What is Oil Sludge?

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 usually results in disaster for your car and your wallet.

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.

Vehicles Most Affected by 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. Instead they blame the issue on poor maintenance. 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 in Chrysler Engines

Burke Brown, chief engineer at Chrysler

“In retrospect, that took away the margin. More oil means it [the oil] deteriorates slower. 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.”

Source: The Center for Auto Safety

Clarence Ditlow, Center for Auto Safety

“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,”

Source: The Center for Auto Safety

Chrysler Group

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

Source: The Center for Auto Safety

2001 Chrysler Sebring Owner

“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. 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?”

Source: CarComplaints.com

2002 Dodge Stratus Owner

“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. So ask your Dodge dealer, if they don’t know anything about it they are lying.”

Source: CarComplaints.com

Prevention & Repair

Try and minimize the damage

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.

Find a replacement engine

If 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.

Be careful of the "quick fix"

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.

Take Action

File Your Complaint

Start by filing complaints online. This step is crucial. Don’t just complain on forums. The sites below actually manage your complaint in ways that allow useful statistics, and they report dangerous trends to the authorities. Law firms contact these sites for help with Class Action lawsuits. Make sure to file your complaint on all three sites. We can’t stress that enough.

Center For Auto Safety
NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation

Talk to Chrysler

Next give DaimlerChrysler a piece of your mind. If you have the patience, lodge a complaint with DaimlerChrysler Customer Service. Specifically mention that you’re responding to their spokesperson’s comments that they only have 600 complaints on the record.

1–800–992–1997 or 1–800–521–9922
Monday - Friday, 8:30AM–5:00PM EST

If you don’t have the patience for the phone, send your complaint by mail to:

Dieter Zetsche
President & Chief Executive Officer
DaimlerChrysler Corporation

1000 Chrysler Drive
Auburn Hills MI 48326–2766

Stay Up to Date

Follow the News

Christopher Jensen, New York Times

Engine Sludge: When Good Oil Goes Bad

For people buying a used car, there is a very important but rarely checked factor to consider that goes beyond kicking the tires: original sin.

Mark Rechtin, Automotive News

Toyota Deal: Here Comes the Sludge Judge

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. has quietly settled a class-action lawsuit that covers about 3.5 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles that may have been damaged by engine oil sludge.

Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times

Chrysler doesn't budge on sludge

Drivers complain that the 2.7-liter engine is prone to seizing up, but the auto maker blames poor maintenance.