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Old 07-16-2018, 01:02 PM   #1
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Why I love Blackstone Labs

Blackstone was the oil analysis company I used when managing general aviation aircraft (where you really, really want to be sure your engine is OK) and they just reminded me why. I saw in a thread here (forgotten where) that they do not directly test for glycol in the oil so I decided to ask. It's this level of direct communication that sets them apart.

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I just read on the Trawler Forum that Blackstone does not test directly for Glycol in the oil but infers it from the silicon readings. Is this correct? Previous CAT oil analysis by a yard working on our boat showed glycol in this engine. This has not shown up since I started oil analysis with you. I would like your thoughts on whether difference in methodology could account for this and why, if the forum post is true, you do not directly test for Glycol. The CAT report identified the coolant as being an immediate and critical concern and we had the engine flushed. That report is attached.

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Roger Long
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Roger,

The trawler forum is incorrect about the element we use to infer coolant from - silicon is not a reliable indicator of coolant content (some coolants contain silicon, some do not). Sodium and potassium are the indicators of coolant in oil.

Unfortunately, there is no "direct" test for coolant contamination, and it's presence/quantity is inferred using a couple of different methods. I don't know the specifics of the CAT test, but I would guess they use FTIR (Fourier Transform InfraRed) spectroscopy since they include nitration and oxidation numbers in their reports. That method estimates the presence/quantity of glycol by measuring the amount of infrared light absorbed by a sample in a specific wavelength range and compares it to a baseline of the virgin oil. The problem with that method is you need an accurate sample of the virgin oil to get highly accurate results.

We have and use a FTIR spec to test for soot in oil - it's good for that since that test does not require a virgin sample. We have considered using it for glycol, but prefer using the presence of potassium and sodium to infer the presence of coolant. Part of the reason is because FTIR is so good at detecting soot - soot increases the absorption of light across the entire spectrum, so it can introduce errors in the determination of coolant.

Based on the 08/2017 and 09/2017 potassium and sodium results on your CAT test, I think there was a decreasing amount of coolant in those two samples. Looking at our results shows no further signs of coolant contamination.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

Ken Brandewie kenb@blackstone-labs.com

Blackstone Laboratories http://www.blackstone-labs.com/
416 E. Pettit Ave.
Fort Wayne, IN 46806
260-744-2380 Main Office & 416 Lab

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Old 07-16-2018, 01:32 PM   #2
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I have used them for some time and always liked that they took the time to consider and write to me about my particular needs.

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Old 07-16-2018, 01:33 PM   #3
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I was the one who noted how Blackstone infers glycol from SODIUM (I hope that is what I said, not silicon). But sodium concentration is worthless to infer glycol in a marine engine. EVERY marine engine (operated in salt water) has some sodium due to sucking in salt water laden air and much, much more if there was a salt water intrusion incident.

I discovered this anomaly after seeing Blackstone's analysis of my oil after I was pretty sure I had gotten water pushed up the exhaust, so I called Blackstone. They were very forthcoming and said that they did not test directly for glycol but inferred it from the sodium levels. When I told the guy that this was from a marine engine he immediately agreed- don't rely on their glycol number.

Blackstone's analysis is attached and note their comment about glycol up at the top. Also note that the sodium level is about 30 times the potassium level which is consistent with the natural sea water concentration ratios- thanks Ski for pointing that out.

So while I agree that Blackstone was forthcoming in answering your questions, I don't think that they were complete in their response as they ignored the marine issue.

I don't know how Cat analyzes for glycol but others have said that it is a direct analysis. Someone ought to send them a virgin oil sample with a little glycol added and see what they come back with ;-).

David
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File Type: pdf Bella Oil analysis 1-2013.pdf (16.9 KB, 49 views)
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Old 07-16-2018, 03:40 PM   #4
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Roger, like you I have always appreciated how good Blackstone is.
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Old 07-16-2018, 04:00 PM   #5
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Roger, like you I have always appreciated how good Blackstone is.
What is the cost of sending oil sample to them from canada? Did you use post canada or ups/fedex? Any issue with the crossborder sending?

L
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Old 07-16-2018, 04:11 PM   #6
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Quote:
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Blackstone's analysis is attached and note their comment about glycol up at the top.

Wow. My sodium and potassium levels were way lower than that when CAT flagged the possible coolant issue. 4 and 6 most recently.
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Old 07-16-2018, 05:22 PM   #7
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I use Blackstone exclusively for my Cat engines, Transmissions and generator.

I would recommend them to any and everyone!! 100%
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Old 07-16-2018, 07:34 PM   #8
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I've used Blackstone for the past 10-12 years, really like the personal attention and comments on each sample.
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Old 07-17-2018, 07:25 AM   #9
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While I really like Blackstone oil analysis, sometimes their information can be misleading. Case in point: The John Deere I installed in my trawler has slightly elevated metal levels. They described them as concerning, but not a reason to tear down the motor, yet. Talked to my JD dealer, who by his own admission is old school and only does oil analysis when there's a problem. He contacted JD who sent him (and he forwarded to me) a pdf document on oil analysis numbers for all there series engines. The wear metal numbers JD has determined to be normal ( farming, logging, and other commercial applications with a 10,000 hour engine life cycle) were 2 to 3 times my wear metal levels. I appreciate Blackstone's attention to detail, but I worried for a year about those elevated numbers. The takeaway is that you need to watch for changes over several tests and it's really helpful to know the manufacturer's safe wear metal numbers.

