200K mile engine, oil pickup almost sludged closed. Cause?

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May 25, 2021
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So I dropped the leaking (rust through) oil pan on my 1998 Mazda 626 with a little over 200,000 miles and I'm greeted by this oil pickup which is AFTER I sprayed it down with brake cleaner. I was able to use a fine wire brush to gently scrub it off with carb cleaner then soaked it in some strong all purpose cleaner and got it 100% cleaned up looking like new. Now the obvious answer would be 'neglect' but here's the catch, I've had this car since about 100,000 or so miles and know the previous owner pretty well, they used the car for a lot of short trips as they rode a train to work which was near their home. It may have been ran on quick lube oil and filter but I know it was changed regularly, since I've owned it I've used either synthetic blend Valvoline MaxLife or Mobil 1 synthetic oils with decent or good filters and changed every 5-6,000 miles on time with few short trips. Rest of inside the engine has normal varnish one would expect for a high mile engine, no thick buildup. Bottom of the pan had a couple areas with a thicker layer of buildup like a really thick varnish but nothing crazy. I dumped in some Seafoam to the oil for about 100 miles prior to this and then doubled the dose about 2 days prior to dropping the pan and let it idle for a bit then sit over a weekend and some more idling a couple more times before removal. This stuff was not loose on the pickup like it was newly loosened crud from the Seafoam, it was hard plastic like and not coming off with solvents.

What caused this?
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Perhaps the first owner missed a few oil changes and/or 5-6K intervals (under your ownership) are not sufficient for the conditions. Probably a little bit of both.
 
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My guess is the oil was run too long, got ran too hot and possibly lower than stellar quality filters. I think you plan of attack is good. I doubt Seafoam is doing much. I would try the @High Performance Lubricants EC30 quart engine cleaner. Run some Techron or Gumout occasionally and a good oil filter.
No matter what the plan for internal cleaning and regardless off the filter used, I’d be changing the filters @ 3k miles or less for at least the next 15k miles or until you stop seeing that crud show up in the cut filters. You do not want that stuff set to recirc!
 
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If you changed every 5-6k miles, you might want to go 4-5k miles between changes. Hard plastic stuck on there might be from timing gear teeth if your engine is so equiped.
 
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How does the PCV valve, hose, and vent look? The first 100k oil quality used more than likely brought this on. When you took over with better oil the junk that accumulated began shelling off and getting in the pickup screen. Just a guess…
 
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The use of M1, from new, 24/7/365 at 5K OCI will completely prevent such things. While many of us believe there are a large number of superb engine oils out there, often with superb UOA results, the fact remains, sludge, stuck rings, worn cam chains, hard carbon deposits under the piston crown and turbocharger coking are common with other oil brands.

Sometimes these engines can live a long life, despite the deposits, sometimes not. I choose not to risk it. Engine work is difficult and expensive and timing chain jobs can be very expensive, even if you DIY. Oil is cheap. The oil change is the only way to remove contamination such as blow by, fuel, evaporated fuel by products, particulates, and other nastiness from engines.

Here is a corvette engine M1, 8 years:

20170313_150721_f18848aea3e9a54e8f22f55867b22ce700c3b597.jpg


20170313_150913_82ccb29d37d09ea555e2f0c09ef5b4a413651254.jpg
 
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Well the previous owner, my mother, is a real stickler for maintenance given her father was an Army motor pool mechanic and general Mr Fix-it. However my mother wasn't the very first owner of the car, she bought it with about 25,000 or so miles at about 2 years old from Carmax. Is it possible the oil pickup has been this bad this long and just never caused any problems? I've never had any indications of low oil pressure, it's probably just my imagination but the valve train seems like it's quieter now than before.
I've done 2 timing belts on the car since I've owned it, the PCV system is in good condition and valve cover baffles are clean and work well, the top of the engine has a thin coat of normal varnish for an older engine. I looked into the bores from top with a camera and from bottom when I had the pan off, I have strong crosshatch present in the cylinders and don't lose but maybe 1qt over a 5000 mile oil change. I check it often enough and add when it's around 1/2 qt low. My current driving habits see me doing about 26 miles a day mixed between highway and stop/go which is a pretty average drive. Some longer highway trips but not often.
I did run a 190 degree thermostat for better winter heat for about 80K miles that ended up being more like a 195 thermostat, idiot gauge doesn't show any difference between 180 and 195 thermostat. I had a radiator hose blow (radiator failed) off on the highway last year but pulled over and shut the car off within about 2 minutes of that happening, engine did not run hot and was not overheated but likely did boil coolant when the hose blew off.
Material in the pickup was not chain guide, engine has a belt. Material was formerly oil I think, it dissolved in strong non solvent cleaner (https://www.1stayd.com/heavy-duty-duzitall) after scrubbing and using carb cleaner. I've seen stuff like this before in some really nasty sludgy engines but never expected it in mine given how fairly clean it is up top.
 

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The use of M1, from new, 24/7/365 at 5K OCI will completely prevent such things. While many of us believe there are a large number of superb engine oils out there, often with superb UOA results, the fact remains, sludge, stuck rings, worn cam chains, hard carbon deposits under the piston crown and turbocharger coking are common with other oil brands.

Sometimes these engines can live a long life, despite the deposits, sometimes not. I choose not to risk it. Engine work is difficult and expensive and timing chain jobs can be very expensive, even if you DIY. Oil is cheap. The oil change is the only way to remove contamination such as blow by, fuel, evaporated fuel by products, particulates, and other nastiness from engines.

