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How Engine Wear & Deposits Kill Horsepower

Common Engine Wear & Deposits Will Kill Horsepower

Most people equate engine wear and deposits with a sudden, catastrophic engine failure that leaves you stranded alongside the road. In reality, wear and deposits are more likely to erode engine power and efficiency over time. Here’s how it works and what you can do about it.

Engine compression = power

For your engine to produce maximum power, the combustion chamber must seal completely during the compression and combustion strokes. Wear and deposits can prevent the valves or piston rings from sealing, allowing pressurized gases to escape the combustion chamber and take potential engine power with them.

To illustrate, imagine using a hydraulic floor jack. Pumping the handle will raise the vehicle as long as the release valve is tightly seated and doesn’t leak. A poorly sealed release valve, however, allows pressure to escape, causing the vehicle to sink to the ground no matter how much you pump the jack handle.

The same principle applies inside your engine. If some of the pressure created during the compression and combustion strokes is lost due to valves and piston rings that don’t seal completely, the engine will create less power.

engine wear identified

Wear & deposits reduce compression

Over time, deposits or valve wear can prevent the valves from closing completely, interfering with a good seal. Wear can also interfere with proper valve operation, disrupting optimum fuel/air flow.

If the piston rings do not seal tightly against the cylinder wall, pressurized combustion gases can escape past the rings and enter the crankcase, taking potential power with it.

Worn or stuck piston rings produce the same effect. The rings are designed to move freely in their grooves and press tightly against the cylinder wall. They should form a seal that prevents fuel/air from escaping. Ring wear can interfere with formation of a tight seal. Likewise, deposit buildup can cause the rings to stick in their grooves, also preventing a good seal. As a result, some fuel/air escapes the combustion chamber during compression, reducing power. On the combustion stroke, pressurized gases can blow by the rings and travel down the cylinder wall and into the oil sump, taking potential power with them. This is what’s meant when someone says an engine has lost compression.

(Check out our 5 Ways to Boost Horsepower for Under $500)

AMSOIL Signature Series helps prevent the problem

AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil provides…

  • 75 percent more engine protection against horsepower loss and wear*
  • 90% better protection against sludge **

Its outstanding performance helps prevent deposits and wear that rob engines of horsepower, helping preserve that like-new feeling you crave when driving.

FIND AMSOIL PRODUCTS FOR MY VEHICLE

*Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 0W-20, in ASTM D6891 as required by the API SN specification.

**Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30 in the ASTM D6593 engine test for oil screen plugging as required by the API SN specification.

Oil Analysis Kits – They’re Easy

How to Perform Oil Analysis

We keep these kits right here in the Omaha store. Ask for the one with postage or with out for a slight savings. When doing several vehicles use the one w/o postage to send all together.

Used oil analysis is one of the most potent tools in your vehicle-maintenance arsenal. It effectively provides a glimpse inside your engine to gauge lubricant and component condition without so much as removing a bolt or bloodying a knuckle. And it’s simple and inexpensive. Here’s how to perform oil analysis.

What is oil analysis?

First, let’s define our terms.

Oil analysis is the process of chemically analyzing a lubricant sample (typically used motor oil) to determine lubricant and engine or component condition.

You take a sample of the lubricant and ship it to a qualified laboratory. Technicians subject the lubricant to a range of tests to determine the concentration of wear metals, fuel dilution, the lubricant’s total base number (TBN), oxidation and other information. The lab sends you a report that shows lubricant condition and includes a brief explanation and recommendations for future service.

The benefits of oil analysis

Determining the condition of the oil inside your engine offers a number of benefits, all of which save you time, money and hassle in the future.

Maximize oil drain intervals

Monitoring the condition of the oil allows you to optimize drain intervals so you can capitalize on the fluid’s full service life. Performing fewer oil changes minimizes maintenance costs and, for businesses that depend on vehicle availability, maximizes uptime. It also vastly reduces the amount of waste oil you have to truck to the recycling facility, helping the environment.

Extend equipment life

Monitoring system cleanliness and filtration efficiency can help you keep your vehicles and equipment longer and significantly reduce replacement costs.

