Copper in oil

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Copper in oil

Postby albaran » Wed Jun 07, 2017 4:02 am

After the last thread about exploding oil filters, I changed my Fram out for a Wix racing filter.
While I was changing the filter, I sent a sample of the oil out to the Wix labs for analysis. The results came back everything was normal except for a very high (they said severe) copper content. First guess would be some sort of bearing problem but I cut the old filter open for examination and there was nothing that would indicate any bearing debris.
What else could cause this?
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Re: Copper in oil

Postby Larry Jowdy » Wed Jun 07, 2017 4:09 am

Sorry to say but nothing else will introduce copper into the oil. It's time for a rebuild.
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Re: Copper in oil

Postby albaran » Wed Jun 07, 2017 5:44 am

But why would the filter element be clean of any debris?
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Re: Copper in oil

Postby Larry Jowdy » Wed Jun 07, 2017 7:12 am

I don't know. It could be the start of bearing failure and the particles were too small to be trapped? 99% of the time copper in the oil means bearing failure but, the analysis could be flawed
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Re: Copper in oil

Postby albaran » Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:26 am

According to the analysis sheet, it could also be from the oil cooler. Considering I have a large 2 plate oil cooler and the engine only has about 4000 miles on it, I am going to go down that road. An online search had a service bulletin from Caterpillar that stated high copper results on newer engines are usually from their oil coolers. I'll try to do some more flushing and resubmit the oil for another test.
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Re: Copper in oil

Postby RVosari » Thu Jun 08, 2017 10:09 am

Not having built a VW motor since circa 1970...are today's VW "performance bearings" 3-ply Lead-copper/tin-steel or Bi-ply aluminum - steel ?

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Re: Copper in oil

Postby TomD » Sat Jun 10, 2017 8:45 am

Did the aluminum and/or tin spike along with the copper? If not your cooler is a good candidate (IMO)
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Re: Copper in oil

Postby albaran » Sun Jun 11, 2017 8:23 am

All other results were normal. If it was bearings I would think they would of spiked also. Anyway, I flushed all the old oil out of the system and will resubmit the test in a few hundred miles. If the copper drops then I know it it's the cooler.
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Re: Copper in oil

Postby RBP » Tue Jun 13, 2017 4:51 am

How does the engine run? Is there any knocking noise that would indicate a bearing issue. If the engine performs well and doesn't make a lot of bearing failure type noise then just keep driving it and as you say flush out the system a few times with new oil and additives and see what you got. If the engine only has 4,000 miles on it, was built by a reputable builder and you didn't run it dry (no oil) then its likely not engine bearing failure. I expect your oil pump is working?
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Re: Copper in oil

Postby albaran » Tue Jun 13, 2017 7:01 am

Engine runs great and does not make any knocking type sounds that you would expect with bearing problems. I am running Valvoline VR1 20-50 racing oil. I did at one time put some zinc additive in the oil which a service bulletin from Caterpillar claimed could cause a chemical reaction in the oil coolers but it wasn't anything to worry about.
The Valvoline oil has the zinc stuff in it already so I am staying away from any additives.
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Re: Copper in oil

Postby RBP » Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:14 am

Good idea, sounds like you have things under control. I run Swepco 306 15 - 40 high in Z & P which our engines need. In my humble opinion one of the best oils out there. I know, everyone has an opinion, that's mine.
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Re: Copper in oil

Postby RVosari » Thu Jun 15, 2017 4:08 am

Here is a photo (from another site) of a VW Main Bearing...no copper in sight [:0]

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Re: Copper in oil

Postby RBP » Fri Jun 16, 2017 4:28 am

I agree, although I am no expert, I have seen my share of rod and main bearings. None of them were made from copper. They were always a dark greyish color. Maybe the material contains some copper, possible I guess.
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Re: Copper in oil

Postby Larry Jowdy » Fri Jun 16, 2017 7:14 am

FYI, Babbitt, the material used to make bearings contains copper. See the chart below.


ASTM Babbitt Analysis Chart - ASTM B-23
Chemical Composition, % Tin Base Babbitt Grades ALLOY NUMBER (GRADE)
Tin 90.0-92.0 88.0-90.0
Antimony 4.0-5.0 7.0-8.0
Lead 0.35 0.35
Copper 4.0-5.0 3.0-4.0
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Re: Copper in oil

Postby RVosari » Fri Jun 16, 2017 7:37 am

Here are some Lambo Urraco bearings made by Vandervell. These are high quality 3-ply [white metal-copper-steel] bearings for a very expensive motor !

They are junk because Martin had a blocked oil pick-up screen... :(


It seems that all current VW bearings are the cheaper 2-ply deal...!

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