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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

 

How to Store a Snowblower

How to Store your Snowblower properly. Prevent damage during summer season.

Storing a snowblower properly is vital to ensuring it fires up when the snow eventually returns. When the first storm of the season dumps eight inches of snow on your driveway, you don’t want to be messing around in the garage when your snowblower won’t start.

fuel stabilizer is key for storing the damn snowblower

Time needed: 30 minutes.

Step-by-step: How to store a snowblower

  1. Stabilize the gas

    This is the most critical step to ensuring the snowblower starts right away in the winter.

    Gasoline begins to break down in as few as 30 days. Varnish and gums begin to form, which clog the tiny fuel passages in the carburetor. I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t take much to clog a snowblower carburetor and prevent it from starting.

    AMSOIL Gasoline Stabilizer keeps fuel fresh up to 12 months. As the image shows, it also does a great job fighting corrosion to keep metal fuel tanks and other components clean and working properly. After adding stabilizer, run the engine for a minute or two to distribute treated gas throughout the fuel system.

    Seafoam sucks

  2. Change the oil

    Running the engine to distribute gas stabilizer has the added benefit of warming the oil so it flows more easily.

    Changing oil before you store your snowblower removes acids and other combustion by-products so they’re not sitting in the engine throughout the summer. Plus, the engine will be ready with fresh oil come winter.

    Don’t cheap out on oil – you likely spent upward of $1,000 on your snowblower, so you want it to last. Plus, small engines are tougher on oil than most people think. They’re air-cooled, meaning they run hotter than automotive engines, typically don’t include an oil filter, further stressing the oil, and are often neglected.

    AMSOIL Synthetic Small-Engine Oil is a commercial-grade formulation that fights wear and deposits in the toughest conditions. It also flows readily in the cold for maximum start-up protection.

  3. Fog the engine

    Simply remove the spark plug and apply fogging oil. It coats the cylinder wall and piston with oil to help prevent corrosion from forming during the summer. If corrosion forms, it flakes off into the oil and scours the bearings and other components, causing wear.

  4. Check the gear lube

    Remove the gearbox fill bolt and ensure the housing contains sufficient oil. Check your owner’s manual for the proper lubricant.

  5. Inspect the belts

    Now’s the time to check drive belts for cracks or abrasions. Replace them if needed.

    Otherwise, I promise you they’ll break at the worst time, like at 5:30 a.m. on a cold November morning after a wet, heavy snowfall. Be proactive and save yourself a ton of grief down the road.

  6. Check the linkages, auger housing and other areas

    Before you store a snowblower, look it over from top to bottom. Check for damaged parts and linkages. Lubricate pivot points with a spray protectant, like AMSOIL MPSpray the auger housing to guard against rust formation over the summer.

    Don’t overlook this step. While examining my snowblower last year, I realized three of the four bolts that hold the auger housing and chute (sometimes called the “bucket”) to the chassis had sheared. One bolt was literally holding the snowblower together.

    The following Thanksgiving weekend, two feet of snow blanketed Duluth, Minn. I spent eight hours moving snow. Imagine if I hadn’t repaired the snowblower the prior spring and that last bolt had given out halfway down my driveway?

    Again, be proactive now to avoid a ton of problems later.

  7. Store the snowblower inside

    Finally, park your snowblower in the back of the garage or in a shed for the summer to protect it against rain. If you have no choice but to store it outside, cover it securely. I bought a nice cover at Kmart a few years ago and it still does the job.

    Following these steps will help ensure your snowblower is ready to go the next winter.

Should I be Alerted If My Oil Looks Dirty?

What Your Motor Oil Color Means

Color in general shouldn’t indicate any immediate action without an oil analysis test to validate anything out of the ordinary. No, you should not be alerted if your oil looks dirty. Is that dirt? While color could indicate an issue, keep in mind oil that appears ‘bad’ has often been tested as still within it’s usefulness.  Let’s go over the considerations which need to be known.

An object’s color can reveal a lot about its condition. A brown apple? Probably not great to eat. A slice of green bread? Same. What about motor oil color? Can your eyes provide insight into your oil’s suitability to protect your engine?

Does motor oil that’s turned black require changing?

Not necessarily. In this case, the oil’s color is a sign it’s doing its job.

Oil naturally darkens during use for a couple reasons, including heat cycles. During your drive to work, your engine reaches normal operating temperature (typically 195ºF–220ºF [90ºC–104ºC]), heating the motor oil.

