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Synthetic Lubricants are proudly made in the U.S.A.
One Day in the Life of a Dirt Particle
by Ed Newman
Marketing & Advertising Manager, AMSOIL INC.
When it comes to motor oil and engine maintenance, filters play a
significant role. There are all kinds of filters on a passenger car these days, including the fuel
filter, air filter, transmission filter, breather element filter and oil filter. Wouldn't it be great if
one could write about filters from the unique perspective inside the filter itself?
As luck would have it, while preparing this column I had a rare opportunity to interview a talking dirt
particle by the name of Dirtamus Silicapoulis. Not often is one afforded a first person account
regarding what actually happens inside an engine. I share with you here portions of our discussion. Mr.
Silicapoulis, or "Tiny" (as he prefers to be called), asked that I not reveal his address or phone
because of the damage he has done and he doesn't want his past to come back to haunt him.
How much experience have you had destroying car engines? Well, personally, I have only been involved
with vandalizing one car engine. But I come from a very large family, and my kin have been destroying
engines for decades.
What do dirt particles do on a typical day? Mostly you'll just find us hanging out, suspended in air
somewhere. Dirt particles are generally a fairly passive lot. We go with the flow, as they say. Wherever
the wind blows that's where you'll find us. Believe it or not, there's over 400 tons of dust and grit
hovering in a cubic mile of air in a typical city. We're talking, for the most part, about things you
really can't see with the naked eye. We're not talking nuts and bolts, birds and small children. You
can't see us, but wherever there's air, we're there.
Can you tell us about the day you ended up inside an engine? Tell us, Tiny, how did it happen? It was
your typical hot summer day. I was minding my own biz, basking in the sun, floating along when suddenly,
whoosh, I was swept by an air current into an intake manifold. Swallowed alive! Did you know that
engines suck in as much as 1200 cubic feet of air to properly burn one gallon of fuel? The internal
combustion engine is really nothing more than a big air pump. It inhales a tremendous amount of air.
I didn't know that. But how did you get past the air filter? Air filters have a challenging job because
they must balance two functions that are at odds with each other. Their first function is to stop dirt
particles like me. Their second is to allow airflow into the combustion chamber. If they stop too much
dirt, they can inadvertently restrict airflow. If they allow unrestricted airflow, they'll be guilty of
allowing too much dirt to pass. You can see the problem.
Are you saying air filters don't work? Not at all. They do a fairly good job for most airborne debris,
but they have their limitations. Remember, they don't call me Tiny for nothing. Most air filters have a
paper media, though there are also cotton gauze and foam filters. I've heard there's an oiled foam
filter that works sort of like flypaper. Fortunately, my encounter was with a more porous paper filter
and, being small as I am, I slipped on through.
How big are you? You mean how small? When I last measured myself I was somewhere around fifteen microns.
About a sixth the width of a human hair. (ed note: human hair has a width of 100 microns.)
So what happened next? Gasoline that is squirted into the combustion chamber mixes with the air and
airborne particles, including sand, salt and other minerals, which is then compressed by the piston and
ignited. Boom! That ignition blast sets off a real shockwave effect. Most of the leftover air and debris
gets swept out through the exhaust port. But my experience was different.
Somehow I got wedged between the piston and the cylinder wall. I later learned that most dirt particles
in this engine came in that way, though some enter through vents.
Next thing I know, I begin grinding down alongside the piston, scratching, gouging, clawing as I am
drawn down, down, down into the dark heart of the beast. Had I been smaller, I could have slipped right
past, even though these are very small clearances. Had I been larger I would have been captured by the
air filter. As it was, it was highly traumatic for both myself and that cylinder wall, piston and rings.
Do all dirt particles that pass the filter work their way into the engine like you? The dirt particles
that enter into the combustion chamber, the majority of them pass right through to the exhaust port and
out the exhaust pipe. It's a thrill for the dirt particle, but no big deal for the engine.
Those like me that come into contact with the moving parts within the chamber can get wedged between the
piston and the cylinder walls. And in that area, the presence of the dirt will result in wear, both on
the piston rings and the cylinder wall itself. Down a little farther, we cause wear on the piston
itself. Eventually, as we move further down we're released into the crankcase area of the engine, where
the oil reservoir is. We will mix with the oil, and the oil will pick up this contaminant, this abrasive
material, and circulate it throughout the engine.
