Solution for regularly clogging oil pan filter?

I have a 1995 Honda Civic sedan that I bought used with 70,000 miles on it in 1997.
Little did I know that the car had been repossessed from the original
owner and the oil in the car had never been changed.
Once a year, the oil light on the dash would flicker on and I'd have to have the car towed to the garage so they could drop the oil pan and clean or replace the oil pan filter which had clogged shut.
Recently, it's been happening every six months.
I was willing to pay $200 to have the oil pan dropped once a year, but $200 every six months is getting to me.
Is there any way to resolve this problem short of replacing the engine?
Would changing the oil and oil filter more frequently slow down the clogging rate?
Would switching oil viscosity help?
What about just removing the filter from the oil pan?
I know there are conversion kits available that let you reorient/resize the standard oil filter.
Would going with a larger oil filter and more frequent oil filter changes help?
Any suggestions or pitfalls would be appreciated.
Ideally, I'd like to keep this car two or three more years, but it's already a problem that I can't trust the car on long trips because I never know when the oil light will be coming on.
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Mobil 1 is also good for cleaning out sludge slowly. More expensive than the shell stuff I'll wager.
Another idea that crossed my mind thinking about this was to fabricate a custom oil pan with some sort of access that would allow the pick up screen to be changed by opening a hatch or removing a cover.
A stock oil pan with a hole cut into it and a bunch of pem studs installed around the hole to hold on a metal plate with nuts (using a form-a-gasket or a home made real gasket cut from a roll of material) would make it easy to keep clearing out the crud.
The trick will be keeping it from leaking. might need a frame around the hole on the oil pan as well to make the sealing surface stiff enough.
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Something smells bad here....
If the garage that cleaned the filter the first time didn't flush the engine, you got severely ripped off.
No excuse for the second or as you imply 3rd or 4th shot!
That is a total bull shit rip off if you will excuse my language!
Mike 86/00 CJ7 Laredo, 33x9.5 BFG Muds, 'glass nose to tail in '00 88 Cherokee 235 BFG AT's
Peter Palma wrote:

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Peter,
This doesn't sound right. No matter what the history of the car, if you have had it since 1997 and have done the oil changes on regular basis and the dealer already cleaned it once (not 3 or 4 times), the problem should be gone. The fact that it's still there says either the dealer didn't do the job right or there is another cause for this. If he cleaned the engine, it should stay fairly clean under normal use with normal maintenance. The light means low oil pressure. It could be caused by a bad oil pump, but more often than not, my experience has been that the oil pressure sensor is what is actually at fault. It's a $10 to $30 part on most cars. Try replacing that. And if the engine is really that dirty, before your next oil change add half a quart of ATF to the oil and drive with that in you engine for about 10 min. before draining the engine oil and replacing the oil filter. Also make sure you use a quality namebrand oil filter.

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The OP does not mention other engine conditions that may cause this. I can't help but wonder if he is losing coolant into the crankcase which sometimes tends to gel or thicken the oil. I also wonder about whether the engine is running excessively hot for some reason. Any problematic sludge in that engine should have dissapated by now with regular maintenance using good oil and filters. A spectrographic analysis of the oil is in order to get a better idea of what is happening in that engine.
On 2 Oct 2003 06:02:32 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@usa.com (Fred) wrote:

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Each time the red light came on, the oil pan filter was clogged, keeping oil from getting to the engine and triggering the low oil light.
I verified this when they dropped the pan the first time. The filter was definitely clogged.
The garage pulled the drain pan and replaced or cleaned the oil pan filter.
My assumption has been that I'd do this once a year for a couple of years and the problem would go away as all the gunk was cleaned out via oil changes and oil pan filter changes.
Unfortunately, this hasn't occurred. I'm now having problems twice a year instead of once a year.
I've already asked them for alternative solutions and all they came up with was replacing the engine.
I've always been extremely happy with this garage, but I guess I'll have to get a second opinion.
Since it's already costing me $400 per year plus aggravation, I'm willing to spend some money if it will solve the problem and let me keep the car a few more years.
snipped-for-privacy@usa.com (Fred) wrote in message

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$400 should be more than enough to have a custom oil pan made up for easy cleaning. Maybe it's the engineer I am, but I would get a pan from the junkyard and modify it to get at that screen easily.
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I think they are telling you the engine is worn out. You may be in denial. Nobody wants to hear that. I have used a controversial cleaning method with success. drain the oil. Put the plug back in and add 4 qts of kerosine. Start the engine. Don't rev it. Let it run a few mins to warm. (Shut it down if you hear any noises. ) Just let it warm and shut it off. Shake the car back and forth a few mins (cleaning the pan) Let it soak a few hours.. Drain the oil. Replace the filter.Add new oil. Drive it around the block a couple times. Change the oil and filter again. drive it a day and change the oil and filter again. I am not recomending that you do this but if I was facing a replacement or rebuild. I would give it a shot. If that engine was really abused as you say, it is toast anyway. You can't undo the effects of poor maint. I think since it hasn't cleaned up after all that has been done, is an indication of bigger problems. Don't expect a miracle that will make it last for a few more years. It sounds like you have a oil burning blow by, sludge machine on your hands. That is why they recommend a new engine. Just my 2 cents and I am in no way a pro mechanic.
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Akacguy6161 wrote:

