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Found in Oil Pan - What is it?

 
Old 02-25-2019, 02:30 PM
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Eric Buckley
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Default Found in Oil Pan - What is it?

I found the object pictured below in my oil pan. The pan is currently off to try and correct an oil leak. The car has the early style oil pickup with the plastic "pyramid" in the pan. I found the little spring thing resting on the ledge where the rubber oil pickup mouth rests. I am going to cut the oil filter open and see if I find anything in there. Can anyone tell what that little spring thing is, and how it might have found its way into the oil pan? The engine is a relatively recently assembled 5L hybrid. I put it together last winter and it had only done about 2000 miles before I took the pan off this winter because it was leaking. The 5L block was clean and I re-ringed it, but did not change the rod bearings after I inspected them. The 16V Euro heads had been fully disassembled, except for the value guides, and new valve stem seals were installed during reassembly. The engine had seemed to be running fine before I started to work on fixing the oil pan leak. It sounded good, had good power, and was not smoking. I have my own guess as to roughly what the object might be, but I have no clue how it could be in the oil pan. I am looking for some input on where this object might have come from without influencing anybody with my guesses.


Object found in oil pan
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Old 02-25-2019, 02:46 PM
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Adamant1971
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How easily does it bend? If I was to go on the picture alone I would say it looks like a section of a flexible magnetic pick up tool. But perhaps its a bit small to be that.

Could this have fallen down one of the oil galleys during the head installation?

Sure beats the shop towel I found in Alex G's pan.
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Old 02-25-2019, 02:48 PM
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Tension spring from the backside of a seal....keeps the lip of the seal tight on the shaft it is sealing.
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Old 02-25-2019, 02:48 PM
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It looks like the spring found in some or the seals like the rear main and cam seals....
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Old 02-25-2019, 02:54 PM
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Ah yes, a seal spring. So if one came off the front main or rear main seal could it make it's way into the pan?

Eric, you say you have an oil leak. That would make sense.
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Old 02-25-2019, 03:00 PM
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Yup, by coincidence I am in the middle of changing out all the seals on the front of the engine and I agree that's likely a spring behind one of the seals. Judging by its length and assuming it hasn't been cut, my guess would be oil pump (the smallest of the seals at the front of the engine) but might be cam seals (this is a 16V right?)

Here's a picture of one of the 16V cam seals showing the spring.

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Old 02-25-2019, 04:29 PM
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Thank you all for the input. It was my guess that it was the spring from a lip seal. I can take some comfort from the fact that most of you think the same. The question is: Which seal shed its spring and why? The leak that I am presently trying to fix is from the oil pan to block interface. I didn't have any leak from either the front or rear of the engine. I can't see any lip seal that is leaking. I can't tell if the spring is complete or if what I see is only a part of a longer spring. The oil pump seal did get replaced last winter, but the oil pump was not leaking before I pulled the oil pan. It is not too hard to remove the oil pump and inspect the seal. Does anyone think it might be from a valve stem seal? This is a seal that I think has a spring, and if the spring were missing it would not cause an external oil leak. I really can't imagine how I would lose a valve stem seal spring, though.
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Old 02-25-2019, 11:13 PM
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No possible way it's from the oil pump. It would have to travel down a tiny passage and then would be ground between the gears....you'd have tiny chunks of spring in the oil filter, if the oil pump continued to turn, but I'm guessing the oil pump would seize as soon as the spring got into the gears.

The return path from the cam springs would be a tough road...although possible.

Too long for a valve stem seal spring.

Front crank seal has return oil holes big enough for the spring to pass through and make it to the oil pan, as does the rear main seal.

If you can find a spot on the spring "coil" that isn't completely destroyed and you can measure the OD of the coil, this may help:

Cam spring OD: 1.75mm
Front crank spring OD: 2.5mm
Rear main seal spring OD: 2.25mm
Oil pump seal spring 1.25mm

From your picture it appears like the spring is about 1mm....which would indicate oil pump. How it gets from the front of the pump to the oil pan, would be an interesting story....
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Old 02-26-2019, 01:19 AM
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Thank you very much for the information on the path the oil pump seal spring would have to travel to reach the oil pan. It does seem unlikely that the spring from the oil pump seal would not be more completely destroyed or stop the pump. I dug out some old seals I had and pulled the springs off and made these measurements:

Cam spring: 1.5mm OD
Rear main seal spring: 2.5mm OD
Oil pump seal spring: 1.2mm OD, approx. 350 turns
Valve seal spring: 1.2mm OD, about 162 turns

Fragment in oil pan: 1.2mm OD, about 82 turns

So it appears that the piece in the oil pan is not enough turns to be a complete spring from any seal. Somewhere there are another 80 turns, if it was the valve seal spring. Maybe if a valve seal spring came loose and got pounded by a lifter at least some of the fragments might come down the oil return passages into the pan?
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Old 02-26-2019, 02:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Eric Buckley View Post
Thank you very much for the information on the path the oil pump seal spring would have to travel to reach the oil pan. It does seem unlikely that the spring from the oil pump seal would not be more completely destroyed or stop the pump. I dug out some old seals I had and pulled the springs off and made these measurements:

Cam spring: 1.5mm OD
Rear main seal spring: 2.5mm OD
Oil pump seal spring: 1.2mm OD, approx. 350 turns
Valve seal spring: 1.2mm OD, about 162 turns

Fragment in oil pan: 1.2mm OD, about 82 turns

So it appears that the piece in the oil pan is not enough turns to be a complete spring from any seal. Somewhere there are another 80 turns, if it was the valve seal spring. Maybe if a valve seal spring came loose and got pounded by a lifter at least some of the fragments might come down the oil return passages into the pan?
​​​​​​To me, looked too long to be valve stem seal spring...good thinking on counting the coils!

Easy path to oil pan, from valve stem seal...and it would have to get out through the coils in two valve springs, which could explain how beat up it is.

Figuring out which valve it is from and repairing it is the least desirable of any of the other seals, BTW.

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Old 02-26-2019, 08:48 AM
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Now this is an interesting thread!
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Old 02-26-2019, 01:59 PM
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Eric Buckley
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Yes, any other lip seal on the engine would be easier to access. Much easier. The valve stem seals are in one of the most invisible/inaccessible areas of the engine, even with the oil pan off. I think I will try using my borescope and see what I can see by poking it up the oil return passages. If anyone has any clever ideas on how I might see the valve stem seals without removing the cam carriers I'm all ears .

Last edited by Eric Buckley; 02-26-2019 at 02:00 PM. Reason: spelling
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