and the Corolla, it has been an issue for some. I have heard about the excessive fuel in the oil in the Corolla, too. One Corolla owner had excessive fuel after just 314 miles on the new oil! No one at Toyota has given an adequate explanation about this phenomenon. Oil analysis is a good thing to do in the sludge cases.....check out what is happening in our oil and keep good records of the testing. Trends may indicate a serious engine situation. There are several online engine oil analysis companies you can use.

We have all heard the "you have to do your maintenance" hype. What we haven't heard is how Toyota is keeping its records post sludge revelation. How many owners are complaining now? The old "3,200" figure is years old now. How many Corolla sludge complaints does Toyota have?

These are questions only Toyota can answer. New posters here can enlighten us with their own experiences. Hopefully, Toyota will not resume its "denial phase" once again......

Charlene Blake

cblake@erols.com

What we are seeing here is a statistical phenomenon, and as a part-time statistician, I would like to address some myths.

1) Just because a problem is prevalent doesn't mean it'll happen to you. -- Just because you have an engine prone to sludge doesn't mean sludge will happen to you. Many chain smokers live to be 100 years old. Does that mean smoking doesn't increase your chance of death? Hardly. Thus, having cars free from sludge, even in the "problem" group, doesn't make the cars themselves "not a problem" any more than having a long-lived 1988 Ford Escort, or a trouble-free 1991 Ultradrive transmission, etc., etc. makes those vehicles/components fine and anyone who does have problems somehow at fault.

2) Just because poor maintenance is associated wtih sludge in some engines doesn't mean everyone who gets sludge is guilty of poor maintenance.

3) When a problem is limited to 1% or 2% of the population, it does not mean there is no problem, and likewise it does not mean that someone can see 200 perfect vehicles and never see one with sludge.

I for one, by the way, am willing to believe General Motors' research on oil depletion and not live according to some old fish tales about 3,000 mile oil changes. Technology has moved since 1950.

Thanks Toyotatruthseeker and Dave. I was just providing some information that I thought would be of help.

There have been plenty of other problems with makes/models of cars that have not affected the entire population of that make or model and took a certain set of conditions to occur. A popular example would be rollover accidents in Ford Explorers with Firestone tires. All Explorers with Firestones weren't rolling over, but there was an increased potential, possibly when combined with hazardous road conditions and other conditions.

Dave: I would say you're going in the right direction describing it as a "statistical phenomenon".

I tried to say as much in an earlier post: "statistically speaking, some of these sludging problems will happen to owners who neglected maintenance and some will happen to those who routinely maintain their cars! This is nothing more than the "statistical bell curve" in action. Granted, some models of any make may be slightly more prone to sludging, but in the scheme of things, Toyota's total is a statistically small number for certain".

I do, as well, believe strongly in the "prevention" philosophy. "Fish tales" or not, 3-4000 mile oil changes are cheap insurance, and can be a factor in extending the life of an engine. Also, it sure helps to look under the hood on a regular basis. Checking a dipstick gives a few clues as to the health of engine oil.

\

What we are seeing here is a statistical phenomenon, and as a part-time statistician, I would like to address some myths.

1) Just because a problem is prevalent doesn't mean it'll happen to you. -- Just because you have an engine prone to sludge doesn't mean sludge will happen to you. Many chain smokers live to be 100 years old. Does that mean smoking doesn't increase your chance of death? Hardly. Thus, having cars free from sludge, even in the "problem" group, doesn't make the cars themselves "not a problem" any more than having a long-lived 1988 Ford Escort, or a trouble-free 1991 Ultradrive transmission, etc., etc. makes those vehicles/components fine and anyone who does have problems somehow at fault.

2) Just because poor maintenance is associated wtih sludge in some engines doesn't mean everyone who gets sludge is guilty of poor maintenance.

3) When a problem is limited to 1% or 2% of the population, it does not mean there is no problem, and likewise it does not mean that someone can see 200 perfect vehicles and never see one with sludge.

I for one, by the way, am willing to believe General Motors' research on oil depletion and not live according to some old fish tales about 3,000 mile oil changes. Technology has moved since 1950.

