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Oil pan debris and low oil pressure, any thoughts to save the situation?

Hi everyone,

My VW CC Sport 2010 - acquired a month and a half ago from a private seller with 117,000 mi on the odometer - has low oil pressure at idle. As it turns out, there are debris in the oil pan (see pictures).

Yet, there is no other sign of failure:

  • Good and constant oil level
  • Good engine temperature (reaches 190°F after 5 min and never exceeds it)
  • Good fuel economy (29 MPG on the last fill-up)
  • No active trouble code on the diagnostic port
  • No notable noise coming from the motor
  • No notable lack of performance when driving
  • No notably black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe

That would be insane, but, is the engine soon-to-be dead? :confused:

Full details on how things unfolded:

It is my first time buying a car. All of the Carfax report, the pre-purchase inspection at a mechanic, and my own test drive were good. I pleasantly drove it on all kinds of road (commute + roadtrip) over close to 2,000 miles.

All was well when I suddenly got a low oil pressure warning beeping and flashing red on the dashboard (“Oil pressure Engine off!”). It lasted only a couple of seconds before it disappeared by itself. I stopped and found everything was fine (oil level in particular, that I kept checking twice a day since this moment). I then started the engine, no warning. I then drove again a little bit, nothing either. Another drive and 25 miles later, it popped again. In fact, it soon appeared the warning was highly sporadic (came 4 times in 70 mi). I thought first of a bad contact and changed the oil pressure switch myself. It didn’t fix the issue, so I brought the car to a mechanic where:

  • The oil pressure was tested: 12 PSI at idle whereas it should be above 17.
  • The engine was flushed with oil additive, then the oil and oil filter replaced. No piece of metal were found.
  • The oil pressure was tested again: 21 PSI at idle.

I got no more low pressure warning for a while, but after 65 more miles, they ended up flashing again the same way as before. In order to get rid of the issue once and for all, I then decided to go to an official Volkswagen dealership and asked to get the oil pan dropped and inspected. I was suspecting the oil pickup screen to be clogged with sludge. Against all my expectations, debris were found in the oil pan. Despite the different sizes, shapes, and colors (see pictures), they said it was metal shavings (is it?). They cleaned and put the pan back and recommended to - no more, no less - change the engine. It goes without saying, as that would cost more than the price of the car, it is not an option for me.

What is the best course of action? What test should I do in order to evaluate the engine’s health? Compression test, vacuum test? Should the engine be flushed again?
Is there any way the engine runs fine and that the debris come from something else? Could the engine flush have caused it? Also, is it really metal shavings that we can see on the pictures?

Tech specs:
Engine: 207.0 lb-ft @1700 rpm | 200 hp @5100 rpm | 2.0 L
Transmission: DSG (automatic with dual-clutch)

Thank you very much in advance to anyone that could help me.

Perhaps I’m a tad too cynical . . .

I suspect the previous owner knew about the low oil pressure condition . . . and possibly even suspected engine damage . . . and sold the car, to be rid of his problems

That said, there are typically no warranties when buying from a private seller

And you almost certainly wouldn’t be able to prove it, in any case

It sounds like you did everything right, and still got burnt

Naturally, installing a new or factory rebuilt engine is going to be so expensive, that it can’t be justified. Perhaps installing a used engine would be a viable alternative. But you would need verifiable proof that it has good compression and oil pressure. The ideal situation would be if it’s still installed in the car, that way those tests could be performed.

I think @db4690 may be right. It may be on its last legs. That said, you may consider using a slightly thicker oil. That will help boost the oil pressure at idle. If the car calls for 5w30, use 10w30 or 10w40. If it calls for 5w20 use 10w30. That will may buy you some time and its cheaper than a new engine.


You should bring this to the attention of the mechanic that did the prepurchase inspection. He was supposed to find problems if they existed. You probably won’t get anything out of him, but you should ask how he could miss the problem.

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing

On the one hand, I believe the seller KNOWINGLY passed the buck . . . call it a gut feeling

On the other hand, OP did everything right, by paying for a prepurchase inspection, and checking out the car’s history

I’m of the belief that most pre-purchase inspections wouldn’t include an oil pressure test. That would raise the cost considerably, depending on how difficult it was to hook up the oil pressure gauge. Easy on some cars, not so easy on others. Heck, it’s not even easy to perform a compression test on some engine designs.


What is car spec’d for?
Going from 5-30 to 10-30 changes nothing.
Porsche specs 0-40
Mix some 0-30 and 0-40 and you have 0-35

Here’s a thought . . .

Is there any way OP could go to a VW new car dealer and kindly ask if there’s any record that this particular car was ever in for an engine mechanical diagnosis, and/or low oil pressure problem. To be more specific, ask for ANY records, even if it was customer pay.

If the answer is yes, that would be one step further towards proving my hunch

But the question would have to be posed in such a way, so that no customer names, addresses, etc. were divulged, because that is not permitted. I remember that much, at least, from my days at the dealership

Perhaps OP could walk in with a batch of fresh Krispy Kremes and pose a few “yes or no” questions to a service writer

For example . . .

“Are there any records of this car ever having been at a VW dealership for any low oil pressure problems, or an engine mechanical diagnosis?”

