Used Oil Analysis- Good or Useless?

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33,973
Location
Southern NJ
I was talking with a friend of mine who said that used oil analysis cannot tell you how your engine is wearing. He claimed the only way to tell how an engine is wearing is by tear down (true) and compression testing. He didn't believe that used oil analysis is a good measure of how an oil is protecting the engine. He does believe that it tells the state of the oil but not the wear of the engine. So, do the majority of you feel UOA's are beneficial? Obviously many on here pay to have them done so I assume you do. Dave from Redline also stated that UOA's don't show if one oil is better then another which should really make all of us think if it's worth it or not to have them done. This is from BITOG glossary
quote:
Oil analysis works like this. Oil that has been inside any moving mechanical apparatus for a period of time reflects the exact condition of that assembly. Oil is in contact with engine or mechanical components as wear metallic trace particles enter the oil. These particles are so small they remain in suspension. Many products of the combustion process also will become trapped in the circulating oil. The oil becomes a working history of the machine.
I personally think for $30, it's a good effective way of monitoring trends in wear. Obviously if you take one sample and your oil reads 80ppm of Fe vs 30ppm with another brand or engine cleaning, oil analysis is valuable. Do race teams use analysis or do they strictly do tear downs? [ November 14, 2003, 07:17 PM: Message edited by: buster ]
 

Mic

Messages
34
Location
Minnesota
I am new to the site and do not know jack. I would think that it is nice to know how your oil is holding up in your engine. I think it is very important to have that information if you want to go with an extended drain schedule. I would think some details in the UOA would give you an indication if anything was going on with your engine. Yes, compression tests will tell you if things are good with the internals of your engine. The only time I have ever seen anyone do a compression check on my engine, is when I trade in my snowmobile or boat. Jeff
 
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3,845
Buster, Obviously I wouldn't offer an analysis interpretation service to both neophyte and professional if I didn't fill a niche. The key to predictive analysis is the skill and experience of the analyst ( regardless of the depth and scope of the testing protocal). Secondly the accuracy and dependability of the tests run and applicability to the engine or machine and lube used. Seems we ran this subject in the ground a few months ago.... basically IF you can get a reasonably accurate lab to run a very basic level of spectrographic and condition tests, and get an experienced analyst to "read" the data and consult with the user, you can get a very good idea of BOTH the lube and engine condition. Now, you cannot accurately predict to the micron how much wear we have on a given component with a $10 to $35 spectrographic test protocal, but IF the analyst has seen hundreds of testing protocals of that engine or similar component he or she can correlate the data with amazing accuracy to $10,000+ test protocals that do produce that kind of accuracy. Enabling you the consumer to gain the benefit of that expertise at a very reasonable cost. "UOA"is a broad term we have coined here and is not specific enough, there are many other tests that are non destructive ,non invasive and do not require tear down with a micrometer to verify wear , both engine and lubricant performance. Problem is ;None of us individually can afford them, so the technique of UOA and a keen,trained eye that communicates to the operator is a valid tool in my opinion. Ask anyone on BITOG who has spent $35 that has been diagnosed with a serious automotive issue BEFORE it did serious damage and they will attest to the efficacy of this "UOA"technique. We have highly schooled engineers, chemists, and phycists, and other scientists who lurk, post, and use our services here on BITOG who realize the validity of this technique and who NEVER learned it in school or continuing education. Oil analysis may be the most underestimated tool at the disposal of the operator.
 
Messages
223
Location
Long Island NY
Thank You for asking Buster. "No one oil outperforms others for wear." ..........comments in a Blackstone report, from an October 22,2003 posting in UOA, "GC 0w-30 in a VAG 1.8T". I commented on this point but nobody else picked up on it. If this is really the case, we should all stop visiting BITOG and start using 50 cent remanufactured oil in our $30k vehicles! (remember Pathmark re-manufactured oil in the 70's?) We are all studying UOA reports pointing up differences of iron between 8 and 30 PPM. It has been asked before and I will ask again - what does this translate to in real world, long term engine wear???? Is a difference between say 8 and 30 PPM of FE meaningful or not. Do you have to see 200+ PPM before undue wear is noticed? Or will you see a difference (within a 100,000 mile lifespan)between an engine reporting 8 PPM vs 30 PPM? I started to think only the maintenance folks who maintain very high mileage trucks can tell us. Do we have visitors to BITOG that deal with long term , high mileage truck maintenance that can answer whether or not they they can relate small differences in UOA figures to a real world difference in engine life? But then again, the folks at Blackstone review all the UOA's and they have spoken. Is UOA only good for changes in a particular engine, and not useful for comparing oil? One of Blackstones oil techs has told us just that. I wonder if Blackstone would take this same position as a company if asked. I would expect many responses to your question Buster since isn't this the heart of the matter on this site?
 

buster

Thread starter
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Southern NJ
Just the man and answer I was looking for. Thanks Terry. I do now recall this was beat around quite a bit. [Cheers!]
 

