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Old 01-28-2013, 05:34 PM   #1
P3Auto
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Default Frozen issues with PCV and OCC, warning.

We have had a number of modified cars (not just Subarus) with issues due to the negative outside temps. Just wanted to give people a heads up.

Those of you running air oil separators (non heated), oil catch cans, or other non factory type crank case breather systems should always be watching for signs of a frozen or plugged up system.

Those of you with the above installed along with meth/water systems are very prone to freeze up due to slightly higher levels of moisture.

Those of you with aftermarket turbos particularly garret or ball bearing types are at a much higher risk of fast oil consumption then those with stock turbos.

Not realizing the symptoms leads to massive oil loss and a potential for complete engine failure.

Some background...All Subarus have a crank case ventilation system, there are lines on the valve covers, and top rear of the block. This system allows pressure within the engine to be released back into the intake in most cases. When this system gets blocked from extreme cold temps moisture in the breather lines frozen causes pressures in the crank case build to very high levels. When this happens bad things follow...

Symptoms include:

1. Dip stick blows out.
2. Oil smell from exhaust.
3. Oil smoke from exhaust that can be very heavy.
4. Cam seals or other engine seals can blow out.
5. Oil consumption can get excessive and sudden.
6. Power loss, hesitations, air fuel trims off by large percentages
7. Removing the dip stick or oil cap will release gasses in high volume when car is running. I had a oil cap blow off right in my face even after motor was shut down.

One of the most dangerous conditions we are seeing is those with certain style turbos. When the crank case pressure gets high the oil return line from the turbo is also pressurized. The oil returns are basically gravity fed so the oil drips out of the turbo from the bearing and returns to the engine via this line. When the pressure goes up the return line becomes a pressure release point inside the turbo. This means oil may not only be stopped from returning to engine but it may also be pushed back up the return line to the turbo. To sum it up this results in LARGE amounts of oil to essentially be dumped out of your exhaust. On a Perrin rotated setup we witnessed the car dump over 2 qts of oil out the exhaust in about 4 mins under normal driving. It was -25 outside and the oil catch can had frozen and blocked up.

In the extreme cold and dark it can be difficult to tell the difference between normal exhaust smoke and oil smoke which was the case with the rotated turbo person. The only thing that saved that motor was the oil pressure gauge and the fact he noticed the pressure reading lower then it should have been.

What to do??

If you find yourself in one of these situations do the following as an emergency if you need to continue driving.

1. Pull over and shut the car off.

2. Check the oil levels on the dipstick add oil if low or not on stick.

3. Look under the car as much as possible to note any areas of oil dripping or pouring out. If you get to this part and find a river or puddle of oil then call a tow truck and get a better look at a shop.

4. Loosen the oil fill cap or dip stick tube and restart the motor. I think loosening the oil fill cap will make less of a mess (usually none).

5. With the motor running recheck for signs of oil leaking from motor especially in the front area. Note: Don't be alarmed if TONS of oil smoke is coming from the exhaust at this point.

6. Close the hood to retain heat and let the car idle in place for at least 15-20 minutes. This usually allows the frozen lines to thaw out from the engine heat. You may also choose to keep checking oil levels at this point every few minutes.

7. Keep checking the exhaust, the smoke should go away and the smell of oil should also reduce. Keep and eye on oil pressure if you can as well. Depending on how bad and how long the system was blocked you may have slight oil smoke and smell for a day or two.

8. After warming the engine bay up shut the motor off and recheck oil levels. Recheck for leaks under car again as well.

9. If all looks and sounds ok then tighten the oil cap back up or put dipstick back in and drive it. Note: In extreme cases and emergency times only you can drive with a frozen system if you leave the oil cap loose or removed to get you out of the woods so to speak. This should be done only as a last resort and gently driven back to a safe location. Usually Subarus don't spit to much oil out of the cap under normal gentle driving. You may also be able to find the block and bypass it for a temp solution.


So what can you do to fix the problem long term?

In extreme cases we advise people to bypass the oil catch cans or air oil separators for the winter or at least during the extreme cold outbreaks. Shorten the lines as much as possible to return it to a closer to stock setup.

