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What Does Metal Shavings In Oil Mean? Here’s The Answer

What Does Metal Shavings In Oil Mean? Here’s The Answer

You might have heard that clean oil is good for both your car’s components to work properly and for the engine’s life.

For this, it’s always a good habit to check and change the oil if found contaminated with contaminants. Now, out of all sorts of contaminants, metal shavings are the most common and most dangerous for your car.

When there is a lack of lubrication of the engine’s components, they tend to rub against each other. Now, as they rub, these metal shavings are formed.

These shavings (or fillings or chips) deteriorate your engine’s condition as the metal shavings deter the smooth flow of engine oil to the car’s components.

Hence, over time, other parts, due to lack of lubrication, contribute towards metal shavings.

At times, even the engine can malfunction, and you may find your car avoiding starting up. So, to make you more aware of these metal shavings, I’ve prepared this article.

What do metal shavings in oil mean?

What do metal shavings in the engine oil mean? Which parts are devoid of sufficient lubrication? To answer these questions, you’d first need to check out the material of these shavings.

Different car components have different metals like aluminum, copper, bronze, brass, etc.

So, here are some ways to determine which components are rubbing against each other and producing the shavings.

Copper, brass, and bronze shavings:

If the shavings appear that of metals like copper, brass, or bronze, the affected components include bearings like that of the camshaft, crankshaft, wrist pin, or turbo thrust.

These particles contaminate the engine oil and thicken it to avoid its smooth flow.

Molybdenum and Chromium shavings:

If the shavings appear that of metals like Molybdenum and Chromium, it indicates that the piston or piston rings’ are either rubbing or having a breakdown.

Aluminum shavings:

If your aluminum shavings are floating over the oil, it’s because of the aluminum camshaft caps or overhead bearings.

Iron shavings:

As the majority of the car’s internal components have iron, iron shavings can occur due to the rubbing of multiple components, especially the rotating ones.

These include components like the valve train parts, camshaft, crankshaft, etc.

Besides these, there are other metals too that are specific to certain brands and their models.

What causes metal shavings in oil?

As you know, engine oil is for the lubrication of the car’s components to reduce the friction between them.

Now, when their insufficient or lack lubrication, the various car components rub against each other and produce a debris-like substance called metal shavings, chips, or fillings.

Some shavings are lightweight, while others are a bit heavy due to bigger particle size.

Be it any, these metal shavings tend to prevent oil from flowing smoothly to the car’s other components, further making more and more components rub against each other to produce these shavings.

As a result, the engine oil gets contaminated with these particles and deteriorates the engine’s condition.

In a nutshell, the rubbing of car components against each other due to insufficient lubrication causes metal shavings in the oil.

How much metal in oil is too much?

As a thumb rule, remember that your car needs clean and free-flowing oil for its proper performance. So, ensure there is no metal in the oil in any form like big heavy chunks or light shavings.

It is because some shavings are lightweight (that’ll float over the top layer of oil) while others are a bit heavy (that’ll sink to the bottom) due to bigger particle size.

To avoid all these, you should replace the engine oil every 500 miles and ensure sufficient oil in the car.

What are the signs of metal shaving oil?

You inserted the dipstick into the oil container, and when it came out, fine metal shavings seemed to surround it.

In this case, you might wonder what the other ways of determining metal shavings in the oil apart from coming to know about the same through the dipstick. So, here are the common signs or indications of a metal shaving oil.

Inadequate power

As metal shavings thicken the oil and prevent its free flow to the engine, you’ll experience a reduction in the power at times.

If not taken care of soon, you might find yourself stranded in the middle of the road due to a complete breakdown of the engine due to the same.

Knocking sounds from the engine

You speed up the engine and hear loud sounds from the engine, like someone’s knocking it from inside.

It indicates the presence of metal shavings in the oil, hitting against the metal component where it’s flowing to and fro.

Frequent drops in oil pressure

When the main bearings are not functioning correctly, the oil pressure will drop.

Now, there are multiple reasons for the same to occur. For example, the bearings are running against each other, metal shavings in the oil surround the bearings, etc.

Sort of ticking sound from the engine

If the engine oil is full of debris like metal shavings, it won’t flow freely to the car’s other components. As a result, some ticking sound will appear from the engine.

The vehicle is vibrating when idle.

When there is unnecessary friction between the engine parts, they will make the car vibrate or shake when idle.

So, these are the common signs of metal shavings in engine oil.

What should you do now?

So now you know how harmful are metal shavings to the car’s health and lifespan.

Hence, you’d contemplate the necessity of maintaining a clean engine oil that’s free from metal shavings and other contaminants. Here are some valuable ways to achieve clean engine oil.

Monitor the engine oil regularly

If you drive a lot, especially in cities, you should regularly monitor your engine oil’s health with the aid of a dipstick.

Insert the dipstick into the oil, and if it comes out clean with a transparent and brown hue oil, you have no worries.

However, if the dipstick comes out surrounded by a fine layer of metal shavings, you’d take your car to a mechanic before the metal shaving concentration increases.

Choose the right oil.

There are mainly three engine oil types: synthetic, blend, mineral, or full synthetic. Each car requires a specific oil for its proper functioning and extended lifespan.

It is because using a compatible oil likewise reduces the chances of wear and tear. It, in turn, will translate to reduced metal shavings in the oil.

Remove all metal shavings before refilling the new oil.

If there are metal shavings in the engine oil, they will also form a thin layer inside the engine.

So, if you’ll refill the new oil without cleaning these metal shavings, they will again mix with the new oil and contaminate it. Hence, remove all metal shavings before refilling the new oil.

Ensure proper servicing of your car

If the situation is worse than what it seems at first, you may end up repairing your car for the damage it suffered due to metal shavings. To avoid this situation, ensure proper servicing of your car, especially the engine.


Engine oil’s primary task is to lubricate the engine components for their proper functioning.

However, if the engine oil is insufficient, the parts will start rubbing against each other and producing shavings, fillings, or chips of different metals depending upon the parts under consideration.

These shavings thicken the engine oil and prevent a smooth flow to the rest of the components. Consequently, the car suffers from malfunctioning and incurs severely high repair costs.

To avoid all these situations, you should constantly monitor the engine oil condition and take necessary measures to curb its contamination as much as possible.