Al

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19,156
Location
Elizabethtown, Pa
Obviously Terry has said it all. While many of us comment on the UOA's - I will be the first to admit that I am really a neophyte-but I am learning and this is one way to help myself understand if an analysis even looks like there is a problem. I know I have recommended several times that if something looks fishy its worth the $10 or so to email Terry and let him interpret your results-even if its not Blackstones. I know Blackstone gives you an interpretation (not Terry's) with the oil but that is not intended to give an in depth analysis as to the exact nature of the problem. For me the main value in an analysis is to determine if there is a coolant leak or if something else looks suspicious-let an expert like Terry have a go at it. Otherwise it is really entertainment for me. I love it [Smile]
 
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2,480
It's a good question...especially after the 3MP study. Does anyone actually think that engine is fine (or would be fine) with 18k mi. oil changes just because the UOA said so?
 
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3,346
Location
Clarksville, Tennessee
In the industry is call "predictive" maintenance. Before that word came about it was called "preventitave" maintenance. Preventative maintenance involved dropping perfectly good fluids and only changing out compentents when they failed. Whereas predictive maintenance involves using oil analysis to determine fluid, component, equipment life based on "predicted" values taken from analysis. Analysis used in industy involves Spectrograph, Particle, Vibration analysis. This will allow a company to maximize fluid life, component life and equipment life. As well as allow a company to change out those said when it's most convenient to a companies bottom line. If a piece of equipment that costs 100,000 dollars goes down in the middle of production, which cost the company $10,000 per hour that could make a big impact on the bottom line. When they could schedule a maintenance time based on analysis number and do it during a slow time(companies usually shut down or slow down during christmas and during a summer holiday.(Maintenance guys usually work over time during these phases) I believe that Analysis is important in ANY piece of equipment.
 

Patman

Staff member
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21,988
Location
Oakville, Ontario
I for one definitely believe UOAs are very valuable at extending your engine life! My first UOA, with 2400 miles on it, had the following wear numbers: Copper-4 Iron-15 Chrome-1 Lead-19 Aluminum-6 Silicon-7 Tin-3 With the information I gathered on here and through doing UOAs, I now am using an oil which has given me the following UOA, in a 3100 mile interval: Iron-8.2 Lead-3.6 Aluminum-2.5 Copper-2.2 Silicon-9.9 Chromium-0.3 Nickel-0 Titanium-0.1 Silver-0.7 Tin-0 So based on this drastic lowering of my engine wear, you cannot argue with the fact that this engine is now going to live a much longer life. Who knows, maybe with the wear numbers I was getting, I still could've gone 200k, however now this engine might go to 300k, maybe even 400k if I ever kept it that long. So maybe it is overkill, but the knowledge you gain from doing UOAs and choosing different oils (or viscosities) based on that data, can certainly help you if you're the type to run your engine to it's maximum life. If you're going to trade it in after 100k or sooner, then UOAs won't do much for you other than gaining information on different oils.
 

Patman

Staff member
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21,988
Location
Oakville, Ontario
quote:
Originally posted by Dr. T: It's a good question...especially after the 3MP study. Does anyone actually think that engine is fine (or would be fine) with 18k mi. oil changes just because the UOA said so?
Yes. If his engine had any serious problems due to that long interval, his wear metals would've gone through the roof.
 

wtd

Messages
2,584
Location
southwest Mo.
Oil analysis and Terry's interpretation is what clued me in that I had coolant getting into my oil even though visually looking at the oil didn't show any signs of coolant. Terry also offered his opinion that it was my intake gaskets allowing the leakage. After having the intake gaskets replaced and looking at the gaskets themselves, it was obvious where they were leaking. As far as oil analysis to measure wear, I'm not sure because all engines, even of the same make and displacement, may wear different because of slight manufacturing differences The universal averages are useful but doesn't really tell you what is normal wear for your particular engine. These averages are taken from all of the vehicles with the same engine that the lab has seen but it may not take into consideration the wear of some engines that are abnormal due to mechanical problems. I will continue to use analysis for the reason I stated above but not to try and find what the best oil is. Wayne
 
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Location
Ephraim
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Mark in NY: -*-*-* Like the questions, Mark... keep them comming! UOA's have saved my hide several times. Because you can not always tell the condition of the oil by look alone, UOA's are important. I have relied on the poor-mans UOA and still do in conjunction with mine even now, to help determine sudden changes between samples and between mechanical problems... no they are not absolute, but they are a good point of reference. These are my main factors that I look for: UOA's Look Texture Smell Oil Splot on business card Consumption MPG these are the tools I use, Right or Wrong... OOOOOhhhhh ooooohhh Yeah, SOUND too
 
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531
Location
Columbus, Ohio
I am currently having a hoot discovering that an oil reformulation has resulted in oil analsysis reflecting as much as 50% reduction in wear rates. That is significant and confirmed with particle counts and ferrography. (looking at particles in the +5 micron range, the limit of spectrographic analyhsis). Gosh, running engines without oil analysis is like playing craps at Las Vegas!! Spectrographic oil analysis is a wonderful insight into wear rates. It is sooo obvious, for less than $20, to be able to monitor trends... To NOT do oil analysis is rather incredulous to me.. George Morrison
 
