Varnish and sludge

Not open for further replies.
Nov 15, 2002
You may not have varnish. Some oils tend to "stain" the bright metal surfaces with an amber tint. I think this is a product of the dyes and additives use in the oil. Mobil 1 Tri-Synthetic seemed to do this in my cars.

Varnish, on the other hand, will be a definite coating on the metal parts, not just a color change.

[ June 11, 2003, 01:18 PM: Message edited by: G-Man II ]
Just shut the ..ll up

Seriously your car survived 170k !!! What else do you want

Keep doing what you are doing, and save the money for the next one
This will sound wierd......That was the first BRAND new car I ever bought. Had just moved back to the States from Guam and had virtually no credit rating but the dealership in Clarksville Tennessee took a chance on me and I didn't let them down. That car has been through 3 step mothers, 2 divorces and umpteen "other" female relationships. Got me through 4 tornadoes and 3 really bad hail storms and numerous ice storms. Was wrecked once in the middle of no-where but limped back and got me home. Has driven herself home a couple of times when I had sipped to much "juice"
Hauled my drumset all over Oklahoma. Got me to Tennessee 18 times over the last 13 years.....
Well, you get the picture. I want it TO LAST!!! Doing whatever I can to prolong its' death. Has been a great car and would like to achieve holiness with others who have gotten 300K out of theirs. This is the honest to God truth, when that car finally goes to the big dealership in the sky, I will cry like I did when my 13 year old dog died. It is still a daily driver, 90 miles a day.
So you don't think at this rate and mileage I can "help" it out some more by cleaning out the guts???? Just leave well enough alone?????
Speak to me brethren!!!!!!!!

[ June 11, 2003, 02:56 PM: Message edited by: Schmoe ]
Just to throw out a few definitions:

Varnish: A thin, insoluble, nonwipeable film occuring on interior engine parts. Can cause sticking and malfuntion of close-clearance moving parts. Called "Lacquer" in Diesel engines. Caused by vapors condensing and being "baked" onto the surfaces.

Sludge: A thick, dark residue, normally of mayonnaise consistency (not color), that accumulates on nonmoving engine interior surfaces. Generally removable by wiping unless baked to a carbonaceous consistency (coked). Its formation is associated with insolubles overloading of the lubricant. Caused by oil oxidation, nitration, moisture, fuel and other hydrocarbons. Chemically speaking, the hydrocarbons mix with the hyperperoxides and polymerize to form this dark, creamy mixture.
One thought. You have had this car a long time and I think some of its life it may have been run on Pennzoil before its reformulation with "pure base" which might account for the light coating you see. It will probably go away or at least get no worse. RW
I would try Auto-Rx. I would not expect it to do much for the varnish though. The varnish you are seeing in the head of you 3.3 has very little oil flow to it. THe Auto-RX can not clean what it does not reach. I have a GM 3.8 V6 and it did not do anything to to the varnish on the in the head. THe most important things to clean are the oil galley, pump assembly,pickup screen and piston rings. Cleaning these areas will do more to extend the life of the engine then the varnish in the head.
I would just continue on the same path you have traveled. It seems to be working fine for you.

If you want you could try the synthetics like M1 or Amsoil and extend your drains and longevity on the motor. The ticking may stop at startup. If you opt for the synth I would change the first batch out at 4000 miles then you can go extended drains after that.
After reading some posts, I got to thinking and maybe I'm not alone. When I pop off the oil fill cap, look down the valve covers, heads seem to have an amber color to them, not machine "bright". I am going to assume it's varnish. Now from experience, sludge is pretty dark and kind of gooey. Is the varnish that I'm noticing maybe coming off of sludge deposits somewhere in the motor? Engine is V6, 3.3l, GM with 170K and nothing but Pennz. 10W or 5W-30, changed every 3K like an religious experience. If the varnish is coming from oxidation of the engine oil, would that possibly mean that perhaps some of the oil passages are blocked and I need to clean the engine? I do have lifter noise at startup for exactly 52 secs. (yeah, I counted). Or should I jump ship and go synthetic to take advantage of there cleaning abilities? Or just shut the #ell up and quit whining?????

[ June 11, 2003, 12:59 PM: Message edited by: Schmoe ]
With 170k and dino, auto-rx would be in order to remove deposits which have resulted in audible disturbances in your engine. Then, switch to a synthetic. Otherwise, leave all alone...
OK, I'll try that and get some autoRx on order off their internet site. Now, after I'm done with that and have throughly "rinsed" the engine and switch to a syn. oil. What "strength?" I'll probably try Mobil 1 or Castrol.....stick with the 10W-30 series or lighter?
GAH! Is there an engine hiding under gunk? I was worried about mine, because I saw some discoloration when I replaced a valve cover gaskets two weeks ago, but now I think mine doesn't look so bad. What do you think?


For the record, this is the right bank of my '96 2.8 12v Audi engine, which at this point has 124k miles on it. Until 20k miles ago I used Castrol 5W-50, now I'm using M1 0W-40.
That dang near looks about what I'm talking about. It has that classic amber color. Am I seeing things or is that wear marks on the cam lobes???? I think it looks good. Don't see any sludge at all.
I presume those are wear marks, but when I went with my finger over the cam lobes, they were smooth as glass. Maybe I should be running a thicker oil at my milage? I'm considering M1 15W-50, because I somehow supect that my older engine design doesn't lend itself to 0W-40.
Yeah, I don't see how there could be no wear at all. Anyway, the amount of oil on the cam lobes seemed miniscule when I touched them. Would 15W-50 stick better to the (upper) engine parts than 0W-40?
Not open for further replies.