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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Stevet requested that I run through a brief overview of an oil analysis sample, so I decided to create a thread on this topic. Please note, this thread is not intended to be an oil analysis repository for the lubricants our cars use, just a quick review of the information an oil analysis provides, based on a previous discussion. It is my belief that continuous, trending oil analysis should be a part of every enthusiast's maintenance schedule.

Yes, that would be great if you could do that, maybe as a fresh topic in the technical subforum.

Thanks,
Steve.
As a preface, I strongly prefer to use Polaris Labs for oil analysis services as I've found them to have more features, be more accurate, and present data in a more professional format than another frequently used lab. I buy them through the AMSOIL site under the "Oil Analyzers" private label: Oil Analyzers UPS Prepaid Kit

I asked a friend for an analysis report for the purpose of this thread as I thought it would make a good sample. I've split it up into sections.



Red - Wear Metals
Starting at the top left in red section, we have the wear metals. Each of these wear metals can be correlated to a wear point on the engine. Each engine has different wear patterns, so absolute numbers are not important as long as they don't exceed acceptable limits and get flagged as abnormal. these wear levels generally increase linearly with mileage. There are a number of online resources that explain the common sources of each of these metals, but here's a brief explanation:

- Iron typically comes from valvetrain wear, including chains, cams, lifters, and other valvetrain components.
- Chromium represents piston ring wear.
- Nickel, copper, lead, tin, and silver typically represent bearing wear, either turbo or bottom end.
- Cadmium and Vanadium are rarely, if ever seen in automotive oil analysis reports.
- Aluminum typically comes from piston wear, but can also leech from casing material on new engines.

In the sample above, wear is all within normal levels.

Green - Contaminant Metals

- Silicon comes from dirt ingested through the intake system. I can't tell you how many times I've seen elevated silicon numbers on vehicles using K&N filters. I always stress the importance of good air filtration on engines, since the contaminants do end up in the oil.
- Sodium typically refers to either an additive in the engine oil (often corrosion inhibitors), or from coolant contamination.
- High levels of both potassium and sodium essentially guarantee that coolant is getting into the oil. Common sources are oil coolers, head gaskets, and depending on engine design, intake manifold gaskets. In this oil analysis report, the owner was adding antifreeze regularly, unable to find any sources of external leaks. We concluded that an oil cooler leak existed.

Blue - Multi-Source Metals

- Titanium is rarely found in automotive engines
- Molybdenum is an extreme pressure/anti-wear additive
- Antimony, Manganese, and Lithium are rarely found in automotive engines
- Boron is an anti-friction additive. Note that the reading for Boron is affected by contaminants in engine oil; it may show up as low when it actually is not.

Yellow - Additive Metals
- Magnesium is found as a detergent/dispersant, usually in diesel oils. It increases the alkalinity of the oil.
- Calcium is found as a detergent in engine oils. It increases the alkalinity of the oil. Note that there are multiple kinds of Calcium-based detergents, and that the formulations are usually proprietary.
- Barium is rarely found in engine oils.
- Zinc and Phosphorous are the two primary elements in ZDDP, an extreme press/anti-wear additive.

Orange - Fluid Properties
- Viscosity at 100C in cSt is a direct measurement of engine oil viscosity. An SAE-40 oil will report between 12.5 and 16.3 cSt. Any thinning of the oil (viscosity shear) will be the result of additive or base oil break-down or fuel/water dilution. Any thickening is typically caused by oxidation.
- Acid number is typically measured for gear oils, while Base number is measured for engine oils. Base number (aka TBN) refers to the alkalinity of the oil. As the oil and its additives neutralize acidity (a byproduct of gasoline engine combustion), this number drops. Polaris Labs has pre-set flags for the evaluation of the base number. In gasoline engines, they will recommend another 3,500 miles of use if the number is above 2.0, but will recommend you change the oil if base number is below 2.0. The base number is considered fully depleted once it reaches 1.0. There is a great deal of misconception regarding this number. All detergent packages are proprietary, and the rate of base number decay will vary greatly from one oil to another. Some oils drop the base number linearly, while others may drop it very quickly and hover above condemnation levels for a very long time. It is for this reason that two oils cannot be compared on the basis of "TBN retention." It is worth noting that elevated bearing wear/corrosion typically occurs when the base number drops too low.
- Oxidation refers to the oil's degradation when exposed to time and heat. As oxidation increases, the oil thickens. Severe oxidation is what we refer to as sludge. I have noticed that all ester based oils start with an oxidation of anywhere between 45-100 abs/cm, while most group 3/4 synthetics report at 10-15. What's important is not the absolute number, but the increase over a new sample. Polaris Labs has baseline information for most widely available lubricants to allow them to make that distinction and flag high oxidation accurately, if existing.
- Nitration is a degradation of the oil as a result of NOx created during combustion. High levels can suggest a learn burn condition, EGR issues, or simply an engine operated frequently under high pressure, high-temp conditions.

