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Old 12-23-2016, 11:58 AM   #1
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Engine oil analysis typical cost and oil age questions

First off, typical cost ? And does it matter what the engine is ? In this case Detroit 12V71TA's.

And are results effected much by the age of oil ? In this case, 50 hours use, 1.5 years age.
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Old 12-23-2016, 12:24 PM   #2
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I use Blackstone Labs and they charge $35 per sample. Go to their website and order a free sample bottle and mailer. You have to be careful about taking the sample so as not to contaminate it. Warm the engine and then pump out about half when you change it and then pull the sample.

If you just want to sample, I would pull out a quart, take the sample and put the quart back in.

It doesn't matter which diesel. Blackstone for one does 100 times more over the road diesel samples than marine, so once they advised me that i had an antifreeze leak when I was really getting sea water in the crankcase, so note that it is a marine diesel so they won't make that mistake.

Yes age of the oil makes a difference. In theory the longer you run the engine, the higher the contaminants will be. But 50 hours is ok for a first test. What really counts is the trend.

Metal contaminants are an indication of wear. Fuel, water, antifreeze and soot are an indication of leaks or combustion performance. Na (sodium) is an indication of sea water. From reading dozens of samples reported on boatdiesel, metals are almost never the problem.

David
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Old 12-23-2016, 12:26 PM   #3
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First off, typical cost ? And does it matter what the engine is ? In this case Detroit 12V71TA's.

And are results effected much by the age of oil ? In this case, 50 hours use, 1.5 years age.
I pay about $20 and buy the tests in bulk from Blackstone Labs. Doesn't matter what engine, transmission, or generator you're testing. 50 hours and 1.5 years shouldn't be a problem. Very low hours on the oil won't tell you as much (still useful if you're doing a pre buy survey ). Best to run the engine (ideally take it for a 15 minute cruise ) to stir everything up before sampling.

Ted
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Old 12-23-2016, 01:15 PM   #4
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Age picks up things like oxides that would not be present much in newer oil in calendar terms. So don't be shocked if some numbers are high.

Detroit two strokes tend to have good samples even if piston/liner condition is horrible. Wear products go out the exhaust on these, not back into sump.
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Old 12-23-2016, 02:02 PM   #5
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For years, I think close to 15 years, I have used Blackstone for my truck and tractor engines. If I had a boat, I would send the sample to them. The sample cost is around $35 if you include the TBN test. TBN is a measurement of how much of the oil additive is left in the oil. You don't want it to be zero.

The Blackstone report has a list of the previous 5 or 6 sample reports, and includes and average of the tested results from your engine as well as all of the other engines of that type they test. Very useful to figure out if the numbers in your sample are a problem or not. Seeming the numbers over time is important.

I don't think Blackstone cares about the engine at all. They are also pretty agnostic on the oil to use. Just use what the manual indicates.

The age of the oil will not affect the tests. I have sent them oil that had spent a couple of years in the engine with low hours. The report looked good. I assume in your case you are curious about the low hours but the age of the oil so get a test done.

My last truck sample was at 14,995 hours which is three times over the change period recommended by the manual. Now, I do run the oil longer than the manual states but this was a few thousand hours more than I wanted to put on the oil but work was such I could not change the oil. The oil was a year old as well.

The oil was fine, the TBN was still at 5.5ish, so in theory, I could have run a bit longer on the oil. Which is good to know but I don't really want to push it that much.

Later,
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Old 12-23-2016, 02:55 PM   #6
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Dan:

There are other contaminants that are also important to gauge whether to change oil or not. Some if high are an indication of something wrong with the engine, others just that it is time to change the oil:

soot- Too much can be errosive to engine components

fuel- Too much can indicate a fuel cooler leak, a lift pump diaphragm leak or an injector problem

antifreeze- Any amount indicates a head gasket or heat exchanger leak. Blackstone does not test for antifreeze. They infer it from sodium levels which in a marine engine is just as likely to be caused by sea water.

water- Indicates a coolant or sea water leak. Usually boils off if it was a one time event.

BTW I don't think that any of us recreational boaters should be basing our oil change intervals on lab testing like high mileage truckers do. Change it like the manufacturers says; cheap enough.

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Old 12-23-2016, 02:57 PM   #7
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I just bought a 4 pack or 5 pack from Blackstone and they were $22 each. If I were really checking everything, I'd take 5 samples each time; main engine, main gear, wing engine, wing gear, generator. But last time all I did were the main and wing engines.
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Old 12-23-2016, 04:27 PM   #8
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I went to my local Caterpillar dealer and got it same day for about $8 each.
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Old 12-23-2016, 04:56 PM   #9
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I don't have a lot of experience between different labs...but I would be curious about the info provided.

