Help Us Solve The Mystery Of The Motor Oil Worms

Illustration for article titled Help Us Solve The Mystery Of The Motor Oil Worms

I’m sorry to say that I’ve never really found anything all that interesting in my motor oil. Just the usual grit and occasional chunk of crankshaft. But Jalopnik reader Chris Munger found something interesting. Something puzzling and terrifying. Something wormy.


Specifically, worms. In motor oil that was leaking from his Vanagon. Like many aging old VWs, his Vanagon does a little bit of oil leaking; I’ve always liked to think of it as a constant, gradual oil change. But this time, on some white plastic he placed under the car to catch oil drips, he noticed something odd:

Worms. Half a dozen tiny worms, one in each drop of oil, lay upon the gleaming expanse of white plastic.

Suddenly paranoid, I searched the garage for more like an arachnophobe who has suddenly lost sight of the spider that was just on the ceiling. Nothing. I left to wash the car and contemplate my mental health. When I returned the worms were still there, bathing in Castrol and looking like the thing that blooped out of that dude’s eye in Prometheus.

What the hell, right? I did a bit of research, and so far have found no references to anyone else finding worms in their motor oil. It’s not really clear if the worms were alive or not, or if they came from the engine leak itself, or perhaps migrated to the spilled oil to, I suppose, feast?

Chris imagines a few possible explanations:

I can think of a few explanations:

1. I am getting The Fear

2. This is a new breed of worm attracted to oil, perhaps related to the sand worms in Dune

3. A modern artist is pulling a very subtle prank

4. I need to add de-worming pills every oil change

The Dune theory is alarming, considering the size the sandworms on Arrakis are known to attain. De-worming pills are probably a good idea no matter what, and I’m skeptical that it’s a subtle modern art prank; there’s just not enough Instagram photos of them to really give that credence.

Here’s another disturbing thought: these could be just the larval state of something much bigger, like a huge flying oil-saturated moth, mothy fur all matted down with used motor oil, and bearing an unquenchable thirst for used 10W-40.

These moths maybe have moutparts that secrete rust-producing or rubber-degrading acids, and they’d burrow into our engines via coolant hoses and wriggle around, feasting on the sweet lubricants within.


Then they lay their eggs in the sump, and the result is a sump full of the worms Chris saw. Maybe if he takes off the oil pan, it’ll be a crawling, writhing mess of oil-gorged worms!

Chris, get the hell out of there! Fling your keys down and run, run away from these mutant oil-swilling freaks! Run before it’s too late!


God help us all.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:


Duke of Kent

The Vanagon laid eggs via its oil (that’s not a “leak”, it’s an egg laying), which are too small to see with the naked eye. Those eggs then hatch into larvae, which you see here. Eventually they will turn into...