Then the oil cools while your car sits in the parking lot. The process repeats as you run errands over lunch and when you return home.

This continual daily exposure to increased heat naturally darkens the oil.

In addition, normal oxidation can darken oil.

Oxidation occurs when oxygen molecules interact with oil molecules and cause chemical breakdown, just like how oxygen causes a cut apple to brown or iron to rust.

Similar is when you sit in one chair all the time and eventually your ass makes it’s own shape in the chair. The chair may be slightly worn but still holds its function.

Soot also causes oil to turn black.

While we associate soot with diesels, today’s direct-injected gasoline engines can produce more soot than older diesels without exhaust-treatment devices. While individual soot particles are too small to cause engine wear, particles can agglomerate into larger wear-causing contaminants that can lead to wear before they lodge in the oil filter.

Just because the oil has darkened doesn’t necessarily mean it’s reached the end of its service life.

Motor oil contains detergent and dispersant additives designed to clean contaminants like soot and prevent them from depositing onto metal surfaces.

Oil that has turned black is an indication the additives are doing their job. You can read more about that here.

What about motor oil that looks like chocolate milk? – Now that bad!!

In this case, motor oil color does reflect performance…and oil that looks like chocolate milk is bad. Very bad.

Water or engine coolant have contaminated the oil, typically due to a head gasket leak.

We all know that water and oil don’t mix. When they combine in your engine, water droplets suspend in the oil and alter its appearance until it looks frothy or like chocolate milk.

The presence of water leads to foam bubbles, which rupture when pulled between engine parts during operation, leaving metal components unprotected against wear.

It also forms sludge, which can clog oil passages and ruin the engine. In this case, see a mechanic as soon as possible.

What if my oil looks or feels thin?

While not related to motor oil color, this is another frequent question we field from motorists.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but in this case go out to the garage and smell your dipstick.

Oil that has lost viscosity is often due to fuel dilution. You can usually smell gasoline or diesel fuel on the dipstick in such cases.

Fuel dilution occurs when gas or diesel wash past the piston rings and contaminate the oil in the sump. It reduces oil viscosity, which reduces the oil’s ability to prevent wear. It also leads to formation of harmful varnish and sludge.

Fuel dilution can occur if you idle your engine excessively or due to a mechanical defect. It’s also common in some modern direct-injected engines.

It’s important to note that no one can precisely measure an oil’s viscosity simply by looking at it or rubbing a little between their fingers.

As Oil ANALYZERS INC. manager Allen Bender likes to ask, “When’s the last time you had your eyes calibrated?”

Oil analysis in the only definitive way to determine the oil’s viscosity and whether it’s lost viscosity due to fuel dilution.

My oil feels gritty? Should I change it?

When checking oil level, some motorists like to rub oil between their fingers to check for particles.

Grit or other contaminants can mean the oil has chemically broken down, but this is unlikely, especially with a top-shelf synthetic oil.

More likely, the oil filter has filled with contaminants and unfiltered oil is bypassing the filter and circulating through the engine.

The filter is designed with a bypass valve to ensure the engine receives oil even if the filter is full.

While dirty oil is preferable to no oil, it’s not a long-term plan for success. In this case, change the oil and filter.

Trust oil analysis, not your eyes

While it’s possible to get a rough idea what’s going on inside your engine due to oil color, appearance or scent, you need to perform oil analysis to find out what’s really going on.

By chemically analyzing a used-oil sample, a qualified lab can tell you if the oil contains excessive wear particles, water contamination, fuel dilution and more. Ultimately, the report will tell you if the oil is suitable for continued use or not.

It’s a cost-effective way to get the most out of your oil change…and your engine. Check out this post to see how to perform oil analysis.

5 Expert Chainsaw Tips to Keep Things In Check

5 Expert Chainsaw Maintenance Tips

Chainsaws are great tools – when they’re working properly. Here are five chainsaw-maintenance tips to keep your chainsaw cutting strong.

Keep the chain sharp

Anyone who has tried forcing a dull chain through wood knows the importance of a sharp chain.

Properly sharpening a chain is an art form, so if you don’t want a collection of useless chains hanging on your garage wall, visit a professional.

It’ll likely cost you less than $10 and save you a ton of grief.