The Explorers were interesting because part of the problem was Ford telling people to underinflate the tires...

However -- yes, sometimes the sludge is due to maintenance shortfalls, but as I understand it, USUALLY in these particular cars maintenance is irrelevant, and you will get sludged regardless. Changing the oil more often, if you're in a "prone" environment and car, may or may not work, and the effectiveness is unproven. Telling everyone to change the oil every 3K on the off-chance they MIGHT have a problem seems a tad irresponsible on a national scale - think of the millions of gallons of oil we're talking about here.

You may have a point there Dave, but I'll change oil on a Corolla one more interval per year than normal, (+4 litres) and still be way ahead on crude oil consumption as opposed to driving a gas guzzling Explorer (a thousand+ litres--or more) especially if you underinflate the tires!). I'll also bet you a buck there'll be no sludge in my Corolla.

An ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure--a valid policy even though we live in the post 1950 era!

Speaking of a "tad irreponsible"--wouldn't that apply to the way the vast majority of us as consumers use use our vehicles?

(That's a subject for another discussion--right?)

The Explorers were interesting because part of the problem was Ford telling people to underinflate the tires...

However -- yes, sometimes the sludge is due to maintenance shortfalls, but as I understand it, USUALLY in these particular cars maintenance is irrelevant, and you will get sludged regardless. Changing the oil more often, if you're in a "prone" environment and car, may or may not work, and the effectiveness is unproven. Telling everyone to change the oil every 3K on the off-chance they MIGHT have a problem seems a tad irresponsible on a national scale - think of the millions of gallons of oil we're talking about here.

Ellis, your link is an excellent tutorial, and I suggest is exactly the kind of material participants in forums like this one should take the time to read. It's a much better approach than than the usual finger pointing, or the alarmist technique often used to focus attention on the sludge issue.

It is possible to extend oil change intervals beyond the traditional 3K mile 'rule of thumb'. (I never said it wasn't--I just think it's not a bad idea when attention to necessary maintenance is inconsistent).

The paper you found is significant in that doesn't take sides; in fact, it's true value is in what it reveals about certain key elements of the sludge controversy which are probably the least understood.

I've attempted to chronicle the key points of the article in the following.

Automakers and oil companies have been leading us in the direction of longer oil change intervals for some time now. The three main components of this trend are:

(1) New oil technologies allow longer life--however it's important to note this is especially true by using synthetics,

(2) The necessity to reduce oil use overall--environmental and supply pressures,

(3) Consumers are demanding vehicles with reduced maintenance requirements.

Extending oil change intervals is not without risk. There are a number of key factors involved here as well:

(1) It is essential that quality oils be used,

(2) Oil filter efficacy is critically important,

(3) To reduce or inhibit risk of sludge development the quality of oil used is THE major factor--the article clearly states "This is no exaggeration",

(4) Extended oil changes place much greater emphasis on preventive maintenance in the periods between changes.

(5) Greater emphasis needed on consumer education re maintenance requirements for their vehicles.

Needless to say, the article is the right information at the right time. It illustrates the value of education in dispelling all the hype, misdirected passion, and and overall misconception which has accompanied the controversy. Thanks.

Here is an interesting discussion on oil change intervals.

http://www.mema.org/cmspages/getAttch.php?id=102

The article also supports Dave's statement "I for one, by the way, am willing to believe General Motors' research on oil depletion and not live according to some old fish tales about 3,000 mile oil changes. Technology has moved since 1950." The article states that there are very few makes or models with 3000 mile oil change intervals and that 5000/7500 mile oil changes are not considered extended drain intervals (the article defines extended drain as 10,000 miles). It goes into discussion on the improvements in motor oils that allow for these longer drains.