If the answer is yes, the next question could be . . .

“Did this occur after the new car warranty had already expired?”

If the answer is yes, the next question could be . . .

“Was this within the last several months?”

If the answer to these quesions is yes, at least OP would know that the engine is most likely on borrowed time, and should be planning to install a used engine

No point contacting the seller. They’re most likely off the hook, from a legal perspective

…but not from a moral perspective, if they knowingly sold highly damaged goods to the OP.
However, I am a firm believer that–in the end–bad karma will catch-up with people who take advantage of other people.

I hear you . . .

But what would the conversation be . . . ?

“Hello. I just wanted to mention I know that you took your car to the VW dealer to diagnose the low oil pressure condition, the one you so conveniently failed to mention. I saw the records. I know you’re a slimeball.”

And then hang up the phone . . . ?

I am not such a firm believer in karma, unfortunately. I routinely see people walk over and abuse others their whole lives, and it doesn’t catch up with them. I’ve seen all sorts of despicable behaviour rewarded, I no longer know what to think

But that doesn’t mean I engage in that bad behaviour myself. I have set myself some standards :smile_cat:

I probably wouldn’t even bother to contact the slimeball, and would just be confident that he/she would wind up with an appropriate punishment later–whether in this life or in the next life.

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It’s the second number in the oil spec that will influence oil thickness and pressure when hot.
So if the spec is xW-30 go to xW40 etc.
Even 20W-50 is worth a try if you’re facing engine replacement.
There’s also 10W-50 or 5W-50 synthetic which would be good for cold climates.

Without seeing an owner’s manual for this car, I’m guessing Audi calls for 0w40 fully synthetic motor oil

In addition, OP drove the car for 2k miles without any problems. I couldn’t set blame on the pre-inspection. A used car is a used car and one never knows what to expect.

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I suspect these are pieces from the oil pump. I would consider replacing the pump before I replace the engine. I can’t make out what those pieces are, but perhaps an experienced mechanic could make a wild guess, based on color, size and type of metal or plastic. These are not shavings by all means.

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Maybe they are pieces from the oil pump . . .

Kind of unusual for that to disintegrate at a relatively young age

As I said, I strongly suspect the seller knew about the situation

Replacing the oil pump might be worth a try. I’d do a compression test first tho. My first thought on seeing those bits of metal was a broken piston ring. Most of the other symptoms aren’t consistent with that, but a compression test is still worth the trouble I think.

There was no oil pressure problem for 2,000 miles. Perhaps the mechanic’s crystal ball was out of calibration. I suspect the debris in the oil pan is a result of the engine flush. I have no experience with VW CCs but have had a couple Ford V8s with disintegrating valve stem seals plugging the oil pump pick-up screen. The black bits in the photo look like they could be valve stem seal debris. The OP suspected a screen plugged by sludge. When the pan was dropped at the dealership I would hope they removed and thoroughly cleaned the screen. Possibly not if OP did not request it.

Used cars always come with risk. You’ve done everything correctly to minimize your odds of getting a bad used car, but it happened. Stuff happens and you’ll just have to move on. In most states, because used cars with problems are so common, statutes are enacted to make all used car sales “as-is” unless otherwise stated in writing, or unless fraud can be proven… an impossible task with a private seller.

The problem you described won’t necessarily cause excess use of oil, overheating problems, extremely poor fuel economy, fault codes in the OBDII system, noticeable lack of performance (unless you’d driven the vehicle when new, you’d have no “baseline” to compare it to), or black smoke (black is carbon from excess fuel, blue/gray is from oil burning, but in modern cars much of that gets trapped by the cat converter and never makes it out the tailpipe). It sort of depends on exactly where the contamination came from.

There are things you can do to assess the engine’s condition. A compression test, and engine analyzer, and a test of the oil pressure to start. I’d get a good assessment before making any assumptions or decisions. You can also get these contaminants cleaned and try to determine their source(s). I’d do all of these things before replacing any parts.

It is very possible that the source(s) of the contaminants (such as a deteriorating oil pump or deteriorating valve stem seals) was/were replaced but the oil pan never cleaned out. It would not be normal to clean out the pan when doing these repairs. In short, the problem may be repaired but you got its remains with the car.

Since it seems to run well except for low oil pressure at idle, I’d think positively and hope the cause of the debris was repaired by the prior owner. The low oil pressure is a sign of wear on the bearings, but it could run for years like this. I’ve seen it happen. Unless you’re willing to tear the engine down, I’d just keep track of the oil, keep on keepin’ on, and perhaps try a higher base weight oil. It’s entirely possible that the seller had a higher base weight oil in the engine in order to sell it.

Sincere best.


You can reference this:

On second thought, I think you are correct. Not likely pieces from the oil pump. There are only a couple of moving parts (gears) inside. Some VW models have a baffle in front of the pickup tube. Made from hardened plastic. It can disintegrated if the engine overheats. As the engine cools down these pieces harden again and can plug up the pickup tube and other orifices, but OP did not indicate overheating problems.

If I was the OP, I would try to use a very low viscosity oil, like 5/40 and see if the pressure improves. Nothing to lose.