Sludge report: Change is good, especially for oil

  • Article by: PAUL BRAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 5, 2011 - 4:57 PM

Q I mistakenly followed the maintenance schedule on my 2006 Honda Pilot that extended oil change intervals upwards of 6,000 miles. I assume there's lots of sludge in the engine. Any suggestions on the best way to clean out the engine?

A I don't think you've necessarily made a mistake. My Alldata automotive database shows Honda suggests 7,500-mile oil-change intervals and 15,000-mile intervals for oil filter changes. While I'm not comfortable with that many miles, I doubt any significant sludge has built up in the engine. Check the underside of the oil filter cap. If there's significant sludge, you'll likely see residue there.

Unless you find evidence of serious sludge, just start changing oil and filter more frequently -- perhaps every 4,000 to 5,000 miles. That will keep the engine clean and you worry-free.

Q A couple of years ago, I gave my son my '90 Chrysler New Yorker. He has kept the car as dependable as a 185,000-mile car can be. Recently however, the car experienced a complete loss of braking while he was driving. He was told he would need a new ABS module. Estimated repair cost: $1,000.00.

Whether the ABS light was on or not, doesn't it seem a terrible system design failure that would render your car an absolute "death rocket"? Did Chrysler have a recall on this? Should or can Chrysler be responsible for repairing or replacing an item with such deadly potential? If not, is bypassing the ABS a repair cost-saving option? It's frustrating to see my son wanting to fix the car but knowing that dropping a thousand into it doesn't make financial sense.

A I understand your frustration, but we're talking about a 20-year-old car with 185,000 miles on it. More importantly, we need to understand exactly what happened. An ABS failure would not leave the car with no brakes. With the hydraulic power assist system on your vehicle, an ABS failure could lead to the loss of power assist on the brakes, meaning the driver would have to apply significantly more pedal pressure to stop the vehicle.

Chrysler has issued several recalls for this system, including recall number 685 dated August 1996, covering the ABS piston and pump motor for the entire life of the vehicle. Other ABS components were covered by an extended 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.

Q I have a four-cylinder 2003 Camry, and occasionally I see some blue smoke coming out of the exhaust when I start it. Then it goes away. It doesn't seem to happen when the car has been running and restarted. It also does not use any oil between oil changes. What do you think is the cause? The dealer is leaning towards valve guides. It has 93,000 miles, and I have never had a problem with anything. Also, I have been told that someday it may need a timing chain replacement, and it is very expensive. The dealer tells me this car will not need that service.

A The cause? Normal wear and tear. A tiny amount of oil has seeped past the valve seals and guides into the combustion chambers, where it is burned upon startup. Because the engine does not consume oil, you've had no problems and it apparently runs well, I absolutely wouldn't worry and would not suggest any repairs. Regarding the engine timing components, Toyota did not recommend timing belt replacement for this engine unless it was operated at low speed or idle for long periods. Under these conditions, Toyota recommends replacing the timing belt at 60,000-mile intervals.

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