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A toxic hell stew

Oil Sludge and Engine Failure

Every car with an internal combustion engine needs oil to run. Oil sludge, sometimes called black sludge, is when that oil starts solidifying into a sticky hell stew that coats the inside of your engine. The sludge retains heat and starts putting severe strain on the mechanical parts of your engine. This all spells disaster for your car and typically results in a damaged beyond repair engine.

The Problem with the 2.7L DaimlerChyrlser Engine

Preventing oil sludge is usually as easy as maintaining regular oil changes. In some engines, however, oil sludge can be unpreventable due to a defective crankcase ventilation system, water pump or some other problem.

In the case of the 2nd generation 2.7L V6 engines from DaimlerChrysler, reports indicate a poorly designed water pump allows internal coolant leakage which leads to oil sludge. Even with regular maintenance, Dodge and Chrysler owners is that even with proper care, their engines are experiencing catastrophic failure.

Signs of Oil Sludge

  • Loss of oil pressure
  • Stalling Engine
  • Engine Knocking
  • Poor Gas Mileage
  • Jerky Acceleration
  • Piston Failure

Vehicles Most Affected by Oil Sludge

Since 2001 the most commonly reported problem on CarComplaints.com has been either engine failure or timing chain problems with Chrysler & Dodge’s 2.7l engine, both of which are the result of oil sludge.

The defective 2.7L engine is found in many vehicles, including 1998-2002 Chrysler Concordes, 300Ms, Sebrings and the the 2002 Dodge Stratus, but here are some of the most complained about on CarComplaints.com:

The Response

DaimlerChrysler hired a 3rd party company to handle defective 2.7L Engine warranty claims, but made it extremely hard to ever win a claim. To even receive consideration, the owner will need to have records indicating an oil change every 3,000 miles that were done only by a certified Chrysler or Dodge dealer. According to them, if you changed the oil in your car it’s your fault. If you had another mechanic change the oil in your car, it’s his fault. Awesome.

In a 2005 interview with The Plain Dealer newspaper, a Chrysler engineer, Burke Brown, stepped up and said that oil capacity may have been a factor with this engine’s oil sludge defect. According to the him they started using a smaller oil sump so consumers could save on oil, giving the engine a five-quart capacity instead of six.

Despite all of this, DaimlerChrysler continues to deny any defect with their 2.7L engine. Unreal.

In May of 2005, Chrysler spokesman Sam Locricchio said the automaker had only 600 complaints on record and that some of those may be duplicates. A sharp contrast to the 2,800 complaints on record at the Center for Auto Safety, according to its executive director, Clarence M. Ditlow. Who do you believe?

Quotes About Oil Sludge

Chrysler has denied any defect and blamed problems on poor maintenance.

“In retrospect, that took away the margin. More oil means it [the oil] deteriorates slower,” Brown said during an interview here at a media preview for the Charger. “If you don’t change the oil on schedule, they [the 2.7-liter V-6s] don’t tolerate a lot of abuse in that regard.” Burke Brown, chief engineer at Chrysler

“It’s not a widespread issue … or a safety issue. It’s a maintenance issue.” Chrysler Group

“You have a car that goes from being a usable car to what some call a lawn ornament – you park it on the lawn if you don’t have money to fix it … this is an economic disaster for consumers,” Clarence Ditlow, Center for Auto Safety

What Owners Are Saying

“I was driving home from work right before Christmas when my engine shut down on me in the middle of the freeway during rush hour. Mechanic informed me it was engine failure due to sludge and would cost just over $6000.00 to fix. Instead of buying Christmas presents I was forced to buy a new car!” mahamilton, 2001 Dodge Stratus

“We bought this car with 25,000 miles on it. We had taken care of it, maybe not oil changes to the exact mile, but close. One day it started knocking. Sure enough it needed a new engine. Chrysler wanted all receipts and documents of oil changes. They stated there was sludge build up. We did come up with quite a few receipts, but not enough, my husband would change it in our driveway. We went round and round with Chrysler, for god sakes it only had 73,000 miles on it, how could it need a new engine?” Stephanie M, 2001 Chrysler Sebring

“For everyone having problems with 2.7 motor and sludge build up seizing the motor on your stratus I have some news. Chrysler set up a company strictly to deal with this problem. It is an undisclosed warranty. The reason for it is they don’t want people randomly replacing motors. They will give you a good chunk of change towards the motor. They gave me about 1700 towards the purchase a used motor. Problem is supply and demand even used the motor is expensive. I don’t know the number anymore but most mechanics do, that’s how I heard of it. So ask your Dodge dealer, if they don’t know anything about it they are lying.” DHerrington, 2002 Dodge Stratus

What Can I Do?

Prevention

Some are claiming that even with the defective engine it’s possible to catch oil sludge early and prevent it from becoming a catastrophic mess.

If you see a sharp drop in oil pressure, drop your oil pan, check for signs of sludge and clean it out. Then buy a cheap filter and some oil and flush out your block. You will also need to clean your valves, which we recommend having a mechanic do.

Repair

However you decide to fix your blown 2.7L V6 engine, do not put in another defective 2.7L engine. Find a mechanic to swap up to a 3.2/3.5L engine instead. Here’s why:

  • The 3.2/3.5L engine doesn’t have the design defect that causes oil sludge to form in the 2.7L V6.
  • The 3.2/3.5L engines are less expensive than the 2.7L, sometimes by $1,000 or more.
  • The 2.7L to 3.x swap is fairly straightforward & does not require any custom parts or other major components be replaced.

Here’s a thread about a successful 2.7 to 3.2L engine swap & what’s involved.

Some companies sell “fixed” 2.7L V6 replacement engines that supposedly have been modified to fix the oil sludge defect. We have not heard back from enough owners who have gone this route to be able to form an educated opinion on this method. Usually though, the cost of the modified 2.7L engine is prohibitive.

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, you can help make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint

  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify the CAS

  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA

  4. Contact Chrysler

    Chrysler Support

    FCA US LLC P.O. Box 21-8004 Auburn Hills MI 48321-8004 USA

    This site is not affiliated with Chrysler.