Oil Analysis

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Q. Why have an oil analysis done?

A. There is quite a bit more to learn from an oil analysis than just the change interval. Use a service that provides a physical and a spectrographic (elemental) analysis. The physical analysis quantifies viscosity and contamination from water, glycol (antifreeze), fuel, and solids by % volume. The spectrographic analysis gives concentration (in ppm) for the following:

  1. Silicon, which mostly enters the oil as dirt from the intake air, this is a good indication of air filter efficiency.
  2. Iron, chromium, nickel, aluminum, tin, copper, lead, and silver, which are all possible wear metals in an engine.
  3. Sodium and boron, which are oil and coolant additives.
  4. Potassium, which is a coolant additive.
  5. Molybdenum, oil additive and piston ring material.
  6. Magnesium, calcium, barium, phosphorus, and zinc, which are all oil additives.

All this allows you to keep an eye on your engine health, for example, if the tin and copper concentration spiked from your last analysis, there is probably a main bearing going belly-up. Spiked glycol readings could indicate a bad head gasket. Excessive fuel contamination points to bad piston rings, or in the SHO's frequent case, a bad engine thermostat.

Q. How often should I have an analysis done?

A. If you change your oil every 6000 miles or more frequently, use testing to check engine condition every 6 months or so. Finding a leaking head gasket, bad air filter or a bearing going early can save much more than the $10 for the test.

Q. How much is an analysis?

A. Amsoil charges $5.55 for three test kits (consists of small sample bottle, instructions, shipping label and mailing tube). Once you get the sample you send it and a check for around $10 to $15 (depending on who does the sample and if you get some of the optional tests which are usually just for diesels). You get the answers back in about 10 days to 2 weeks.

Q. Where is the best place to obtain the oil sample?

A. From oil pan, but not the drain plug. If there is any build up of deposit on the bottom of the pan, it can skew the results. Take it from the dip stick with a thin tube and a pump that you can get from K-mart (or other parts stores). Just hand-hold it and pump from the pan to the sample bottle. Amsoil sells a pump for $24.50. The one from K-mart is about $4.

Q. When is the best time (in the oil life cycle) to take the sample?

A. Near the end of the oil change cycle or when you would change the filter if using quality synthetic and changing just your filter. Then wait to get the test results to see if your oil needs changing.

Q. How much oil has to be drawn?

A. About two or three ounces.

Q. Where can I get the goodies to do this?

A. Any Amsoil dealer can get you the stuff. Don Mallinson recommends Cleveland Tech as it's a bit less expensive and their tests seem very complete. Check the white pages in your phone book or ask around at service places for an Amsoil dealer.