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    Thread: Sludge on a Magnetic Oil Drain Plug

    1. Member
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      10-17-2019 10:19 AM #1
      Here's the scenario/question: JH head rebuilt 15K ago on a 2H block with 90K. Everything runs fine, no oil consumption, no leaks, no smoke, good history, no abuse, regular oil/filter changes, correct viscosity, etc... I hesitate to admit that I use ho-hum oil and filters (I avoid those intense debates about which brands are superior).

      I bought a magnetic oil drain plug on a whim and installed it last Fall during the previous oil change (about 3K ago).

      Yesterday I changed the oil. It looked only as dirty as I would expect, otherwise fine, no sheen, no debris. However, there was a blob of dark grey/black "putty" on the magnet. It was smaller than a pea, bigger than a grape seed, very thick/smooth between my fingers, not hairy looking, not gritty at all. The particle size was clearly tiny, and it was clearly ferric (magnetic).

      Before I take things apart when all else is well, to see if one of the IM shaft bearings is worn through to the bearing shell or something like that, I wanted to get opinions from here on what I should have expected on the magnet, i.e.: more than just a thin film of glop. It doesn't seem like the engine should be terminal yet when nothing on it has gone even 100K.

      I should've never bought the darn plug, that way I'd have my head comfortably hidden in the sand .

      Thoughts?
      It's hard for me to know exactly what these things cost me. I'm guessing a LOT, but I like them, so that's that.

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    3. 10-17-2019 10:29 AM #2
      That is iron wear.

      Get a used oil analysis at your next interval for info on what is going on.

      So, your ho-hum oil/filters aren't cutting it!

    4. 10-17-2019 11:06 AM #3
      So you got 90k on the bottom end and you just installed a magnet. I suspect you got 90k worth of metal deposits attached to the magnet. I believe over time, the deposits will be less.

      The bottom of the oil pan is the lowest point of the engine. The second point is the drain plug. Between these two points the oil/residue/sludge/etc never gets removed. As many oil pans that I've seen removed, there is always a fine layer of 'stuff'.

      I would not sweat it.

      This will be a boring thread if you do not agree that MANN makes the best oil filters.

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    6. Member
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      10-17-2019 11:39 AM #4
      Quote Originally Posted by Butcher View Post
      I suspect you got 90k worth of metal deposits attached to the magnet.
      Sadly, that is not the case. When I switched to solid lifters 15K miles ago, I changed to the JH oil pump and re-installed the pan clean. The question would still be, could that amount of goo accumulate in 10+ thousand miles?

      I'm tempted to use the engine as-is and check again next oil change, but it just seems like too much glop and I don't want to ruin the rest of the engine with something like a bad IM bearing shedding steel particles. The flip-side of course is I don't want to pull the engine without a compelling reason to do so. Maybe I'll take a hole-saw to the frame rail/wheel well so I can pull the IM shaft with the engine in place .

      I don't over-tighten the timing belt, but I've seen enough fragmented IM shaft bearings on used short blocks that it has me wondering if this one's doing it early .
      It's hard for me to know exactly what these things cost me. I'm guessing a LOT, but I like them, so that's that.

    7. Member
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      10-17-2019 11:43 AM #5
      Quote Originally Posted by Greasymechtech View Post

      Get a used oil analysis at your next interval for info on what is going on.
      I've heard of that but I've never done it. Where is that done and how much should I expect it would cost?
      It's hard for me to know exactly what these things cost me. I'm guessing a LOT, but I like them, so that's that.

    8. 10-17-2019 12:16 PM #6
      Some JH heads were hydraulic but I did not know that the oil pan was removed. So that solves that question.

      As simple as the pan is to remove, maybe that would be something to think about.

      Sometimes people worry too much [not being negative]. If you never had a magnet you would never know. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

      What would I do? Nothing. I have never had any issues with intermediate shaft bearings even with engines well over 200k. I think those that do, have no idea how to tighten a timing belt or do not maintain their engine. I always use synthetic, at least since the late 80's so maybe that has something do to with it.

      Either way, if you are like me, you will not let it go. Have the oil tested so you can at least sleep better knowing your engine is junk.

    9. 10-17-2019 03:02 PM #7
      I'm with Butcher on this - no surprise, he is clearly one of the most knowledgeable members on the forum. Honestly I'm not sure why you have focused on the aux shaft bearings, it could be any number of sources or nothing at all. And please don't take that wrong - I'm not criticizing you, just not clear why your focus is solely on one item to the point of willing to cut up the car to look at it. But I understand the concern overall, I'm the type that couldn't just let it go. Here's what I'd consider doing. Flush the engine (oil), remove the pan and inspect/clean it, get a oil analysis if either of those activities raises more suspicion. I don't have a specific link but there are places where you can mail a oil sample for analysis, look online. Good luck and please let us know what you find.