It also covers the environmental importance of longer drains as Dave also pointed out. The article states: "Vehicular environmental impact is also a topic with which the automobile manufacturer must contend. The European Union views used motor oil as a form of pollution and has since 1974 issued directives on its proper disposal and use. The EU legal basis and objective concerning waste and pollution is to “avoiding waste by promoting environmentally-friendly and less waste-intensive technologies.” Critically important is the emphasis on the reduction of waste production, rather than simply looking at ways to deal with pollution that is produced. Working within these guidelines, the ACEA would be obliged to set sequences that allow for extended drain intervals."

I agree that 3000 mile drains may be necessary to avoid sludge, but they really shouldn't be needed. Particularly when manufacturers like Toyota are touting these longer drains.

Ellis, I guess we're saying the same things, just coming from different directions.

Regardless, it's a good article, it doesn't blame one side or the other--or any automakers either--and it illustrates the value of consumer education if they want to 'prevent' trouble.

I came across another excellent tutorial on sludge--it's worthy of a read, plus it further underscores my contention that education is probably the 'real solution' to the sludge issue:

"Causes and effects of sludge go a lot farther than some suggest, in spite of the odd inference that an 'as yet unproven flaw' exists, wrongly recommended oil change intervals, or the insistence that engines are being properly maintained and still sludging.

There have even been allegations that engines are sludging with as low as 3000 mile intervals--although although in fairness, there haven't been any hard numbers or any pertinent details on such cases shown to date.

Looking at that one factor alone is an acute case of "chronic tunnel vision". Most everybody looks for the simplest or most obvious 'short answer'.(Often happens in the ongoing sludge controversy by individuals who point blame at only one thing).

Well, it just isn't that simple, folks.

Oil change intervals are only a small part of a much larger "proper maintenance" equation.

At 3000 miles after an oil change, any auto engine is beyond the point where oil levels are going to start to shrink.

At this stage, especially under "average" driving conditions, the process of oil consumption is well under way.

Oil usage in an auto engine is a fact of life. If an engine isn't using oil to some degree, it isn't getting properly lubricated.

If an owner chooses to go beyond that "start to shrink" point in oil change intervals, then that owner had better start checking oil levels routinely.

This becomes extra critical if the owner opts to go to the longer intervals being suggested by automakers these days, i.e., 7500 miles or longer.

Letting oil levels go unchecked at these higher mileage intervals is an invitation to trouble, no matter what make or model of vehicle it is.

With today's oil formulations, especially the synthetics, the oil in your engine can handily cope with longer intervals.

If oil levels are maintained properly, your car's engine can also cope very nicely with extended drain intervals. (Even Toyota engines can, in spite of efforts by a few to suggest otherwise!)

However, if owners don't check and maintain oil levels with these longer intervals, it's not surprising that trouble happens.

Under these conditions, regardless of who made the car, there will be two categories of owners--the first will be those who have already had trouble, and the second being those who will eventually have trouble.

 

Many of the tales of woe we see and hear about re this sludge kerfiffle make a big deal of "I maintained my car by the book, I changed my oil religiously, etc.,etc."

Then the finger pointing starts "See, that shows the Toyota engines are flawed,etc.,etc."

What we seldom, if ever, hear is how frequently the owner looked at oil levels and topped them up if required.

 

In fact, a case which was discussed here not too long ago started out with the "I got sludge, I went by the book on oil changes, and because I did so, Toyota should buy me a new engine"

And the "hate Toyota" faction had a field day with every accusation they could muster.

However, after some close and astute examination, it was determined that the owner NEVER checked oil levels between changes. The owner reluctantly admitted to this habitual flaw in how he used his vehicle.

 

Too often, we see the term " I maintained my car religiously" when an alledged sludge incident is reported.

"Maintained Religiously" means a whole lot more than oil change intervals.

 

Bottom line? Sludge development is a PROCESS, not an EVENT!!!

 

People who truly "Maintain their vehicles Religiously", a.k.a., among other things, check their oil regularly, aren't the ones who are going to have problems like sludge."

Is it low oil levels that causes sludge, or oil that has broken down due to age?

It's an interesting question (low oil levels).