We have also had some success with wraps around the hoses to insulate them. There is some fireproof slip over hose that you can get in Anchorage from hydraulic supply outlets. You could also try other methods of insulation like foam hose wraps and things like that from home depot.

You can upgrade to a heated air oil separator.

Relocation of the OCC can work as well closer to heat sources, however in the summer you want your OCC to stay as cool as possible.

A simple method that helps and all of us should be doing is allowing your car to completely warm up prior to driving.

On long highway runs pull over in extreme cold areas and let the car idle for a while to rebuild some heat under the hood.

Hope that helps and I'm sure there are other ideas to help take care of this issue. In the mean time check your oil all the time! Most of the engines we rebuild have shown signs of oil starvation at one point or another in its life.

Seth
P3 Import Autowerks 907-355-6655
www.p3auto.com
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Old 01-28-2013, 06:47 PM   #2
AK_GT
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Excellent info Seth, important for everyone now the temps have dropped. Another important component I've found since living in Fairbanks for a few years, is having the factory plastic undertray under the engine bay. This keeps a ton more heat in the engine bay, especially if you couple that with a cold front (radiator cover).

Just my .02 from living in cold(er) country.
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Old 01-28-2013, 07:22 PM   #3
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Yes I'm sure you guys in Fairbanks have it a lot worse. To see this first hand several times now, in the extreme cases it really wakes you up. The potential for a car to suddenly dump its oil and destroy a motor in just a few miles is real.
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Old 01-28-2013, 09:56 PM   #4
Wes_FSTGDB
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Well that is another reason, among many others, why the BMW will be a summer only vehicle from now on.
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Old 01-29-2013, 02:54 AM   #5
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Another potential issue I may or may not come across as to why I keep my race car as my garage queen in the winter. While keeping my DD close to stock with a few touch ups.
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Old 01-29-2013, 03:01 PM   #6
JesseL
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I blew out the seals on my turbo due to a frozen PCV, wish I woulda had this topic before that!
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Old 01-29-2013, 04:00 PM   #7
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Thanks for the heads up and reminder on this Seth.

I know last year when it got extremely cold, I was pressed for time and like an idiot drove off without letting it warm up. Had a massive cloud of smoke behind me a few blocks later made me think I blew a turbo. Wound up being a frozen PCV system. After thawing it in a garage and inspecting it, was good to go.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:52 PM   #8
kayetealynn
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This is one of the reasons I went scoopless. My catch can is located where the old intercooler went and I know PCV systems have issues with freezing in winter.

This is also why I almost always have an extra gallon of oil in the car. Running light right now cause I gave Kyle my spare gallon when he was scared to take his car in to Conti to get the damn crank seal replaced under warranty.
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Old 03-01-2014, 08:58 PM   #9
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i just had this happen this morning. i had a smoke screen out my tailpipes. i came home slow and checked my grimmspeed aos cap. it was all gunked up. let it sit for a bit. started back up and the smoke cleared up. went on a drive about 50 miles and no more smoke! boosted to 22 psi and ran fine. im gonna take off my tmic and check all the lines and pcv in the am. thanks for the op post. very imformative.
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Old 03-01-2014, 10:56 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kayetealynn View Post
This is one of the reasons I went scoopless. My catch can is located where the old intercooler went and I know PCV systems have issues with freezing in winter. This is also why I almost always have an extra gallon of oil in the car. Running light right now cause I gave Kyle my spare gallon when he was scared to take his car in to Conti to get the damn crank seal replaced under warranty.
Dem folks don't like modifications.

I need to hit you up for a replacement.
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Old 03-01-2014, 11:09 PM   #11
kyletakahero
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kayetealynn View Post
This is one of the reasons I went scoopless. My catch can is located where the old intercooler went and I know PCV systems have issues with freezing in winter. This is also why I almost always have an extra gallon of oil in the car. Running light right now cause I gave Kyle my spare gallon when he was scared to take his car in to Conti to get the damn crank seal replaced under warranty.
Dem folks don't like modifications.

I need to hit you up for a replacement.
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