Is there a nice simple explanation with it, is it just data, any suggestions, etc.?
I feel confident in Blackstone if they are more, unless I had a local that provided what I wanted and trusted their experience. I don't have that convenient to where I live, and I REALLY want good, prompt mail in service on my annual snowbird trip where I do 3 on the road and one when I get home.

It works out to be 100 tp 150 hours each sample....the oil change and sample is mostly about oil contamination from coolant, seawater or fuel....something that will kill a trip quick.
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Old 12-23-2016, 06:44 PM   #10
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I went to my local Caterpillar dealer and got it same day for about $8 each.
I used to use the local Caterpillar lab, but was disappointed with the lack of detailed information and felt their testing wasn't as complete. Not sure if it varies by regional area, but the test response looked like something a 3rd grader put together. It's probably fine for one of their dealers doing trouble shooting. If I going to the trouble of doing oil analysis, I want a quality well thought out document reflecting the last several tests and bench marks to compare the numbers to.

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Old 12-24-2016, 08:29 AM   #11
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I don't have a lot of experience between different labs...but I would be curious about the info provided.

Is there a nice simple explanation with it, is it just data, any suggestions, etc.?
I feel confident in Blackstone if they are more, unless I had a local that provided what I wanted and trusted their experience. I don't have that convenient to where I live, and I REALLY want good, prompt mail in service on my annual snowbird trip where I do 3 on the road and one when I get home.

It works out to be 100 tp 150 hours each sample....the oil change and sample is mostly about oil contamination from coolant, seawater or fuel....something that will kill a trip quick.
There is a legend provided with the result report, but its generic. They do offer suggestions, for example they might say "iron is high, re-sample at normal intervals", or whatever.
They will give coolant %, fuel dilution, oil viscosity, but it's really up to you to decipher the results.
I don't sample mine often, but last time I think it was 7 to 10 days from mailing to receiving the report.

Personally, my results have been "sketchy".
I had a NEW Cummins 6bta and at the end of the first season I sampled (approx. 75 hours). Results said high silicon. When I showed Cummins they said "that's because you don't have an air filter on your engine. WRONG! (advice from Tony A suggested sand not flushed from the casting by Cummins).
When I sampled the oil in my current Velvet Drive iron was 3500 ppm which is ten times what it should be when replacement is evident (per ADC).
Turns out I ended up taking the sample next to the magnet in the sump (which is NOT shown in the manual).
A quick rebuild and and still going strong.

So results can vary based on a lot of variables.
Not saying to NOT do it, just saying there is more to it than reading a result report.
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Old 12-24-2016, 01:50 PM   #12
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There is a legend provided with the result report, but its generic. They do offer suggestions, for example they might say "iron is high, re-sample at normal intervals", or whatever.
They will give coolant %, fuel dilution, oil viscosity, but it's really up to you to decipher the results.
I don't sample mine often, but last time I think it was 7 to 10 days from mailing to receiving the report.

Personally, my results have been "sketchy".
I had a NEW Cummins 6bta and at the end of the first season I sampled (approx. 75 hours). Results said high silicon. When I showed Cummins they said "that's because you don't have an air filter on your engine. WRONG! (advice from Tony A suggested sand not flushed from the casting by Cummins).
When I sampled the oil in my current Velvet Drive iron was 3500 ppm which is ten times what it should be when replacement is evident (per ADC).
Turns out I ended up taking the sample next to the magnet in the sump (which is NOT shown in the manual).
A quick rebuild and and still going strong.

So results can vary based on a lot of variables.
Not saying to NOT do it, just saying there is more to it than reading a result report.

I agree. Things can go wrong. Sampling errors are one of the biggest panic causes. I also withdraw several pulls of oil before actually taking my sample.

One of the best ways is to set up a specific sampling port in the cooler or filter circuit so a sample can be taken as the engine is running. Of course usually not practical. At work we did that for our machines but even then we ran a few ounces of oil into a dump container before taking the actual sample.

I have used oil test reports for my boat for years , every year, but I am looking for changes year to year.

I contaminated a sample a couple of years ago and panicked untill I stopped and re-examined the report. At that point I realized I goofed on the sample. NOt really sorry as I learned a lesson and my gear got a bunch of new hoses and the oil cooler a reseal/cleaning and pressure test.

Use of oil tests can highlight a building problem before it becomes a real problem while a minor repair or adjustment can ward off more serious consequences.

Yet they should also be not believed without question as there are some oddities that could send us into a panic. It is a test and an OPINION of the test technician about what the results actually mean.

Don't ignore the result. Talk to the technician as they , as pointed out, often do not have high experience with marine engines and there are some things that , compared to truck and other off road equipment, are different.
Talk to a trusted mechanic.