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Old 07-17-2018, 08:10 AM   #10
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This thread is most timely as I am contemplating sending a sample to Blackstone. I obsess enough about my boat and am frankly concerned about how I would react to "possible" findings. I would hate to unnecessarily tear my engine down to replace a head gasket for example because of elevated sodium in my oil. In OC Diver's situation, this would have had me worried (paralysis through analysis).
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Old 07-17-2018, 03:32 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vashon_Trawler View Post
I obsess enough about my boat and am frankly concerned about how I would react to "possible" findings.


One of the great things about Blackstone is that they will talk to you, on the phone, as well as promptly respond to emails. The fact that I can get more information as well as discuss information from other sources before doing something expensive is a great comfort. They invite feedback about experience and questions with individual engines to increase their knowledge base.

BTW they send you prepaid mailers which is a great thing when you do an oil change during a cruise and don't want to have to find a post office. Most marinas will just put them in their outgoing mail.
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Old 07-17-2018, 03:50 PM   #12
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Blackstone is indeed great. Personally I prefer using the engine manufacturer's service (usually farmed out by them to a lab) as they focus on the needs of that brand a bit more. Though I do have to say the Detroit Diesel lab outside of Cleveland did an excellent job on with the Allison transmissions and the Cummins/Onan generator. I forget off habdthe name of the lab they farmed it out to but they were very responsive.



I'll also note that in DD's case, the specs for marine engine analysis results for Iron were different (higher) from other uses as listed in the engine shop manuals.
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Old 07-17-2018, 04:06 PM   #13
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In hindsight BL accurately pointed out their concerns with elevated aluminum, iron and chromium in my old generator engine. It was dead from low compression soon there after.
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Old 07-17-2018, 08:58 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lou_tribal View Post
What is the cost of sending oil sample to them from canada? Did you use post canada or ups/fedex? Any issue with the crossborder sending?

L
Canada post and it wasn't an issue at all. I usually send in multiple samples at once and so not sure exactly what the cost was, but i think ( do not quote me on this) it was around $140 Canadian for 4 samples last time. There are Canadian companies that do testing as well, but I used Blackstone for mine. If you call or email them they will send you a kit. Not sure why but I do not trust Amsoil at all, so personally wouldn't use their analysis.
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Old 07-17-2018, 09:12 PM   #15
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Canada post and it wasn't an issue at all. I usually send in multiple samples at once and so not sure exactly what the cost was, but i think ( do not quote me on this) it was around $140 Canadian for 4 samples last time. There are Canadian companies that do testing as well, but I used Blackstone for mine. If you call or email them they will send you a kit. Not sure why but I do not trust Amsoil at all, so personally wouldn't use their analysis.
Thank you for the information!

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Old 07-19-2018, 11:21 AM   #16
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In Case you are interested:

https://mailchi.mp/blackstone-labs/b...7?e=aad86bc97f
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Old 07-19-2018, 12:27 PM   #17
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I've found Blackstone to be excellent and other similar services good. As to the engine manufacturer's analysis, depends on who and where. In South Florida if you go to Pantropic for Caterpillar, you just can't depend on prompt results.
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Old 07-19-2018, 07:00 PM   #18
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When Cummins replaced my engine a year ago (almost exactly now) I decided that I would start doing regular oil analysis on it. After 10 months, we only had 165 hours on the engine when I changed the oil. Their report said that there was very little extra break-in metals considering it was a reman engine. There was also a bit of elevated silicone that they felt was likely from sealants from manufacture but to check my air filter just to be sure. They suggested “Try going up to 180 hours next, then check back to build trends.” I interpreted that to mean sample after an additional 180 hours on the engine.

As someone that doesn’t know engines at all, I appreciated the explanation along with the report.
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Old 07-19-2018, 07:27 PM   #19
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I sent mine out with every oil change. Included samples on the transmissions when I did the mains, even though the change cycle on them was much longer. Helped nip a looming transmission issue in the bud. You want to track changes over time.

When it came time to sell, the sample history as well as detailed maintenance logs and receipts won the engine surveyor over right away.

Oh by the way, the company Detroit used was ALS.
It is important that you follow the correct procedure when pulling samples or you will get false reads.
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Old 07-24-2018, 11:20 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Long View Post
One of the great things about Blackstone is that they will talk to you, on the phone, as well as promptly respond to emails. The fact that I can get more information as well as discuss information from other sources before doing something expensive is a great comfort. They invite feedback about experience and questions with individual engines to increase their knowledge base.

BTW they send you prepaid mailers which is a great thing when you do an oil change during a cruise and don't want to have to find a post office. Most marinas will just put them in their outgoing mail.
Yes. I've been doing samples on my 3208 CATs and my motorhomes over the years. Their information has been invaluable. Great lab with great people. Highly recommend them.
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