Metal Shavings in Oil: What Are the Causes & How Serious It Is?

Naomi O'Colman

Updated on:

metal shavings in oil

metal shavings in oil

Metal shavings in oil? Is this weird? In fact, a lot of the time, metal shavings get into the oil in your car. Some people may find this hard to understand. Isn’t motor oil in the engine’s lubrication system? Motor oil is made up of a lot of different things, and metal shavings are one of them.

Sources of Metal Shavings in Oil

# Normal wear and tear

The oil in your car goes through and around a lot of parts that move. People who drive a lot might expect some metal to gradually chip off over time because of how quickly these parts move. This is part of the normal wear and tear on the engine.

  How To Make Your Own Headache Rack

# Oil filter

The oil filter is in charge of getting rid of metal flakes, but still, it can’t get them all. This is why it’s important to check and change the oil and the oil filter as part of regular car care.

# Failed engine bearings

A lot of the metal shavings that build up in the engine oil come from things like bearing damage. They are usually made of two or three different metals. This includes the main, connecting rod, small-end, and camshaft bearings in an engine, as well as other parts. An aluminum, brass, or copper surface bonded to a steel backer allows for long-term use and efficiency. This mixture of different materials can help a technician find the source of metal shavings in oil.

In this case, a technician might think that the engine bearings have failed. If the particles in the oil are magnetic, it could be the bearing backer material or steel from the crankshaft or other parts of the engine that are magnetic.

Is It Normal to Have Metal Shavings in Oil?

Engine oil in most cars will have tiny, microscopic metal particles in it, but you shouldn’t see these particles with your own eyes. It’s only when these particles stick to magnetic drain plugs or other magnetic things that this rule doesn’t apply. However, even then, there should be very few of these particles in the world around us.

Having metallic particles in an engine’s lubricating oil that aren’t there before is never normal. Quite the opposite, this is usually a sign that something is wrong with an engine’s internal parts or rotating assembly.

  Can You Mix 5w30 and 5w40 Oil?

Sometimes, if the threads on the oil drain bolt become worn during an oil change, an exception can be made. The metal shavings may show up in your oil drain pan even if you extract the drain plug, replace it with a new one, and even rethread the oil pan hole.

Signs Your Oil Has Metal Shavings

Every time you drive your car, you should get used to how it moves and starts. This can help you spot when something isn’t right. Some things to keep an eye out for:

The power of the engine is reduced

If your car is having a hard time getting going when you accelerate, you might have dirty oil or a broken filter.

Ticking sounds

Tiny metal shavings in engine oil can stop the oil from smoothly moving where it needs to go, which can lead to a loss of lubrication that makes the engine tick.

Rough and tumble idlers

If the engine parts don’t get enough lubrication, they can get stuck together. This can make your engine shake or vibrate too much when the car is idling.

The engine squeaks

It can cause engine parts to break down if debris and metal shavings build up in oil. If you don’t clean it, it can get worse. Knocking happens when fuel burns unevenly in the cylinders, which makes clunking noises because the fuel is consuming air.

White exhaust fumes

White smoke coming out of your car’s exhaust is a bad sign because it could mean that oil is getting into the engine cylinders. If you see any, get your car fixed right away.

  7 Most Common Bad Car Battery Symptoms

You might have metal shavings in your oil if your check engine light comes on. This could be another sign of that. Some newer cars also show how much oil needs to be changed or how much oil is left in the engine.

What Problems Can This Cause?

Oil with metal shavings can get inside crankshaft journals and bearings, which can cause damage like scratches or gouges to happen.

Metal shavings can also stop or slow down the flow of oil. Restricted oil passages can cause low oil pressure and flow to important engine parts, which can cause the engine to fail early.

A little metal in the oil isn’t bad, especially if you have a new engine. However, if there are a lot of metal shavings or new metal shavings found after an engine has been destroyed, this could be a sign that something is wrong.

Metal shavings in oil can cause problems in your car’s engine if you don’t change the oil and the oil filter often enough. This is why it’s important to change the oil and the oil filter often.

Will an Oil Filter Catch Metal Shavings?

metal shavings in oil

An oil filter will usually pick up most of the large metal shavings that are floating around in an engine. Even an oil filter can’t catch all of the metal particles that are too small for it to pick them up.

The tiny particles keep going through an engine’s bearings, acting as an abrasive of some kind as they do so. Even if an engine’s oil isn’t changed as often as it should be, this can speed up bearing wear even more over time.

  How Much Does It Cost to Repair Hail Damage to a Car?

People who aren’t sure about the health of an engine can also look at a used oil filter. In these cases, many mechanics cut away the canister part of an oil filter, so they can see the paper element inside. This part can then be checked for metal fragments and shavings, which can give a sense of how well an engine’s bearings and wear surfaces are doing.

What to Do if You Find Metal Shavings in The Engine Oil

Metal shavings found in your engine’s oil is a big deal, and should not be taken for granted. In most cases, this will mean taking the engine’s oil pan and bearing caps off, so that you can examine the bearing surfaces for wear. If scarring or faster wear of any kind shows up on the surface, there is a much bigger problem.

Unfortunately, when bearings in an engine’s rotating assembly start to wear out quickly, there aren’t many options for people to choose from. Most of the time, the engine will have to be removed and repaired. This can be a very costly project, to say the least. Many older, high-mileage cars have repairs that cost more than the cars are worth.


Many people think that addressing these issues is simple and cheap. This is not true. If you don’t fix this problem, it will cost a lot of money to do so. You may not even know there’s a problem until it’s too late. By the time you do, it may be too late for a simple fix.

They’ll look at the car when you take it to the mechanic. They’ll see what kind of damage has been done. Take a moment to remember that it isn’t just the metal shavings that are a problem. Because metal shavings are found in your oil, it means that something is very wrong.