Page updated on 05-22-2018

Engine Oil sludge problem

09-16-2007, 05:26 PM
I have a '95 Avalon which has begun using oil (about a qt in 3-4 weeks), lots of blue-white smoke on a cold start. The smoking started about a year ago after I had the valve cover gasket replaced to stop a small leak. The shop that did this told me the car may smoke for a while afterward but didn't go into explaining why. I've been reasonably good about my oil changes - mostly 3000 to 4000 mile intervals Ė but not obsessed about it. I watch the window stickers to clue me in to the time for a change and check the oil level occasionally. It has gotten a little low, and needed a qt added from time to time, but nothing severe. Some changes have been at a Toyota dealer, but most at quick lube places and some other independent repair shops. Unfortunately, I've not kept receipts for proof of oil changes so I cannot verify how Iíve cared for the car. I've owned the car since summer of '97. It now has 112,000 miles (had 34,000 when I bought it).

I learned when having the car evaluated for trade-in about the settlement Toyota had made relating to some of the Avalon engines doing this (as I understand) due to small cooling channels in the engine block causing the oil to overheat and cause sludge to accumulate. I do mostly short trip, city driving and understand that more frequent oil changes would be best in that situation but have not always done it at 3000. On the other hand Iíve not exceeded 5000 miles either nor gotten seriously low so I really canít think Iíve caused the sludge problem.

Since reading a bit I think I understand that what probably happened to my engine is that when the shop replaced the valve cover gasket a lot of the sludge was released to circulate in the oil and cause valve damage. I'm not really into pointing any fingers here, but is this something they should/could have anticipated and avoided happening?

I plan to call Toyota and see if they will help with repair costs (which I think will likely be $1200 or more for a car that at best will be worth $3500 after repaired), but Iím not optimistic. Although the mileage is low, the car is 2 years older than specified in their agreement to repair this problem. And, since I cannot prove how often Iíve done oil changes I canít prove to them that I am not at fault.

Barring help from Toyota, I donít plan to have the engine repaired/replaced.
Iím also not interested in accusing the local shop (good people) of causing the damage when they replaced the gasket.

So, what options do I have if I want to keep the car?
Trying to clean out the sludge (if thatís even possible) would seem too late for that. I assume irreversible damage has been done.
If I just add oil regularly as it is burned, might the car be expected to run for a couple more years? Or, does this damage progress rapidly and totally trash the engine. The car is in good condition otherwise and Iíd like to keep it for my daughter to drive for a while.
I know there are some mystery products out there claiming the help sludge build-up problems but are there really any benefits to using any of these? (Maybe SeaFoam in the oil! Ė j/k)

I need to buy a new car. If I get an Aura I can get $2800 in trade for the Avalon Ė a generous offer but not sure I want the Aura. If I buy an Azera I can get $1500. A new Avalon, havenít found out yet Ė maybe Toyota would at least give me something toward a new one in lieu of repair costs.


Brian R.
09-16-2007, 11:14 PM
Many people have had good luck with AutoRX treatment.

09-17-2007, 04:37 PM
Thanks, Brian. I may give that a try - don't really have anything to lose but a few bucks.

Love the tag line, btw. One of my all time favorite movies.

02-23-2008, 11:00 PM
Though your post is dated, I hope you have had good luck. I also have a 95 Avalon XLS. I have been throough the same thing as you. In to replace a leaking head gasket, the idiots at the dealership knowingly scraped/knocked off sludge into the engine. They also wanted $$$ to clean it out. After saying no, it wasn't long until my low pressure light started flashing, then stayed on. I took it to another shop, where they charged me a tad over $200 to drop the pan and clean out the sludge off the screen. Worked well for several months of in city/low mileage driving, then the problem started up again. Took it in again for a repeat of the $200 process. Again, worked well for amost a year, then started to act up. Took it in to an oil change place and paid $30 for a flush. Worked, then started acting up. Now, I am going though a process of frequent oil AND filter changes. I've gotten an oil change down to 15 minutes. Though I am not a mechanic, a saleman at a parts store cautioned me about performing "too many" flushes as they are hard on the bearings and can lead to issues that would effectively "retire" the car.

All this to say that it seems the pan and screen cleaning got the "chunks" out but the filter is still catching smaller particles as I am not finding anything in the drained oil. Two weeks ago, the light came on. As an experiment, I just changed the filter. I wasn't sure if I had a clogged screen or clogged filter and wanted to see if I still had low pressure with just a filter change. To my surprise, no low pressure light and (knock on wood) I will eventually get the junk out out. I've got about $550 + time "invested" in this problem but I think this was a better choice than to spend 30% of the car value repairing it at the dealership. In retrospect, I have kicked myself for not creating a stink at the dealership when this odessy first started but then, again, I doubt they would have fixed the problem they started for free. I'm sure that the most I would have gotten was a discount which would have still been very expensive.

Add your comment to this topic!