Prevent major problems

Oil analysis identifies dirt, wear particles, fuel dilution, coolant and other contaminants that can cause catastrophic failure or significantly shorten equipment life. Arming yourself with this information allows you to proactively fix problems before they spiral out of control.

Maximize asset reliability

For businesses that maintain vehicle fleets, testing and analysis ensure that equipment is up, running and making money instead of laid up in the shop.

Increased resale value

Performing oil analysis provides valuable sampling history documentation that can justify higher equipment resale values.

How to perform oil analysis

To demonstrate how easy it is to perform oil analysis, I obtained an oil analysis kit from Oil Analyzers INC. and identified the perfect subject from my family fleet – my trusty 1998 Toyota Corolla. I thumped down exactly $2,995 for the car more than three years ago, and it’s been bulletproof ever since. In fact, it was used in this demonstration of how to test engine compression. Check it out to see how it performed.

Here’s what you’ll need to perform oil analysis on your vehicle

1) Warm up the engine

Warm oil flows more easily through the sampling pump. In addition, circulating the oil prior to drawing a sample ensures consistency. Just run the vehicle for a couple minutes; there’s no need to bring it up to operating temperature.

2) Draw the oil sample

Using a vacuum pump is the easiest and cleanest way to accomplish this. It allows access to the oil sump through the dipstick tube. Thread a clean sample bottle to the pump. Attach a length of clean hose to the top of the pump and tighten the lock ring.

PRO TIP: To know how much sampling hose to use, measure the dipstick and add a foot.

Insert the opposite end of the tube into the dipstick tube. It helps to cut it at a 45-degree angle to avoid snagging on bends or restrictions.

Once it bottoms out in the oil sump, retract the tube about an inch so it’s not pulling contaminants off the bottom of the oil pan. Pump the plunger until the bottle is 3/4 full.

Sometimes it’s impossible to draw a lubricant sample through the dipstick tube. In these cases, you can pull the sample straight from the reservoir, although it’s messier. If this is the case, allow the lubricant to drain for a couple seconds before catching a sample in the bottle so contaminants that have settled around the drain plug are flushed out. Quickly reinstall the drain plug and top-off the reservoir.

3) Ship the oil sample

Most oil analysis kits come with the appropriate labels and directions for shipping it to a lab. Follow the instructions, then hang tight until the results arrive.

4) Read the results

I can’t speak for all oil analysis labs, but Oil Analyzers INC. typically returns results in about two days after receiving the sample. I received a PDF in my inbox the day after the lab had received the oil sample.

Shop Oil Analysis Kits

The lab sends a report that includes application information, elemental analysis and recommendations. The amount of information varies depending on the kit you use.

Let’s take a look at the report for my ’98 Corolla.

oil analysis sheet

It’s important to note that I put 10,915 miles on the oil over the course of 11 months. First, notice the severity status level in the upper right. It provides a quick reference to determine the status of the sample.

  • Severity 0 (Normal) = Oil is suitable for continued use.
  • Severity 1 (Normal) = Oil is suitable for continued use. Observe for trends in future tests.
  • Severity 2 (Abnormal) = Oil is suitable for continued use. Resample at half the normal interval.
  • Severity 3 (Abnormal) = Replace oil filter and top-off system with fresh oil. Resample at half the normal interval or change oil.
  • Severity 4 (Critical) = Change oil and filter if not done when sample was taken.

My sample fell into the Severity 2 category. Why?

Notice the Multi-Source Metals and Additive Metals highlighted in yellow.

The information in the Comments section explains why: “Flagged additive levels are lower than expected for the identified lubricant. This may have been topped off with a different lubricant, the fluid may be misidentified, or a different lubricant or formulation may have been in use prior to a recent change.”

Nailed it.

I’m guilty of having topped-off the engine with a different AMSOIL product than the Signature Series 0W-30 Synthetic Motor Oil initially used for the oil change 11 months earlier. This report shows why you shouldn’t mix lubricants, if possible. Sure, it won’t do lasting harm to the engine, but mixing lubricants disrupts the oil’s chemistry and can shorten its service life and reduce performance.

