2002 dodge durango oil sludge



I just had my oil changed shich I have done religously every 3000 miles since new. I know have 51,000 mile on it. I was told that I had a sludge build up and a cleaner was recommended, which I did. When I got home a did a quick internet search and found that this is a common problem for the 2002 dodge durango which often results in major engine problems. Is their anything I can do to prevent this in the future? Will a synthetic oil be better? Has Dodge owned up to this defect and offered a fix? I want to get this under control before I have a problem.


Your vehicle is roughly 8.5 years old and has a measly 51k miles on it. This means the vehicle gets driven very lightly.
Many become fixated on the 3k miles oil change interval without considering the fact that time is also a factor with that interval.
Add in short hop driving and possibly severe environmental conditions (cold damp weather, high humidity, etc.) and that is the reason for any sludging.

It’s not a defect and the internet complaints are people simply wanting to point the finger while not understanding the real reason behind the problem.

It might also be interesting to hear who determined this sludge problem and exactly how they determined this to be the case.


I checked the NHSTA recall and TSB databases, there is no mention of oil sludging problems.



It looks like you put about 6k a year on the truck so the oil should be getting changed every 6 months. My rule of thumb for a lightly used vehicle is 3k or 6 month oil changes, which ever comes first.

How is the the truck driven, short trips where the engine never warms up or longer occasional trips. Short frequent trips could lead to sludging since the engine doesn’t warm up enough to remove the moisture (condensation) from the engine/exhaust. I have a 93 Caprice that gets driven about 4k a year, but it gets driven about 30 to 40 miles at a time. No sludging problems with this car.

Finally, who made the diagnosis, a quick lube place, a dealer looking to sell services or a trusted mechanic? I would get a second opinion if either of the first two made the diagnosis. I have a good mechanic and pay a few dollars more to have him do the oil changes. If he finds a problem during an oil change I know its legit.

Ed B.


I agree with ok4450.
When a vehicle is driven very little, as this one is, it is more important to use elapsed time, rather than odometer mileage, for oil change intervals.

If–as I suspect–this vehicle is used for mostly short-trip local driving, you should be changing the oil every 3 months, rather than what sounds like every 6 months.


Thanks to all who replied. I do have a trusted mechanic and that was my next step. I did have the oil changed at a quick lube place but will talk with my mechanic as soon as I can. The vehicle is driven mostly just to and from work which is a short distance so the conclusions posted make sense. I’ll change my habit on oil changes but I still wonder about synthetic oil. Would that help with the problem or would the extended change interval just make the problem worse?


I understand what the replies are saying about the need for frequent oil changes with short hop driving, but I wonder if there’s something else going on.

I would have expected the quality of today’s oils to be able to withstand sludge when changed every 3K miles. That’s pretty frequent.

The OP did mention the oil was changed at a quick lube place and they did recommend a cleaner. I wonder if the motivation to sell an engine cleaning was the only source of the “oil sludge”.

As others noted, I agree with seeing a trusted mechanic before doing anything further.

OP: Please post back with what your trusted mechanic finds and recommends.


" I was told that I had a sludge build up and a cleaner was recommended,"

How was this determined?? Did the quick-lube people have x-ray vision that allowed them to see inside your engine??

The best way to de-sludge an engine is to first remove as much as possible with a product like “Motor-Flush” then change your oil more frequently and watch how fast it discolors (turns black) on the dip-stick…Short trip wintertime driving can sludge up almost any crankcase…


A vehicle that sees light driving like yours can often develop a deposit (sludge if you will) on the oil filler cap and it’s possible that the quick lube could be using this as a basis for the sludge diagnosis.

If so, that deposit is normal for your type of driving habits. Other than that, the only way of determining if sludge exists is t remove valve covers, drop oil pans, etc. and the lube facility did not do this.

Synthetic may help some but engine oil will be contaminated by moisture no matter the type of oil. (think of a sweating window pane on a cold, damp day)
Extended driving will burn this off and since your vehicle sees little road use that moisture will never fully burn off.


One thing that will help is to drive for ~30 minutes or more once a week to burn off the accumulated moisture. This does the trick for my low mileage Caprice (see earlier post).

Ed B.


Agree with OK; this is a classic case of “Aunt Minnie” driving patern. Oil companies conduct this test in Minnesota or Canada in the winter where the car sits outside without a block heater, and is driven 1 mile or so to the nearest 7-11 to pick up a paper. Done on a daily basis, this will end up filling the crankcase with a mixture of gasoline, water and oil. A very poor lubricant.

My late father in law drove like this and wondered why the engine ran rough. My mother in law changes oil twice a year now (1500 miles interval) and we take her car out on the freeway at every opportunity.

As stated, a brisk drive on the freeway for 30 minutes every week or so will prevent this “sludging”. Using synthetic oil will be a waste of money in this case.


If it really has sludge (which I doubt) make sure the PCV system is clean.
Not just the PCV valve, but also the hoses and vacuum port.
A clogged PCV system will promote sludge.