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3,593
Location
Outside smalltown, IL
quote:
Originally posted by Patman: I for one definitely believe UOAs are very valuable at extending your engine life! So based on this drastic lowering of my engine wear, you cannot argue with the fact that this engine is now going to live a much longer life. Who knows, maybe with the wear numbers I was getting, I still could've gone 200k, however now this engine might go to 300k, maybe even 400k if I ever kept it that long. So maybe it is overkill, but the knowledge you gain from doing UOAs and choosing different oils (or viscosities) based on that data, can certainly help you if you're the type to run your engine to it's maximum life. If you're going to trade it in after 100k or sooner, then UOAs won't do much for you other than gaining information on different oils.
There's no question that the differences are measuable. What I'd really like to know is the long term result. Probably Terry, TS, Mola and some others have a good idea of this, but I think a lot of rest of us wonder if the differences we're looking at are the difference between 300,000 and 500,000 mile engine life... [ November 14, 2003, 11:23 PM: Message edited by: jsharp ]
 
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3,845
Mark, I cannot speak for Blackstone or any other labs ,workers ,newsletters or comments. A comment like that is a common misconception of a tech who works thousands of tests never really knowing what he's seeing. Kind of like the difference between calculator function vs. application of a formula to solve a complex problem. The calculator is just another tool not a decision maker, intelligently applying the results. My Co-op deal with Blackstone is that they provide my customers with a solid, quick, and accurate RAW data base, Blackstone does NO interpretation of the data for the Dyson Analysis package.You get my watchful analytical eye and a gratis TBN on every one with my name on it. I can tell you that UOA does help ID the "better' lubricant for a SPECIFIC application if the analyst has enough background to correlate to. I assure you that the #46 Dyson Analysis package does offer that level of criticality or I wouldn't even offer our service. Unless I'm giving the customer a service that is exponentially more accurate and helpful than the run of the mill spectro we are doomed to failure. Terry
 
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Dixie
The last time I saw data, about 40% of commercial truck fleets and 80% of industrial customers were using oil analysis. You can tell a great deal, including how clean the engine is staying inside, if you know what to look for. Tooslick
 

Patman

Staff member
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21,988
Location
Oakville, Ontario
quote:
Originally posted by jsharp: There's no question that the differences are measuable. What I'd really like to know is the long term result. Probably Terry, TS, Mola and some others have a good idea of this, but I think a lot of rest of us wonder if the differences we're looking at are the difference between 300,000 and 500,000 mile engine life...
I sometimes wonder this too, but then again I also see guys on CamaroZ28.com with the same LT1 engine as mine, that will hit 200-250k and find they need to rebuild. And they've been doing regular oil changes all along too. So if I can get my wear numbers to a low point which I'm comfortable with, then I can sleep well at night knowing my engine will outlast my ownership of this car. And with my next car, which will be a C5 Corvette (probably a 97-99 model) I'll be keeping it forever, so getting the maximum life out of that LS1 engine will be my priority.
 
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3,682
Location
Chattanooga, TN
quote:
Originally posted by Patman:
I sometimes wonder this too, but then again I also see guys on CamaroZ28.com with the same LT1 engine as mine, that will hit 200-250k and find they need to rebuild. And they've been doing regular oil changes all along too. So if I can get my wear numbers to a low point which I'm comfortable with, then I can sleep well at night knowing my engine will outlast my ownership of this car.[/QB][/QUOTE] Unless you place a ton of mileage on the engine the rest of the car will fail prior to the engine, especially the transmission. Most people are not willing to keep a car beyond tranny repairs at an old age of 200,000 miles. Sure, the once in a while coolant leak (which you should have noticed via the overflow tank) the once in a while air intake issues but 90% of the time there is nothing we can do about poor wear numbers and even if we do (as Patman has said he has done in his engine) so what, did it make a difference of 200,000 to 400,000. Maybe, we really don't know and is he willing to rebuild that transmission to make it go 400,000 if the wear numbers did in fact prolong longevity. IMO, UOA nice to have, but you can get the same results with 3000 mile OCIs. Sure extended drains, but once established there really is no need and if you keep getting them (UOA) anyway you have lost the cost effectiveness of the extended drain. Sure, I have been getting UOA of over 10 years now, nice to have but has it extended engine life, never know. Next year when I am unemployed you can guess what will be on the chopping bbock.
 

buster

Thread starter
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33,973
Location
Southern NJ
I agree with Spector. Statistically speaking, your car has a much greater chance of either breaking from some other reason or getting destroyed in a car accident rather then dieing from not using the right oil. A rather realistic look at engine death...a pessamistic one no less. [Big Grin] [ November 15, 2003, 11:27 AM: Message edited by: buster ]
 
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