Purple - Contaminants
- Fuel dilution is what it suggests. Polaris Labs measures fuel dilution when the oil is out of spec using gas chromatography. This is arguably one of the biggest reasons I recommend Polaris Labs over Blackstone; Blackstone does not test fuel dilution, but rather estimates it using flash point, which is extremely inaccurate.
- Soot is an insoluble contaminant as a byproduct of gasoline engine combustion. It is usually a non-issue in gasoline engines, which is why the color of engine oil is inconsequential to its ability to perform its many functions.
- Water typically comes from condensation and is not often found in gasoline engines.

Gray - Sample Information
This information is provided by the person submitting the sample for analysis, including lube time (miles on the oil), unit time (miles on the engine - in this case, it is inaccurate as the same number was used), lube change (whether or not the oil was drained when the sample was pulled), how much oil was added, and whether or not filter was changed.


It just as important to know what an oil analysis does not show, than it is to know what an oil analysis does show. Oil analysis reports should not be used to compare one oil to another. Many people make the mistake of thinking they can try out a variety of oils, analyze each one, and compare the numbers. Oil analysis reports do not show the rate of vaporization of engine oils, the creation of deposits under extreme heat, or any non-metallic additives that may be used in the oil. In order to be truly useful, oil analysis should be taken as trending. It is also important to note that equipment will exhibit high levels of metallic wear for the first ~10,000 miles or so, and will gradually reduce over time, due to break-in metals existing in the oil. If you are taking a sample at 8,000 miles, for example, do not be alarmed if the wear levels are high unless they continue to be high on the next analysis report.

Any questions? Please feel free to ask.
 

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Hey, thanks, XR! I'll give myself some edu-ma-cating on this over the weekend.

Steve.
 

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Okay, I prefer "belt and suspenders" to paranoid, but with every new vehicle I've had over the past 20 years I have flushed the factory oil fill, replacing with new oil and new oil filter after a short initial cycle of miles (500-1000). I rationalize this by thinking I'm getting rid of a lot of the "new engine break-in" metal particulates that may somehow still circulate past the oil filter and flow through the engine. There have been times when I've seen the prettiest metallic sheen in the motor oil in the drain pan on that flushing of the factory fill.

This past Thursday marked one week since taking delivery of my new Spider, and at that one week mark I had a whopping 60 or so miles on the car (lousy weather). Today (Sunday), three days later, I have a bit over 1000 miles- it was a fun weekend of exploring the countryside.

I plan to change the oil and filter tomorrow, Pennzoil Euro Platinum synthetic 5w/40 and a Mann oil filter. Would it be worth catching a sample of oil as it drains from the oil pan and sending it in for analysis (more for curiosity than anything at this point).

And, what is the best method for catching a sample, I mean, I was thinking that at 10-15 seconds into the draining, I would catch it with a clean glass beaker (I don't have an analysis kit on hand yet). The car is up on the ramps now, waiting for me in the morning. The oil will have sat cold a good 12 hours by that point, should I run the engine for a few minutes to essentially mix up the oil in the sump before draining and capturing a sample? (I wanted to avoid a warm/hot engine when wresting with the oil filter removal.)

Thanks for any input.

Steve.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Okay, I prefer "belt and suspenders" to paranoid, but with every new vehicle I've had over the past 20 years I have flushed the factory oil fill, replacing with new oil and new oil filter after a short initial cycle of miles (500-1000). I rationalize this by thinking I'm getting rid of a lot of the "new engine break-in" metal particulates that may somehow still circulate past the oil filter and flow through the engine. There have been times when I've seen the prettiest metallic sheen in the motor oil in the drain pan on that flushing of the factory fill.