Learn from my negligence, friends – don’t mix engine oils.

Reading an oil analysis report

You can also see fuel dilution is moderately high while TBN is moderately low. As Allen Bender, Oil Analyzers INC. Manager told me, the TBN is no cause for concern and there is “considerable time” before the oil would have to be changed.

All in all, this is a good report for a 21-year-old engine with more than 150,000 miles, most of it using who-knows-what motor oil.

Wear metals are low, meaning the oil is doing a great job protecting the bearings and other components from wear. Contaminants are also low, meaning the air filter is capturing silicon and other debris before it reaches the engine. The report shows no glycol contamination, which means the engine coolant is where it’s supposed to be – in the cooling system – and not in the oil via a leaking head gasket or other issue. And oil viscosity and oxidation are both good, showing that the oil is holding up fine, even after 11 months.

The one area that provides a little concern is 3-percent fuel dilution. As noted, this is a moderate level and shouldn’t cause alarm, but it is something to watch.

This is a perfect example of the power of oil analysis. It allows me to monitor the fuel-dilution level and potentially take action if it increases to a problematic level. Knowing the engine suffers moderate fuel dilution also reinforces the importance of using a high-quality synthetic oil (and not mixing oils!) to ensure maximum protection.

Give oil analysis a try. It’s relatively cheap for the information it provides and it empowers you to take better care of your vehicles while maximizing their return on your investment.

Shop Oil Analysis Kits

We have all the main oil analysis kits here in the Sioux Falls store. 47073 98th st. Just behind Marlins found at Exit 73 on I-29.

605-274-2580

 

Is Starting Fluid Bad for Gas Engines?

Is Starting Fluid Bad for Gas Engines?

The simple answer: In small doses and used properly, it can be effective in hard-starting gasoline engines. But it can be bad for two-stroke or diesel engines. The real question to ask is, “Why does my engine need starting fluid in the first place?” Find out the answer, then fix the real problem.

The detailed answer: Ask five gearheads or mechanics their opinion of starting fluid, and you might get five different answers.

Some occasionally use it to help revive an engine that’s been pulled from storage. Others use it to help coax a stubborn engine to life on a frigid morning.

Yet others won’t touch starting fluid. One mechanic I talked to blamed starting fluid for ruining the bearings in a two-stroke outboard motor. Its owner, the story goes, liberally sprayed starting fluid into the intake when the engine wouldn’t start. And sprayed. And sprayed.

Starting fluid typically contains ether, which is an effective solvent. In this case, the starting fluid likely washed the inside of the engine clean of oil, allowing metal components to contact and eventually seize.

Diesel engines, too, can suffer the effects of starting fluid. Their high compression can cause the fluid to ignite too early, effectively causing pre-ignition, which invites all kinds of problems, like catastrophic piston or rod damage. Plus, it has no lubricating properties, so it can hasten piston wear.

With minimal work, you can find all sorts of cautionary tales on the Internet of people blowing up engines after using too much starting fluid.

Starting Fluid Does Sometimes Work

Given the disdain many harbor toward starting fluid, why would anyone use it?

Because it can be effective in gasoline engines – especially carbureted engines – when used as directed.

For gasoline to combust, it must first be vaporized. The fuel injectors in your car or truck do a great job of completing this task.

In carbureted engines, fuel is vaporized as it’s forced through the tiny openings or nozzles in the carburetor. But carburetors don’t vaporize fuel as effectively as fuel injectors. Plus, gasoline doesn’t vaporize as readily when it’s cold. Anyone who’s started a carbureted car on a frigid morning knows this all too well. Plus, an engine requires more gas in the fuel/air mixture at startup, making a cold engine doubly difficult to start and keep running.

Starting fluid, on the other hand, does readily ignite in the cold, helping to start the engine and generate heat to more easily vaporize the fuel.

But a little goes a long way. Many of the problems with starting fluid can be attributed to operator error rather than the fluid itself.