Oh, and the AMSOIL Bar & Chain oil keeps the chain cooler thus sharper longer. (We keep both gallons and quarts in Sioux Falls)

filing chain saw teeth

However, if you’re like me and enjoy the challenge of learning a new craft, be sure to…

  • Use the proper file size. The box the chain came in or your owner’s manual are two places to find that information.
  • File at the correct angle. You can purchase a file gauge at most home centers that ensures you hold the file correctly.
  • File each tooth the same number of file strokes (typically 3-6).
  • Be careful with the depth gauges (the protrusions directly in front of each tooth). If you file them too much, the saw can bite too deeply into the wood and stall or, worse, pull you off balance. Again, use a gauge to ensure you sharpen the depth gauges correctly.

 

Properly tension the chain

A chain that’s too tight can bind and stall the saw. On a non-roller-tip bar, an over-tightened chain can overheat.

When adjusting the chain, hold the tip of the bar up as far as it goes and tighten the tensioning screw until you’ve taken the slack out of the underside of the bar.

soaking chain in oil before use

Soak a new chain in bar and chain oil when breaking it in.

Break in a new chain

When it’s time to replace the chain, break it in first by soaking it in bar and chain oil for a couple hours. This ensures all the pivot points are well lubricated.

Then, hang the chain from a nail and let the excess oil drip back into the pan.

Install and tension the chain and run until warm.

The chain will loosen as it heats, so shut the saw down and tension the chain again.

Then, perform light-duty work, like cutting limbs and small branches for 30 minutes or so. Tension the chain again, and you’re ready to dive into the heavy-duty work.

Find out why Soderlund’s Wood Mill using only AMSOIL.

Clean the air filter

Keeping the air filter clean is one of the most important parts of chainsaw maintenance to extend saw life and increase performance.

It’s the only line of defense against the engine ingesting sawdust and dirt, which can plug the carburetor and cause the saw to start hard and run poorly. Contaminants can also wreck the piston rings, causing the engine to lose compression, reducing power.

Many saws have a screen as opposed to a foam or paper filter. In these cases, use an air compressor to direct air through the filter backward to prevent lodging debris deeper into the media.

If you don’t have an air compressor, tap the filter on the edge of a workbench. If you have a foam or paper filter, replace it often – it’s far less expensive than replacing the entire saw.

Find out why different chainsaws have different oil mix ratios.

Use fresh gasoline for best chainsaw maintenance

Most homeowners’ chainsaws spend far more time sitting in the garage than cutting in the woods.

As gas/oil ages, gasoline can breakdown in as few as 30 days, creating gums and varnish that plug the carburetor and lead to hard starts and rough running.

Mix only enough fuel to last 30 days. Better still, use a two-stoke oil formulated with a gasoline stabilizer, such as AMSOIL SABER® Professional Synthetic 2-Stroke Oil.

Not only is SABER Professional formulated with stabilizer, it also fights carbon to keep the exhaust port and spark-arrestor screen (if equipped) clean for maximum engine operability and power. Using a premium two-stroke oil is an overlooked, but vital, part of chainsaw maintenance.

You can also treat fuel with an additive designed to stabilize fuel, like AMSOIL Quickshot®. Both products keep gas fresh up to six months.

SCCA Mazda Engine Builder Trusts Only AMSOIL

Championship Engine Builder Trusts Only AMSOIL

More than 1,080 miles covering six states separate Jesse Prather Motorsports, in Topeka, Kansas, from Virginia International Raceway.

And yet Jesse Prather’s influence at the track in October for the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) annual “Runoffs” was unmistakable as an estimated 20 cars had one of his motors under its hood. In 2017, that number was 32. And two of those cars won national championships that year.

Top driver becomes top engine builder

That’s all to say that Jesse Prather is a big name in SCCA road-racing circles, particularly for competitors at the Runoffs, the SCCA’s biggest event. Many of them source their engines from Prather’s shop, where he puts his wealth of racing experience to work.

Although Prather has raced himself, winning three SCCA national championships, and has built race cars, today he mostly builds high-performance engines. He’s developed a niche building Mazda engines, but he also builds Honda, BMW and other foreign-made engines.

No doubt his father’s experience racing British sports cars for parts of three decades played a part in Prather’s career. Prather’s father opened a racing shop in Kansas around 1990, where Jesse worked for 10 years. It was there he started working on Mazdas.