I don't agree that they are useless but like many tests of any type need to be used as part of a 'program' of mtce. and there is some understanding on your part to make good use of them.

Costs: Mine are usually ~ $35 each Cat SOS.
Those from work were over $50 10 yrs ago.
I have tried other labs over the years , lab vs lab and usually they were very similar.

As for the $8 tests, sorry but I suspect you are not getting much. Could be wrong of course.
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Old 12-25-2016, 01:12 PM   #13
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For years, I think close to 15 years, I have used Blackstone for my truck and tractor engines. If I had a boat, I would send the sample to them. The sample cost is around $35 if you include the TBN test. TBN is a measurement of how much of the oil additive is left in the oil. You don't want it to be zero.

The Blackstone report has a list of the previous 5 or 6 sample reports, and includes and average of the tested results from your engine as well as all of the other engines of that type they test. Very useful to figure out if the numbers in your sample are a problem or not. Seeming the numbers over time is important.

I don't think Blackstone cares about the engine at all. They are also pretty agnostic on the oil to use. Just use what the manual indicates.

The age of the oil will not affect the tests. I have sent them oil that had spent a couple of years in the engine with low hours. The report looked good. I assume in your case you are curious about the low hours but the age of the oil so get a test done.

My last truck sample was at 14,995 hours which is three times over the change period recommended by the manual. Now, I do run the oil longer than the manual states but this was a few thousand hours more than I wanted to put on the oil but work was such I could not change the oil. The oil was a year old as well.

The oil was fine, the TBN was still at 5.5ish, so in theory, I could have run a bit longer on the oil. Which is good to know but I don't really want to push it that much.

Later,
Dan
I recently tested the oil from my Lehman 120. It had 105 hours and was two years in the engine. TBN was 11. No soot, no contaminants, still good to use. The idea that oil must be changed before winter layup is just accumulated supposition not based in science. TBN is a measure of an oil's ability to neutralize acids among other things. Blackstone has a good reputation but consider using Oil Analyzer's, Inc. About $10 cheaper and they don't charge extra for the TBN analysis.
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Old 12-25-2016, 03:28 PM   #14
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The easy way on a Detroit is to add a valve (or a tee) on an open oil gallery port. Have a bigger oil container to catch any spills and run a few ounces before the sample. Have a cap after the valve so no unplanned leak can happen. Before overhaul, my DDs tested ok with 20,000 hours+.
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Old 12-25-2016, 05:06 PM   #15
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We use OBS and do it 3 times a year .for all three $30. We use this with our sim truck also. And we have a OPS on the oil lines to. Takes care of the oil when we run long trips and cleans oil to. Will get web site info for you all next week. Great company...
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Old 12-25-2016, 06:20 PM   #16
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Let me interject
I have an opinion on this (surprise) and some sample reports at
Oil Analysis, Worth the money .... maybe.
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Old 12-25-2016, 07:16 PM   #17
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Interesting article Mr. BP. I think your quoted professional is off base. To me, the oil analysis isn't going to guarantee I find every problem before it blows up. But it may help me catch some. As an example: When I bought my present boat, I had engine, transmission, and generator oil tested. The transmission oil came back with a high sodium (salt) content. Testing the transmission cooler indicated a very small leak. Not only was I able to get the owner to pay for a replacement cooler, but was able to potentially avoid having to replace or rebuild the transmission. The way I see it, the money I saved by catching the problem before it trashed my transmission, probably covered all my oil analysis for the rest of my life. There are no guarantees that oil analysis will catch a problem before it blows up, but in my case, it likely saved me thousands.

Ted
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Old 12-25-2016, 07:41 PM   #18
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Interesting article Mr. BP. I think your quoted professional is off base.
My buddy is in his late 70's, still actively employed. He has been a diesel mechanic servicing ocean going tugs for over 50 yrs. and is routinely flown around the world from Peterborough Ontario to consult on megabuck diesel engines. He's also been consulted by the Smithsonian on rebuilding antique diesels..... While I don't pretend to know it all .....think I'll go with his opinion
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Old 12-25-2016, 08:19 PM   #19
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Oil samples are more of a trending tool than anything. A big advantage to it is picking up fuel dilution and wear metals. Coolant/water are usually self evident in a short amount of time.
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Old 12-25-2016, 08:37 PM   #20
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My buddy is in his late 70's, still actively employed. He has been a diesel mechanic servicing ocean going tugs for over 50 yrs. and is routinely flown around the world from Peterborough Ontario to consult on megabuck diesel engines. He's also been consulted by the Smithsonian on rebuilding antique diesels..... While I don't pretend to know it all .....think I'll go with his opinion
You haven't posted anything that shows him an expert on oil analysis. It worked for me; it works for many others on this forum; sorry it doesn't seem worthwhile for your expert.

Ted
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