In short, if you have to use starting fluid, use it sparingly. If a couple short bursts of spray into the intake don’t elicit a cough or two from the engine, emptying the can isn’t going to work, either.

No amount of starting fluid is going to revive an engine with a dirty carburetor. Identify the real problem and get it fixed.

Ask yourself this…

Instead, ask yourself why the engine needs starting fluid in the first place. There’s likely a bigger problem that needs fixing.

I was presented with this exact scenario last fall when my snowblower refused to start. So I reached for a can of starting fluid and gave the intake a shot. She sputtered a few times and quit. I repeated the process a few times, with the same result.

I should have used Quickshot when it was sitting right there when I last filled the tank. Would have solved this issue all together.

Eventually, I took apart and cleaned the carb. She roared to life on the first pull after that. In my case, emptying the entire can of starting fluid into the engine wouldn’t have done a thing, aside from washing the oil from the cylinder and causing wear. At the very least, it helped me diagnose what the problem was not: lack of spark or bad compression.

Bottom line: Starting fluid can help start a stubborn engine, but follow the directions and use it sparingly. If a little bit doesn’t work, a lot likely won’t, either. If your engine is consistently hard to start, find out why and get the real problem fixed.

Don’t Let Extreme Heat Sideline Your Motorcycle

An Oil to Resist Thinning from Extreme Heat and Mechanical Activity

Extreme summer heat combined with slow-moving rally or parade traffic can pose big problems for you and your motorcycle.

As heat intensifies, motor oil loses viscosity and becomes thinner. The oil can become so thin that the engine loses oil pressure, causing the oil-pressure gauge to bottom out. You may hear increased valvetrain and gear noise as parts clatter together. A good rider knows not to ride with no oil pressure, so he or she will shut down the bike and sit alongside the highway (or push the bike) until the engine cools enough to restore oil pressure.

Decreased airflow stresses oil

Air-cooled V-twins get plenty hot on their own, but riding in slow moving traffic makes it worse. Crawling along barely above idle doesn’t generate enough airflow to cool the engine. Add to that the blazing sun reflecting off the asphalt, and it’s a recipe for trouble. In extreme dyno testing designed to create heat, we’ve seen cylinder temperatures in a 2012 Harley-Davidson* Street Bob* as high as 383°F (195°C).

It’s up to the motor oil to protect the engine despite the intense heat; however, oil becomes thinner as it heats up. If it becomes too thin, it can fail to form a lubricant film of enough thickness and strength to prevent metal components from contacting during engine operation and wearing out. Once the lubricant film fails, it falls on the anti-wear additives to prevent wear. They form a sacrificial layer on components to keep them from contacting. But additives are designed to deplete with time and use. Once they wear out, your engine isn’t protected in this scenario.

Heat breaks down oil faster

The rate at which oil oxidizes, or chemically breaks down, doubles for every 18°F (10°C) increase in lubricant temperature. Oxidation occurs when oxygen molecules attack oil molecules and result in a chemical reaction that leads to harmful byproducts, like sludge and varnish. The faster the oil oxidizes, the sooner it wears out and requires changing.

Ride Hard. Run Cool.®

AMSOIL Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil uses high-quality synthetic base oils that naturally resist thinning due to extreme heat and mechanical activity better than conventional base oils. As a result, it forms a thick, strong lubricating film on engine components despite the intense heat. Although any oil will become thinner in extreme heat, riders who use AMSOIL Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil won’t see their oil-pressure gauges bottom out, providing the confidence they need to keep riding after others have shut down their bikes and started pushing.

Find AMSOIL Products for My Bike

*All trademarked names and images are the property of their respective owners and may be registered marks in some countries. No affiliation or endorsement claim, express or implied, is made by their use. All products advertised here are developed by AMSOIL for use in the applications shown.

Where Oil Goes and What it Does

The Responsibilities of Your Motor Oil

A typical engine contains hundreds of parts, none of which could function properly without oil. Far from a simple commodity, oil is a dynamic enabler of performance. It must lubricate, cool, protect, seal, actuate components and more. And it must do it all while exposed to tremendous heat and stress. Here, we highlight key areas where oil goes inside your engine and what it does once it’s there.

