DETROIT -- An inexpensive device that checks the condition of engine oil and warns the driver when it's time for an oil change could help Volkswagen of America Inc. and the Chrysler group avoid future troubles with oil sludge.
Both companies have come under pressure after reports were published of engine failures caused by sludge buildup.
General Motors says about 95 percent of its 2005 models will come with an oil life monitor. GM says the device - a $10 sensor in the engine that measures the number of times the pistons fire and the temperature of the oil - has helped drivers avoid sludge problems.
Sludge clogs oil passageways in the cylinder block. These passageways, which are about the circumference of pipe cleaners, are like arteries.
Once the passages are clogged, moving parts such as valves, pistons and camshafts are starved of oil. They can seize, causing engine-destroying failures.