I have used the same method to clean out a sludge filled engine with great success.
That is a last gasp before a tear down and usually works.
Mike 86/00 CJ7 Laredo, 33x9.5 BFG Muds, 'glass nose to tail in '00 88 Cherokee 235 BFG AT's
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I have done a very similar thing but used automatic trans fluid. It is thin but has a high friction protection and lots of detergent. It is important to change it out and change filter, usually while still warm, - then change both oil & filter again shortly (maybe a week...).
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I have run a quart of ATF in a few before a change to help clean them. It seems to work as well.
Mike
Paul of Dayton wrote:

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Yeh, me too. I was refering to one time when I drained the oil and refilled with 4 quarts of ATF. I just ran it at idle until it got hot, then drained. Oddly, the oil pressure stayed right where it always did (I had a mechanical gauge) no noise, either. After I pulled the pan plugs and oil filter, I let it drip and cool, then a new filter and 5 quarts of good oil.
Paul

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Mike Romain wrote:

I've used a similarly radical, but IMO less risky method on an engine that was enormously sludged up.
First, we drained the oil, dropped the pan, and scooped out the handfulls of crud there. Then we re-installed the pan, and filled the engine COMPLETELY full of kerosene. I mean full to the top of the valve covers- about 6-8 GALLONS of kerosene. Let stand overnight to soften sludge. Then we drained it. After filtering the kerosene, we dumped it through the engine again and again filtering each time), using the oil fill holes in BOTH valve covers of the Dodge 5.2 in question. If it hadn't had dual fill caps, I'd have used the PCV hole on the second valve cover.
I then finished off with about 2 gallons of fresh kerosene through each valve cover. Let it drain thoroughly, filled with fresh oil, and fired it up. Changed oil after about 50 miles. The engine's gone another 50k miles since then.
The reason I like that method is that it doesn't push any kerosene through the bearings, and there's normally no sludge in there anyway.
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snipped-for-privacy@nc.rr.com (Peter Palma) wrote:

I would expect it to help, especially the filter. If you do your own oil changes, you might pour the oil through a sieve and observe it for chunks, gelatin like appearence etc. and determine an oil change frequency for yourself. You might end up with a schedule like 3 filter changes @ x00 miles per oil change at x000 miles or ????
You might consider adding a mechanical oil pressure gauge. As soon as you see a slightly lower than "normal" hot oil pressure, change the filter since it has probably gone into "bypass" mode.
One problem may be with screen on the oil pick up. It may be varnished up enough that the "hole" size has actually decreased a relatively significant amount.
Consider the pickup screen to be comprised of "square" holes, like a screen door. Reduce all 4 sides by .001-.002" on a .010-.015" grid. Now calculate the AREA of the opening before and after varnish build up.
During the "cleanings", was it soaked in carb cleaner and brushed to remove any build up???
A NAPA 1356 filter is about .2" longer than the called for NAPA 1334 (or equivalents), but is about .6" smaller diameter at the end. You might examine both those filters to see if the 1356 seems to offer any capacity advantage. Both filters have the same gasket, bypass pressure and an ADV.
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Maybe. What you don't know is whether the accumulation is gradual and steady or sudden and sporadic -- i.e., whether the engine is occasionally horking up a big wad of residue after some period of normal operation.
Note also that although I don't know much about Hondas, I'm betting that the pickup is upstream of the filter, so the gunk and/or chunks hit the screen before they ever get to the filter.
More-frequent changes can't *hurt* anything that wouldn't have occurred anyway.

Noooo. It may be prematurely terminating the occasional road trip, but it's protecting the rod and main bearings from taking up hard little bits of dirt and varnish and performing ad hoc machine work on expensive bits of your engine.

Yep. However, you might get lucky and discover that most of the stuff is coming from accessible places in the top end, up under your valve cover. Maybe strategic placement of rags (be sure to count and retrieve them all!) would allow you to manually remove it without releasing it into the lower parts of the engine.
I also agree that the only way to be *sure* would be to tear down and rebuild the engine. If the car has been otherwise well kept and you enjoy it, this might be cost-effective over the long haul. It would also remedy any premature severe wear or hidden damage caused by the fool who'd never changed the oil, which after 70,000 miles probably had the lubrication and viscosity properties of roofing tar.
However, it's possible that these intermediate methods might do the trick, as established by months of (knock on simulated woodgrain accents) confidence-building uneventful operation.
Keep your auto-club membership current just in case.
Best of luck, --Joe
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