Here is a corvette engine M1, 8 years:

20170313_150721_f18848aea3e9a54e8f22f55867b22ce700c3b597.jpg


20170313_150913_82ccb29d37d09ea555e2f0c09ef5b4a413651254.jpg
Yes, regardless of the fist bumps given to the latest API standards, historically, the bar has been set extremely low and this is the result of those products under less than perfect conditions (short tripping) even when changed at a reasonable interval.
 
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The use of M1, from new, 24/7/365 at 5K OCI will completely prevent such things. While many of us believe there are a large number of superb engine oils out there, often with superb UOA results, the fact remains, sludge, stuck rings, worn cam chains, hard carbon deposits under the piston crown and turbocharger coking are common with other oil brands.

Sometimes these engines can live a long life, despite the deposits, sometimes not. I choose not to risk it. Engine work is difficult and expensive and timing chain jobs can be very expensive, even if you DIY. Oil is cheap. The oil change is the only way to remove contamination such as blow by, fuel, evaporated fuel by products, particulates, and other nastiness from engines.

Here is a corvette engine M1, 8 years:

20170313_150721_f18848aea3e9a54e8f22f55867b22ce700c3b597.jpg


20170313_150913_82ccb29d37d09ea555e2f0c09ef5b4a413651254.jpg


I think this is patently false in my opinion. ^^^^^^

No way Pennzoil Platinum, Valvoline Advanced full synthetic, Castrol Edge or Havoline Pro DS would not give great results as well.

This supposed Mobil 1 miracle unicorn theory that their oils are just far superior to other oils meeting the same EXACT specs and approvals being presented here is patently false.

On here I have seen enough other motors when opened up with pictures taken that look fantastic running other oils like those mentioned above. Or even motors opened up that ran on many different oils from Valvoline, Pennzoil, Chevron and Mobil 1... Those have looked great too.


Nothing against Mobil 1. Mobil 1 ESP is one of the best oils off the shelf available right now. It's carries the toughest specs in 0w20, 0w30 5w30 and 0w40 to meet like Porsche A40, C30, C20, MB 229.5, BMW LL. The key part here are the specifications and approvals being meet or carried.

Regular Mobil 1 that is API and Dexos approved is not far superior to Pennzoil Platinum, Valvoline Advanced full synthetic, Castrol Edge.
 

OVERKILL

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I think this is patently false in my opinion. ^^^^^^

No way Pennzoil Platinum, Valvoline Advanced full synthetic, Castrol Edge or Havoline Pro DS would not give great results as well.

This supposed Mobil 1 miracle unicorn theory that their oils are just far superior to other oils meeting the same EXACT specs and approvals being presented here is patently false.

On here I have seen enough other motors when opened up with pictures taken that look fantastic running other oils like those mentioned above. Or even motors opened up that ran on many different oils from Valvoline, Pennzoil, Chevron and Mobil 1... Those have looked great too.


Nothing against Mobil 1. Mobil 1 ESP is one of the best oils off the shelf available right now. It's carries the toughest specs in 0w20, 0w30 5w30 and 0w40 to meet like Porsche A40, C30, C20, MB 229.5, BMW LL. The key part here are the specifications and approvals being meet or carried.

Regular Mobil 1 that is API and Dexos approved is not far superior to Pennzoil Platinum, Valvoline Advanced full synthetic, Castrol Edge.
You'll note that he didn't specifically state that certain other oils couldn't provide the same results, just emphasized that Mobil 1 does. My experience with the product also mirrors his, it does tend to keep things incredibly clean and even clean-up what other oils have left behind, though I wouldn't assume at the same rate as something like HPL does. This is a function of esters and/or AN's in the base oil blend.

The oil has been the gold standard for OTS synthetics for a reason. Yes, some of that has to do with it being the most popular and longest running widely available commercial synthetic, but it also has a reputation for just being really bloody good, particularly for the price. Mobil has been well ahead of the curve on many of the formulation challenges, making additive package changes to address specific things years before others end up doing the same.

Ultimately, the product being a "safe bet" with an extensive track record of excellent performance in this department doesn't preclude other products from offering comparable performance (and you gave a couple potential examples).
 
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I'm going to speculate that short trips by the previous owner, and 5 k changes, led to moisture and some sludge. The OP with a better regimine has cleaned the sludge to some degree and its evident on the pickup screen.

Even with decent oils, lots of short trips without full warm ups lead to sludge.
 
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No matter what the plan for internal cleaning and regardless off the filter used, I’d be changing the filters @ 3k miles or less for at least the next 15k miles or until you stop seeing that crud show up in the cut filters. You do not want that stuff set to recirc!
Add a Italian tune up weekly and a 30 mile highway 🛣️ run to top it off.
 
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You'll note that he didn't specifically state that certain other oils couldn't provide the same results, just emphasized that Mobil 1 does. My experience with the product also mirrors his, it does tend to keep things incredibly clean and even clean-up what other oils have left behind, though I wouldn't assume at the same rate as something like HPL does. This is a function of esters and/or AN's in the base oil blend.

The oil has been the gold standard for OTS synthetics for a reason. Yes, some of that has to do with it being the most popular and longest running widely available commercial synthetic, but it also has a reputation for just being really bloody good, particularly for the price. Mobil has been well ahead of the curve on many of the formulation challenges, making additive package changes to address specific things years before others end up doing the same.

Ultimately, the product being a "safe bet" with an extensive track record of excellent performance in this department doesn't preclude other products from offering comparable performance (and you gave a couple potential examples).
From an over-the-counter standpoint I think the high mileage oils by Exxon Mobil especially in their flagship line is going to be the way to go. It's going to have a little bit of Ester and it won't break the bank unless you're buying it from O'Reilly's or AutoZone.
 
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