“A customer wanted me to build a rotary engine for his RX-7, and it just kind of snowballed from there,” Prather said. His success behind the wheel laid the foundation for his success as an engine builder.

“[When you win], people want to know where you’re getting your equipment from. I built it all myself, so that’s how I started this business.”

AMSOIL Break-In Oil key to success

Today, Prather runs his own business, and AMSOIL products are a huge part. In fact, every engine that leaves Jesse Prather Motorsports is shipped with AMSOIL Break-In Oil inside the crate. It was this product that drew Prather to AMSOIL several years ago.

“I was looking for an oil that would seat rings properly, but that I could also run hard on the dyno,” said Prather. “With a lot of the break-in oils out there at that time, you couldn’t run the engine hard on the dyno because it couldn’t take the heat that we put them through on initial break-in.”

Break-In Oil (SAE 30)

Engine break-in is vital to building a championship racing engine. If the piston rings don’t seat properly against the cylinder wall, engine compression can suffer, reducing horsepower.

In Prather’s case, engine design posed additional challenges.

“We used forged pistons with thin rings to reduce drag in the bottom end of the engine,” he said. “I used to always have a lot of trouble getting these rings to break-in to the cylinder wall.”

Prather tried several techniques to solve the problem, but AMSOIL Break-In Oil proved most successful. “Now the rings seat in the first 10-15 minutes versus having to run an engine 2-3 hours before the rings seat – and sometimes they’d never seat,” he said.

“Every single engine I ship has AMSOIL Break-In Oil shipped in the crate with the engine. It’s a required step to using a Jesse Prather Motorsports racing engine.”

Jesse Prather

Racing oil just as important

Prather’s use of AMSOIL products doesn’t end after break-in.

He recommends AMSOIL DOMINATOR® Synthetic Racing Oil in his engines due to its excellent wear protection and heat resistance.

(Should you use racing oil in your daily driver? Find out here.)

“Even after running fairly high oil temperatures during a race, the oil does a good job absorbing the contaminants we put it through,” said Prather.

Most customers have their engines rebuilt after two years or 20 hours. It’s then that he sees DOMINATOR’s excellent performance first-hand.

“When I get these motors back, I see that the bearings have been protected. We don’t have bearing scuffing. We don’t have bearing deterioration. I don’t see extensive wear in some of the chain-driven camshafts. I don’t see excessive wear on the bore or on the pistons.”

“It’s amazing; it just works. And we abuse it. This oil gets abused day in and day out.”

Jesse Prather

DOMINATOR® 10W-30 Racing Oil

Prather’s use of AMSOIL extends beyond the motor.

He uses Synthetic Manual Transmission and Transaxle Gear Lube in all synchronizer-equipped transmissions. He also uses SEVERE GEAR® Synthetic Gear Lube in the differentials and some transmissions not equipped with synchros.

As Prather says, wear protection is the key to a good differential fluid, particularly in high-demand racing applications that undergo tremendous pressure. And SEVERE GEAR meets his demands.

“Even up to 300°F (149°C), SEVERE GEAR doesn’t break down; it continues to protect. It can take the heat and it still protects those gears.”

Jesse Prather

New Easy Pack for simple differential oil servicing.

AMSOIL isn’t just for racing

Prather makes sure his customers know just how well AMSOIL performs.

“I tell them it does the best job protecting their engine, period. I’ve been around racing for 40 years, and I tell them it works the best for what we’re doing with these cars.”

“I’ve seen the least amount of wear in the engines and the best protection of any other oil I’ve ever used, and I’ve used a lot over the years.”

Jesse Prather

While Prather has notched plenty of wins on the track, he derives more satisfaction from seeing his customers win.

“I’ve had a customer win a national championship every year for the last multiple years,” he said. “And that really is what drives me to keep pushing.”

As with many AMSOIL users, Prather’s initial positive experience with one AMSOIL product convinced him to try others. He now uses AMSOIL products in everything he owns with an engine.

“I’ve expanded into using AMSOIL in all my engines, from my lawnmowers, to my RV, to my skidsteer, to all my family’s vehicles. I use it exclusively. I don’t have any other oils in my shop,” he said.

And the reason he uses it, as his customers have found out, is that it simply works.

“That’s all that matters to an engine builder. It’s not about being loyal to a certain company – it’s about what works. I trust AMSOIL exclusively with all my racing engines,” said Prather.