    10. Member
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      10-17-2019 05:22 PM #8
      Good point(s):

      I'm focusing on the IM bearings based on my history with these engines. I've noticed trends based on what I've had to do to any used 8v/16v engine I inherit, to keep it in service. For example, I have never personally seen valve guides or piston rings or main/rod bearings or an oil pump get to the wear limit, even at 200K.

      Things I have seen repeatedly: leaking seals/gaskets, worn valve stem seals, pitted valve seats, small (serviceable) cracks in the heads, large (un-serviceable) cracks in the blocks, and damaged IM shaft bearings. Unlike Butcher, my experience is that most of the engines I inherit have at least some fragmentation of the outer IM shaft bearing, and a good proportion also have it on the inner bearing.

      Something like this, on our last 16V Scirocco project:
      https://forums.vwvortex.com/showthre...d-thread/page5
      Post #104, pic is fuzzy thanks to PhotoSuckit, but you get the idea. That engine had about 100K, and all I really did to it was replace that IM shaft bearing. I have a spare GTI engine with 100K that looked the same before I replaced its bearing.

      Usually I see it before it is catastrophic, but what has me concerned comes from a recent experience I had with a 200K 16V that threw an oil pressure warning: the oil pump pickup screen was clogged with hairy sludge that was coming from the outer IM bearing's steel shell. Until the oil light came on, there were no signs of trouble like a squeal, leaking IM shaft seal/walking timing belt (the IM shaft had obvious play), metallic oil (until the oil light came on), etc.... Post #29: https://forums.vwvortex.com/showthre...her-tube/page2

      I got this engine (the one with the magnetic plug) at 60K/5 years old. I haven't over tightened the timing belt in my years of ownership, and I don't have any reason to believe the belt had ever been changed before I got it (i.e.: it was installed by the factory and therefore tightened correctly), so maybe the IM bearings are fine. Heck maybe everything is fine. After all, the only thing I did unusual was to install that darn magnet.

      But now of course, like you and Butcher, I won't let it go. At some point I'll lower the pan and report back. As for "cutting up the car", a 2" hole in the wheel well tin would allow passage of the shaft and replacement of the bearing(s) with the engine in-situ. I will confess this would be on our Cabby, which we do not treat as well as our mk1 GTI and mk1 Scirocco (I would not risk myself saving the Cabby from a house fire ...)
      It's hard for me to know exactly what these things cost me. I'm guessing a LOT, but I like them, so that's that.

    11. Senior Member LT1M21Stingray's Avatar
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      10-17-2019 08:00 PM #9
      Quote Originally Posted by echassin View Post
      Here's the scenario... no abuse...

      Thoughts?
      There's your problem...

      BTW I use OEM oil filters and Mobil 1 15w50 oil on my oil burning autobahn buster Scirocco, but then again I don't have a magnetic oil drain plug. Maybe I should get a magnetic oil drain plug.


      Quote Originally Posted by echassin View Post
      I've heard of that but I've never done it. Where is that done and how much should I expect it would cost?
      Airplane guys do this on a regular basis. You could check with them as to where to get your oil tested.
      Quote Originally Posted by Mk1Madness
      Back when making your car faster and better handling was the big thing.
      Quote Originally Posted by Tavarish
      The car's best safety feature includes ejecting you in the moment of impact and wishing you the best of luck.
      Buy my couch!

    12. 10-17-2019 09:14 PM #10
      Blackstone labs is whom I use for my UOA.

      They send you free shipping kits with which to submit your used oil samples. Very easy and convenient.

    13. Member
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      10-18-2019 10:09 AM #11
      Remind me to never install one of those on my car. Who needs the extra stress. Although I do have one on my Lancia ( installed many years ago) and thankfully that’s always clean.


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

    14. 10-18-2019 11:16 AM #12
      I lengthened my oil dipstick tube so it sits right below the oil drain plug. If you remove the plug, you can see the end of the tube. That allows me to suck the oil out thru the dipstick tube. More than removing the drain plug.

      I have a large oil evacuator that I use for Mercedes products. That is the approved method of changing their oil since the 80's. I no longer pull the drain plug. Ignorance is bliss and I sleep fine knowing nothing about my oil. That used oil also heats my shop. Recycling at it's best.

    15. Member
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      10-18-2019 11:32 AM #13
      Awesome all the way around Mark. Never even though about the oil that remains in the pan after a drain. I do my part heating the town garage with my waste oil contribution.


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    16. Semi-n00b
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      10-21-2019 12:35 AM #15
      I'd recommend going with Blackstone Labs...I've used them for a handful of oil tests over the last decade. They also have a well known and trusted aviation oil testing service as well. Cheap and easy.

      J. G.
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