Engine Varnish

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Jul 18, 2009
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Im gonna post the short version, if further details are needed I can provide them: took my 02 Lexus IS 300 in to fix CEL code p1349 and they said they needed to replace the VVT solenoid after a week of picking up my car and bringing it right back when the same code tripped the mechanic FINALLY noticed "varnish" on the end of the old solenoid he says that this "varnish" is probably in my whole engine and that I will probably have to replace the engine eventually So here are my questions: Will varnish really disable my engine? Are there not products like Auto-RX that I can use to fix this problem? Shouldnt my mechanic have noticed this varnish immediately and instead of ordering a 300 dollar part (w/labor, tax) tried some other fixes first? (in other words am i being taken advantage of?) Plese give me any help that you can provide, or please point me to someone or place that would have knowledge of this subject...thank you
 
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I'd start looking for another mechanic. Varnish is a brownish coating that is pretty much harmless and a cosmetic issue. (Unless there is some unique issue with Lexus that I'm not aware of). Sludge can ruin an engine. If it were my car, 1000 miles before the next few oil changes start adding a pint of Marvel Mystery Oil to the oil. That should clean things up nicely. You can use up to 1 full qt of MMO for an entire OCI if you like. I usually do that during the colder winter months. MMO does a nice job cleaning up varnish.
 

goinbacktokali

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its got 116,000 and ive had it for 9,000 miles and 11 months, changed the oil regularly for the short time ive had it as far as driving goes most of it is city, probably 70/30 and i dont drive crazy, though not slow, somewhere in between
 
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I'd have to see the part and coatings that are considered 'varnish'. But normal varnish is just a light discoloration - maybe a perceptable very thin coating. It is also normally harmless, and indicates an engine that is running hot or maybe has PCV problems.
 
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Agree thats its harmless from what you described. You could use ARX, but Mobil 1 or possibly PP would be my first approach. Mobil 1 seems to do a very good job cleaning varnish out of engines. My toyota has about 70K with no varnish whatsoever. I attribute this to a steady diet of RL.
 
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I've found MMO to be very good a cleaning up varnish, use as ADFD1 mentioned and you'll be fine.
 

Bill in Utah

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 Originally Posted By: goinbacktokali
he says that this "varnish" is probably in my whole engine and that I will probably have to replace the engine eventually So here are my questions: Will varnish really disable my engine? Shouldnt my mechanic have noticed this varnish immediately and instead of ordering a 300 dollar part (w/labor, tax) tried some other fixes first? (in other words am i being taken advantage of?)
First of all I'll keep it short also.. FIND another "mechanic". Varnish is NOT a problem and is different from Sludge. Sludge can hurt things. I'd NOT do anything but find another "mechanic". Take care, Bill
 
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Well hmm..the code indicated that the OCV (oil control valve) had a malfunction. I would figure it didn't detect cam phasing when the valve was energized. I don't see a problem with what the mechanic did. He replaced it and the only thing he didn't do was verify that the MIL didn't come back on by driving it around in the proper mode to trigger the valve. So with a new valve ..the system still detects no cam phasing. I'd say that the varnish, while harmless in itself, may be indications of some blocked passage. Just the way I'm reasoning it here. I wouldn't shoot the mechanic yet. I would take his speculation on the real cause as a half and half. One half was pulled out of his behind and may be correct (except the grenading part of it) and the other half is he doesn't want to go on a "bug hunt" since he's got easier lower hanging fruit to pick from his customer base. Spend $50+/- on Auto-Rx and follow the instructions. Chump change compared to rooting out this issue at pro-labor rates.
 

goinbacktokali

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Thanks for all the replies I just found this through a search on google: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2007/01/toyota_sludge_settlement.html apparently there was a settlement over sludge in 1997-2002 lexus/toyotas equipped with 3.0-liter V-6 engines whats puzzling is that the IS300 isn't on the list of the covered, but the statement says that ALL vehicles are covered has anyone heard of this? what do I need to have done to detect sludge in my system?
 

goinbacktokali

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I saw this and printed it out and took it in to show them, but got distracted when the first thing they told me was that I would need a new engine I dont really know how to interpret most of that inspection procedure though, does it mean they should have considered a few other things before rushing to replace the solenoid or am i completely wrong?
 
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Well, they probably don't have the equipment to cycle valve to check for function. It's probably a proprietary software package like DC has with the DRBII scanner. They cost a fortune so indy shops don't typically have them. I don't know if that's the case, but it sure appeared that way by the dialog in the document. Again, I don't really fault the mechanic on this. Going through that GO:NOGO=flow chart routine there would have run (probably) more than the OCV installed ..and they still might have to install one anyway. It's a more expensive version of someone coming in with a low pressure indication on the dash. You hear the engine isn't clattering at all, so you CAN put a manual pressure gauge on it ..etc..etc. and charge for "verified pressure - 28lbs at idle" ..or just throw a new sender/sensor in and see if the light goes out and save the customer a few bucks. Now you may want to seek out another service center for THIS condition. I'd expect it to be expensive.
 
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