Variable Valve Timing (VVT)

To increase fuel economy and reduce emissions, most modern engines use VVT systems to adjust when the valves open and close. VVT systems use motor oil as a hydraulic fluid to actuate cam-phaser components. Solenoids, like the one shown here, control cam-phaser timing. These solenoids contain tiny openings through which the oil must flow. Even minimal varnish or deposits can disrupt the system, triggering a check-engine light. The oil must maintain viscosity to function as a hydraulic fluid while resisting deposits to maximize VVT system performance.

Valves and Seals

Valve seals prevent oil from running down the valve stems. This keeps the oil on valvetrain components and prevents it from entering the intake and exhaust ports and burning, increasing oil consumption. The oil must condition these seals to prevent drying, cracking and leaking. The oil also helps cool the valves and control cylinder-head deposits, helping prevent valve sticking.

Main Seals

The seals at the ends of the crankshaft keep the oil inside the engine. The oil must condition seals to prevent drying, cracking and leaking.

Wrist Pins & Undercrowns

Crankshaft eccentrics splash-lubricate the cylinders, wrist pins and piston undercrowns. Some engines have small nozzles that spray oil directly onto the wrist pins and undercrowns. The rapidly spinning crankshaft causes air entrainment in the oil, creating foam. If foam bubbles in the oil pass between metal parts, they collapse and cause metal-to-metal contact. The oil must contain anti-foam additives to quickly dissipate foam. The oil must also contain detergent additives to help keep the wrist pins and undercrowns clean.

Connecting Rods & Main Bearings

Combustion drives the pistons down the cylinder, creating intense pressure between the connecting rods, main journals and bearings. Oil molecules act like microscopic ball bearings that support this pressure and allow the rods and crankshaft to rotate without metal-to-metal contact. The oil must maintain its protective viscosity despite increased pressures, temperatures and shearing forces. If the fluid film weakens, the oil will squeeze from between the journal and bearing clearances, resulting in metal-to-metal contact and bearing wear.

Camshaft

The camshaft and lifters open and close the intake and exhaust valves. To prevent wear, the oil must form a strong fluid film that separates the cam lobes and lifters. It also must contain robust anti-wear additives to maximize the life of the camshaft and bearings. As the image below shows, AMSOIL Signature Series 0W-20 Synthetic Motor Oil did an excellent job protecting against cam wear in rigorous, third-party testing.

Pistons, Rings & Cylinders

The pistons compress the air in preparation for combustion. The piston rings perform several critical functions: they must seal the combustion chamber, return excess oil on the cylinder walls to the sump and transfer extreme piston-crown heat to the cylinder walls.

To prevent wear despite intense heat and shearing forces, oil must maintain a strong, consistent film between the rings and cylinder walls. It also must prevent deposits that cause ring sticking, increased oil consumption, compression changes and low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI).

Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil achieved 100 percent protection against LSPI1 in the engine test required by the GM* dexos1® Gen 2 specification – zero occurrences were recorded throughout five consecutive tests.

Oil Galleries & Passages

An engine contains an intricate network of oil galleries and passages that carry oil to components. Passages in the crankshaft, for example, carry pressurized oil to the rod and main bearings, while similar passages in the upper end carry oil to the valvetrain. Oil that thickens in the cold can fail to flow through narrow passages and starve the engine of oil. Sludge, meanwhile, can plug passages and have the same effect. The oil must remain fluid when the temperature drops, and it must prevent sludge.

Oil Pick-Up Tube Screen

The oil pump draws oil through a fine screen and pressurizes it so it can flow through the oil galleries and passages to the bearings and valvetrain. Sludge can plug the screen, starving the engine of oil. Oil that thickens too much to pass through the screen has the same effect. Therefore, oil must remain fluid when cold to pass through the screen and flow throughout the engine at startup (when most wear occurs). The oil also must prevent sludge to keep galleries and passages clean, ensuring maximum oil flow.