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Yucky Sludge

I have a 1993 Volvo 850 sedan with 253,000 miles on it. I has the normal inline 5 engine, non turbo. What I noticed yesterday on the ground was some sticky-looking sludge under the car that concerned me. It was of a light-brown color – kind of like the color of coffee after you’d put cream in it. It was oily and sticky when stirred around a bit with my foot. The oil line on the dipstick seems to be normal, but I don’t know what that sludge is. Anybody have any ideas?

Good you posted that the engine oil does not look like the stuff on the ground or I would have suggested you have a coolant/oil mixing situation going on,check the underside of the oil fill cap to be sure.

Are you sure it is comming from the car? I don’t have another suggestion,other than coolant,but your description does not fit well.

The fact that you saw it OUTSIDE the car means it is more then likely contaminated. Could just be oil that’s dripped out and mixed with water.

Take a little motor oil and mix it with water and pour it on a paper plate . . . then leave it outside. Betcha it will look like the stuff your car . . . hopefully from someone’s car and not yours. Also, put a piece of cardboard under your car where you found the leak, to see if you’re leaking anything. Report back, and good luck! Rocketman

What you describe sounds like the old rust proofing dealers used to spray onto vehicles in a feeble attempt to stop rust and fleece a new car buyers wallet. It is that color and consistency.

Your best bet is to get the car up on a lift and take look. I would not entirely rule out a torn drive axle constant velocity (CV) joint boot. If one is torn, water and other forms of precipitation can get thrown up into the boot, churn together with the grease, and trickle back out as the rusty sludge you describe.

I should add that other things, including abrasive road grit, also get thrown up. Hence, the rust.

Looks like it was just a bunch of normal motor oil leaking out and mixing with snow/ice/cold water. The result was the milky-brown color sludge.