I remember driving older Plymouths (1970s) where if you were low on oil, the light would go on around a sharp turn. The harder you drove the car, the better the warning system! (I was more forgetful of oil changes back then and having 100,000 - 180,000 miles on my cars, with 1970s seal technology, and totally un-opened engines - original valve covers, etc., thanks to hydraulic valves - meant I would lose a quarter or two between changes, which occured somewhere between six months and a year).

Then there was Saturn - some of their early models lost a quart every thousand miles! This was explained away as "normal." Never knew how those got past environmental inspection. That said, a six thousand mile oil change interval ... was a bad idea on them unless you constantly dumped oil in between changes.

My last few cars have not required any additional oil between fills, period, end of story. That includes not just the Corolla but also a 1991 and 1993 Sundance four-cylinder, Spirit R/T four-cylinder turbo (which did get synthetic every 6,000 miles - that was 224 hp from 2.2 liters), 1995 Neon, and a PT Cruiser Turbo. Indeed, the Neon and PT barely register any loss of oil over six months - in the Neon's case, that held when I had a 110 mile a day commute. So I'm not sure oil level is a real factor, since I suspect the Camry V6 is quite capable (like the various Chrysler engines and the Corolla engine I had) of holding its oil for six months with no loss that would be compensated for by an owner. Unless we're now supposed to add oil by the pint and not by the quart - and if that's the case, we'll need better dipsticks or some sort of warning system on the dash. (Cost-wise dipsticks seems to be the way to go.)

The article quoted by urconscience seemed to have no scientific background or research, just another opinion, unless there's more to it that was left unsaid, and I'm tired of people making bold assertions with no backup evidence. I'll believe General Motors research studies, I'll believe what automaker engineers tell me in confidence, I won't believe forum postings with no apparent facts to back them up.

"The article quoted by urconscience seemed to have no scientific background or research, just another opinion, unless there's more to it that was left unsaid, and I'm tired of people making bold assertions with no backup evidence. I'll believe General Motors research studies, I'll believe what automaker engineers tell me in confidence, I won't believe forum postings with no apparent facts to back them up."

Your message received, loud and clear!!

Evidently you don't want to see comments without 'apparent facts'--especially those by yours truly. (BTW, that quote you dissed was 'factual' and from a Corolland forum--several months back--it was part of a discussion meant to show how important it is to check oil between longer change intervals!)

That said, apparently I must apologize for not providing 'apparent facts' to support what is otherwise just 'common sense'.

Will try hard not to offend your sensitivities any further.

PS. If opinions without 'apparent facts' aren't your cup of tea, then why are you involved with Corolland forums ??

Seems to me a lack of 'apparent fact' mostly the rule rather than the exception here!!

That long quote talked a lot, but never mentioned any sources of infomration. Quoting someone else's opinion rather than stating your opinion directly is no stronger as evidence.

That long quote talked a lot, but never mentioned any sources of infomration. Quoting someone else's opinion rather than stating your opinion directly is no stronger as evidence.

 

Please enlighten. Somehow I don't understand your logic. I'm wondering if we're debating the value of hearsay as opposed to offering advice on how to avoid sludge.

If I agree with someone's opinion, in this case--that regularly checking oil makes sense--somehow I must provide evidence?

Evidence of what?

Or because I happen to agree with another opinion, and state that, somehow my remarks are of no value because they aren't my sole opinion?

Yikes!!

Then what we've got here is a failure to communicate!! (I think Yogi Berra coined that phrase?)

I agree that checking oil makes sense. Then again, it always has.

I do not see any evidence that low oil levels are a causal factor in most engine sludge situations.

I do not see any evidence that lack of oil changes caused engine sludge in the particular cases associated with "problem engines."

I do see research evidence showing that oil changes normally can be extended to between 6,000 and 10,000 miles, and longer with synthetic oil (and shorter with turbochargers! or severe duty, of course.)

I am annoyed when people say "the reason these engines get sludged has nothing to do wtih Toyota, it is because of [something the owners did]" when they have nothing but an odd anecdote, usually third-hand, as evidence.

I think everyone has an opinion and we that read these forums realize that.

People come here to get solutions and information on their Corolla - That is the premise of these forums.