Who else did you see inside that engine? You might be surprised at the gang of vandals I found in that
engine. First, there's the leftover debris from when the engine was made: casting materials, machining
swarf, polishing compounds, even lint. It's a hostile crowd and it brings out the worst in a dirt
particle like me. Then there's all those wear metals, the rebel non-conformists who followed me as I was
clawing my way down along that cylinder wall. Some of the metal in that cylinder wall was scratched
free. Dirt particles like me bring out the worst in an engine. Finally, there are exhaust gases, soot,
acids and moisture. These can enter the engine via combustion blowby and cause corrosion or lubricant
Before the interview you mentioned an interesting experience you had inside the oil filter. Can you
elaborate? Oil filters can be dangerous for dirt particles because, well, you know, once you're trapped
inside an oil filter it's all over. Fortunately for me, oil filters are not very effective for particles
smaller than 20 microns.
This was my first time inside an engine. I'd heard some real horror stories about oil filters and was
quite frightened as I began circulating through the engine. Suddenly I found myself in the canister.
Here and there I could see clusters of particles all scattered about. They seemed to be shouting
something as I rushed by but I couldn't hear what they were saying over the roar of the engine. Next
thing I was squeezed through the filter media, past the anti-drainback valve and it was too late. My 15
micron size allowed me to pass on through the media and continue on my journey.
A little later, as I was carried through the camshaft region I asked another silica particle what to
make of it. He didn't know either, but he said we'd be passing through the bearings and on to the filter
again before long and we could try to circulate a little closer next time.
Sure enough, before long we were back inside the filter canister where I discovered they were iron and
other metallic particles and they were not having a party. They were shouting for help. They had been
Are you saying that oil filters don't do much good against dirt either? Not at all. Oil filters do,
however, have their limitations. Again, it is the old trade off between restricting too much, and
allowing too much unrestricted oil flow. Of course, there are by-pass filters that effectively eliminate
particles smaller than me. That, my friend, is a subject I don't want to get into.
CONCLUSIONS? Simply this: Auto experts agree that dirt is the number one cause of engine wear. Oil
filters and air filters play a critical role in preserving engine life. For lube shops they are a
logical source of add-on sales, always in the customer's best interest.
is the undisputed leader in
Since 1972, AMSOIL Synthetics have proven to be
AMSOIL also engineers and
manufactures Super Duty Oil filters which have a 25,000 mile service life as
well as specialized filtration systems for commercial and fleet applications in
cars and light, medium and heavy trucks which can filter particles down to less
than one micron (a standard full flow oil filter can only filter to 20-25
microns with any degree of efficiency) making oil changes virtually
unnecessary and virtually eliminating engine wear.
These filters have been
proven by millions of miles of over-the road trucks, construction equipment and
AMSOIL saves you time and money.
The only 25,000 mile/one- year and
35,000/one- year motor oil in the world.
Exceeds the most stringent performance
specifications of all major U.S. and foreign automotive and truck manufacturers.
Provides up to two-times the wear protection
of other motor oils.
Increases the life of your vehicle.
Improves performance, fuel economy and
Diesel oil and filtration products designed
to deliver 1,000,000 miles for over-the-road trucks before engine overhaul.
Used by many national racing teams, fleets,
police departments, construction firms and trucking companies.
Enhanced Synthetic Oil is comprised of a group of
highly skilled team of Engineers and Lubrication and Filtration Specialists.
You too, can join our group when you become an AMSOIL Dealer and take advantage
of all that we offer as you use products in your own vehicles or begin your own
AMSOIL business. You won't find a more knowledgeable and skilled group of
Dealers anywhere which is very important when you need support as you build your
In addition, as a Dealer in our group you will
receive exclusive unlimited product, technical and business support from the
only group of Truck and Automotive Engineers and Lubrication Specialists on the
We do not only run our business on the internet. We
also have numerous commercial, industrial, trucking, excavating, construction,
logging, police, racing and many more accounts that we support and service on a
regular basis. We have several fully stocked warehouses and fully equipped shop
facilities. This provides us with excellent knowledge of the products, equipment
and the business and the ability to respond
immediately to any of your needs.
will use this knowledge and experience to help you get started so you too can
achieve your goals.
We possess the skills, desire and knowledge
to answer questions, solve problems, improve efficiency, reduce downtime,
maintenance costs and increase the durability and life of all of your vehicles.
Read what our
satisfied customers have to say about us. Read
through our website. Contact us with any questions. If you decide to become an
AMSOIL Dealer you will be joining, in our opinion, the most skilled AMSOIL group
there is. We will help you get started and provide you with the tools and
information in order to be successful in this business or with technical and
product assistance to use AMSOIL products in your own vehicles.
We offer several options to receive information on AMSOIL. We welcome the
opportunity to work with you personally as your servicing AMSOIL Dealer.
Option 1 -
The best option
If you are serious about AMSOIL products and the
business opportunity this is
the best option. You will receive extensive
technical and business support from both myself and my AMSOIL Dealer Group. We
look forward to helping you learn about AMSOIL.
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Email us at
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Option 3 -
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application) you can request information via any of the links below.
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