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How much bearing material in your oil is too much?

Hi everyone,

I recently did a HPDE event. I changed the oil and I found what looks like a lot of bearing material in the oil. Admittedly, I don't really know what is a lot and what is normal so I figured I'd ask the forum. I have attached some pictures. Ambient temperature at the event was about 100 degrees F. My Mustang is equipped with a Boss 302 radiator and a Setrab 925 oil cooler. The oil I was running at the time was Schaeffer 5w50 race oil which came highly recommended from a local performance shop. I'm thinking the oil just got too hot and couldn't adequately protect the engine. The engine wasn't knocking with the 5w50 in it but I don't know what would happen with if I went back to 5w20. Any input you have would be appreciated. Thanks for reading.

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How many miles are on your engine? I’d try a magnetic oil pan drain plug and see if this persists. When it comes to metal particles in the oil, I’d say some is normal but less is better than more.


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The engine has about 37k miles on it. I've taken it to two HPDE events. I the oil looked worse after the second event than it did after the first. I figured some metal particles in the oil would be normal but I just don't know how much is normal.
 
Send an oil sample out for analysis
 
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Are those flakes suspended in the oil in the first picture?
Has it been sitting and resting and they are still suspended?
Tough image on my iPad, no scale of reference.
 
Yeah those are flakes suspended in the oil. It's oil that I poured out of the filter after taking it off of the car. The car has been sitting but I did start it and move it before changing the oil.
 

Grant 302

basic and well known psychic
What does the oil look like that came out of the pan? I wouldn't worry much about what came out of the filter. That's what it's there for.

Either way, a test might be prudent.
 
1,011
947
In the V6L
I doubt that an oil analysis will tell you anything useful. The lab test reports on the condition of the oil, which if it's new, is probably fine, even with all that crap suspended in it. The Shaeffer oil is a good product, so I wouldn't worry about it.

Your question is about the condition of the engine, and the only way to find out if it's ok is to take it apart, or wait to see if it fails.

The most likely scenario is that most of that crud has been collecting in the engine in the 37k miles since new, and the new oil and the HPDE driving have shaken it loose and now it's in the filter where it belongs.
 
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I disagree with the above post. A UOA will at least tell you what the suspended material is. Al, Chrom, Fe, Cu, Lead, Tin, Ni, Mang, Moly, Ag,
Ti, Mag, Z. And where to look. Just sayin'.
 

TMSBOSS

Spending my pension on car parts and track fees.
6,284
3,314
Exp. Type
HPDE
Exp. Level
5-10 Years
Illinois
I first worked with oil analysis in the 80’s. I am sold.
Sampling detects failures before they are catastrophic. Abnormal high trace metals point to failures in bearings, rings, pistons and other fun things.
$25.00 far a look see inside your motor is cheap insurance.
 
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Cut the filter open. That's what you want to see. The pic you powered doesnt look good. If that's all copper, then the bearings are shot. You should see a bit of black powder looking stuff on the plug....thats it. No glitter in the pan.

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steveespo

Lord knows I'm a Voodoo Child
Moderator
3,754
1,229
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Exp. Level
10-20 Years
NY Metro
I like to drain oil through a fine paint strainer every once in a while. Also cut filter open with a tubing cutter (yes a big one) to see what is caught. The picture seems like a lot but did you take it with flash on? If the particles are that visible under normal light then yes that is a lot.


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1,011
947
In the V6L
I disagree with the above post. A UOA will at least tell you what the suspended material is. Al, Chrom, Fe, Cu, Lead, Tin, Ni, Mang, Moly, Ag,
Ti, Mag, Z. And where to look. Just sayin'.
I did UOA's faithfully for 15 years on half a dozen vehicles and I stopped because the value just wasn't there. UOA's report on the chemical status of the oil itself and the level of microscopic (invisible) wear metal particles from the engine. If you want to know what visible particles are, you (or the lab) have to separate them and have them assayed - a UOA report won't tell you anything.

The oil from the first oil change on my Trinity engine looked like the OP's oil, and so did the first change from my Voodoo. Both of those engines had track time on them before the first change and they cleaned up considerably by the second change.
 
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Only time I have had that much copper was from a 302s thrust bearing getting eaten up on the side. Ended up needed more torque converter space. It was a 1200 hp drag car. The set up required sitting on trans brake too long to spool the big turbo up. Anyway, when I saw a little in the oil pan, there was ALOT in the filter.

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Grant 302

basic and well known psychic
Picture looked pretty bad when I looked on my phone, but when I looked at my desktop I could see that the sparkle visible is exaggerated a bit by camera movement. Easy to see in the crops below, IMO.

Personally, I doubt anything is wrong with the engine. From bearing failures I've seen, there's usually more visible fine material. I don't see that in the finger swipe picture.

An oil test would tell you what you *can't* see. I would mostly want to see if there are unusual levels of iron. Track use shows more than usual, like double for a given mileage. But failure or excessive wear shows way higher multiples...even before it's visible.

oil filter sample.pngoil filter sample cropped.png
All the bright spots are elongated by camera movement during the exposure. A particle as big as the red circle is making the 'bar' that looks 3x+ longer.
 

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