When it comes to the sludge problem, I would expect to get testimonies of what people have experienced firsthand. I am interested in mostly facts with some actual activities related to the individuals that pertain to the topic.

What people hope to get (I believe) is answers to their questions and also contact with people that have had similar symptoms.

We are a collective that should uplift and support each other for mutual benefit.

Let's try to keep it all friendly and imformative.

Thanks for everyone's support.

I agree that checking oil makes sense. Then again, it always has.

I do not see any evidence that low oil levels are a causal factor in most engine sludge situations.

I do not see any evidence that lack of oil changes caused engine sludge in the particular cases associated with "problem engines."

I do see research evidence showing that oil changes normally can be extended to between 6,000 and 10,000 miles, and longer with synthetic oil (and shorter with turbochargers! or severe duty, of course.)

I am annoyed when people say "the reason these engines get sludged has nothing to do wtih Toyota, it is because of [something the owners did]" when they have nothing but an odd anecdote, usually third-hand, as evidence.

Three very profound statements:

(1) Low oil levels aren't a causal factor in sludge development?

(2) Lack of oil changes aren't a causal factor in sludge development?

(3)It's annoying when people say a Toyota (or any other make) engine sludged because of something the owner did (or didn't do)?

As a certified and licenced Class "A" Motor Vehicle Repair technician in the Province of Ontario, Canada, with 28 year's experience in auto repair of all makes, I can speak to these statements directly, and with first hand experience in each of them.

Simply put, they are absolutely WRONG!!

I currently work in a large GM dealership as a service manager. I have previously worked as a service technician in several other auto dealerships, and spent several years in an AERA certified engine rebuild shop.

I've seen and worked on every variety of sludged engine that anyone can imagine.

EVERY single incidence of sludged engines in the hundreds that I've seen was due to owner negligence. The owner didn't bother to change oil--in some cases up to 25000 miles!--or an engine was run for months desperately low on oil--or the coolant level was way below limits--or the owner pulled an oversized load to the point where the engine cooked itself to death--and on and on.

We had a Toyota Sienna trade in just last month which was so badly sludged up it just ceased to run at 65000 miles. The owner swore up and down that he maintained it faithfully, and knew about the sludge issue, and vowed never to buy another Toyota.

Well, guess what? The van had the original factory installed oil filter. As far as we were able to determine, there hadn't been an oil change in at least a year, and likely longer.

I'm not saying that some engines won't sludge because of some unidentified internal problem--it happens.

I'm also not denying that some owners may have got sludge even when their engines were properly maintained.

In both those instances, however, I suggest they are the exception to what is a growing problem today.

What I am saying, and what I can speak to from much personal experience, is that most cases of sludge occur because of things owners DON'T do. The most common thing is NOT changing oil often enough.

And yes, I agree that synthetics add a fair margin of tolerance, and yes, most of today's engines are able to undergo longer oil change intervals.

But no engine is going to tolerate overly extended intervals, or lengthy intervals of low oil levels, abuse, negligence, or owner apathy--at least not for very long!

Sooner or later, those who DON'T do what they should do are going to be sorry.

Evidence?? I don't need any, thanks. I've seen it all.

And I get 'annoyed' when I see, time after time, a perfectly good engine damaged or destroyed because someone just didn't bother, or care enough to do some simple things that should have been done.

I also get 'annoyed' when people insist it's rarely ever the owner's fault!

PS. That April 27th article I quoted that was dismissed as irrelevant?? I wrote it!!

urconscience, you said "PS. That April 27th article I quoted that was dismissed as irrelevant?? I wrote it!!"

Are you saying you wrote the article that you introduced with "I came across another excellent tutorial on sludge--it's worthy of a read, plus it further underscores my contention that education is probably the 'real solution' to the sludge issue"?

That is just plain weird that you reference something you wrote yourself in this manner. Of course something you wrote would underscore your own beliefs. A little heavy on the ego, too, describing something you wrote as "an excellent tutorial".

To each his own. But if you are quoting something you wrote yourself then I don't think you need to acutally present it as a quote giving the impression someone else wrote it.