This past Thursday marked one week since taking delivery of my new Spider, and at that one week mark I had a whopping 60 or so miles on the car (lousy weather). Today (Sunday), three days later, I have a bit over 1000 miles- it was a fun weekend of exploring the countryside.

I plan to change the oil and filter tomorrow, Pennzoil Euro Platinum synthetic 5w/40 and a Mann oil filter. Would it be worth catching a sample of oil as it drains from the oil pan and sending it in for analysis (more for curiosity than anything at this point).

And, what is the best method for catching a sample, I mean, I was thinking that at 10-15 seconds into the draining, I would catch it with a clean glass beaker (I don't have an analysis kit on hand yet). The car is up on the ramps now, waiting for me in the morning. The oil will have sat cold a good 12 hours by that point, should I run the engine for a few minutes to essentially mix up the oil in the sump before draining and capturing a sample? (I wanted to avoid a warm/hot engine when wresting with the oil filter removal.)

Thanks for any input.

Steve.
It's not really worth getting an analysis of the break-in oil. The wear metals will be high simply due to the break-in process, so those won't be useful. You may have some fuel dilution due to the piston ring seating process, which you won't on subsequent oil changes. Lastly, we don't even know what oil is used for the initial fill (we can speculate), so it doesn't really do you any good to know how well that oil held up. That said, if you don't mind spending ~$30 for science, you can certainly have it analyzed to see if anything unusual comes up.

Best method for catching a sample is as you noted. Get the engine warm and the oil cycled through, then pull the drain plug and a few seconds after it starts draining, catch a sample in a clean container. Getting the engine warm will allow the oil to flow more quickly anyway; it doesn't really need to be hot. The key is to ensure that if you're not getting the oil right into the sample bottle, that it remains reasonably sealed until you do. Exposure to the elements will skew the results.
 

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Sounds good, thanks much.

Steve.
 

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I have had an analysis done after about 2300 miles. Here is the result.

The viscosity at 100 ° C is very low for a 5w40 and only meets the norm standard.
Silizum is very high.
Copper, iron, aluminum are also increased, which suggests wear during the retraction process and is less vulnerable.

Interesting is the rather bad value to the dirt absorption

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It seems to me that this is the factory fill on this vehicle, and that an oil change was not performed. As a result, we can ignore most of the values. The engine is still breaking in, so you will have some break-in metals that will continue to reduce. Silicon here can be caused by assembly compounds and does not necessarily suggest poor air filtration. Viscosity at 12.83 cSt is on the border with an SAE-30 viscosity oil, but this may be caused by fuel dilution.
 

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The oil was changed ;) and I have used 3,5L Selenia SportPower 5w40 - The Abarth Oil in Europe.

The factory fill should be a 5w40 like FCA recommends and the oil was changed after 3750km. I would suggest that the high silicon comes from the new engine and also the new rubber, assembly compound (paste) and ALSi cylinder coating. Poor air filtration shouldn`t be the cause.

What we can learn from this analyses, is, that a oil change after 2000miles break in, isn`t a bad idea. ;)

btw. dirt absorbtion is only 91% and fuel dilution is about 0,54% after 2300miles.
The 1,4l Turbo engine is known that he has high fuel dilution from about 1,5-2% on 9000miles. (15.000km)
Abarth also recommends a 10W50 for the same Tjet engine with 180hp in Germany.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
It appears the viscosity shear is not caused by fuel dilution in this case then. Interesting that Abarth recommends a 50 weight oil in Germany where the engine makes more power. Are there no internal changes to the engine, just tuning? The only side effect would really be efficiency, but a higher viscosity is sometimes appropriate where high fuel dilution is present.
 

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The 1,4l is very demanding to the oil and reduces the viscosity quite quickly, also without the fuel dilution (like the BMW M3 E46) - I have seen some analyses.
Abarth500 (>160hp) 10W50 and oilchanges after 10.000km and you have to use Premium (Super+) Fuel if you want the full power of the engine. Engine internals are the same but they can not use the Oil on Multiair engines because of the multiair unit.
Don´t forget: Germany means Autobahn were you can drive with >200km/h over minutes. ;)
 
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