How often should I change my oil? What brand and viscosity oil should I use?
Ever heard those 2 questions either in a forum or FB group? Yeah, we all have, about a million times. And what about the fact that no 2 answers are ever same even for the same vehicle? To further muddy the waters, there is generally no single correct answer. If only there was a way to scientifically determine oil performance, engine wear, and other associated parameters to make decisions. If only…
This is where oil testing comes into play, specifically Blackstone Laboratories. Blackstone offers all manner of lubricant testing and analysis. One of the most beneficial aspects is the ability to track results over time as well as compare against a library of similar equipment and lubricants. For anyone that has ever worked with industrial machinery, oil testing is standard practice. One does not replace several hundred or thousand gallons of an expensive synthetic lubricant without data, or knowing how the machine is performing internally. So why would you do it for your vehicle which aside from your home, is probably your single biggest investment?
I change my oil and filter every 5k miles because it’s cheap insurance!
I love that phrase when folks are changing out synthetic oil at 3k of 5k miles based on gut feel. And while it may be true in a manner of speaking, it simply isn’t what it seems. Standard lubricants, and especially synthetic lubricants have come a long long way since the days of 3k oil changes. If I had all the money in the world, I still likely wouldn’t throw away good lubricants “just because”.
There many are benefits to trending performance over time and failure prediction.
Beyond telling you if your oil is performing well and lasting an appropriate amount of time and/or miles, oil testing is a direct measurement of the wear of your engine’s internal components, as well as other factors like fuel or coolant in the oil. In most cases, by the time you can see or smell fuel or coolant in your oil drain bucket, you are probably too far along to do anything about it. And until you see metal in the drain bucket, you aren’t going to be able to gauge engine wear either.
By conducting an analysis of your oil, comparing it to similar engines/oils, and trending performance over time, we can get an extremely accurate picture of what is going on inside that engine as well as predict failures. Wouldn’t it be awesome to know your engine is developing a head gasket leak or a bearing is failing BEFORE you are on a 5oo mile trip with your family?
Oil testing is less expensive than you might think.
So what are the costs? Well, it depends. I use Blackstone, and based on the testing I conduct, I typically pay $28 per sample. Depending on who you use, and what they test for, costs can obviously vary. To me, $28 every oil change is a good investment. In particular I have been using it to increase my oil change interval based on data, not opinion. Since all the lubricants I use in my FZJ80 are synthetic, I have no desire to waste any of them. By looking at performance over time, and creating a baseline for my particular engine (which I had almost no history on), I have gone from a 5k mile interval to an 8k mile interval, a 60% increase. I will continue to evaluate and with the help of Blackstone, determine if that can be safely increased even further.
An oil analysis is detailed and can identify many types of wear or impending failures.
Here are several specific analysis for my FZJ80. As you can see, a variety of parameters are measured and compared. I am not going to get into what each parameter means as there is a ton of info available from Blackstone, and a variety of online sources. Much of the pertinent discussion is vehicle, engine, and oil dependent. Needless to say, discussions become much more accurate and useful when there is data like the table below to present for analysis.
Oil analysis may be the cheap insurance you are looking for.
Conducting oil testing at whatever frequency you are comfortable with, or your wallet can handle is simple and economical. The amount of data testing provides is outstanding, the price point is excellent (typically around $25 to $30 for standard testing), and it provides peace of mind as to the state of your rigs power plant. So instead of simply following the advice of Internet “experts” or using rules of thumb that are long outdated, give science a try, and plan based on solid information.