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Used Oil Analysis Cuts Through Myths and Mystery

There is an old adage that says, “You can’t change what you can measure.” Accurate measurements are basically facts, and you can use these facts to make measurable changes.

When it comes to engine wear protection, everyone has opinions about motor oils. But, you CAN make decisions based on facts instead of speculation. Used Oil Analysis provides those facts.

No matter your application — a turbo diesel pulling truck, a naturally aspirated drag race engine, a farm tractor, a boat, a motorcycle, a hot rod or anything in between — every situation is different and presents its own challenges. However, a Used Oil Analysis can give you the data to help navigate these challenges.

Doing Used Oil Analysis may sound complicated, but it’s ridiculously easy, not very expensive and provides a wealth of information. Collecting used oil samples for analysis is quick, and most heavy equipment dealers, like Caterpillar or John Deere, sell used oil analysis kits — usually for less than $30.

All you have to do is take a small, 3-ounce sample of lubricant directly from the engine within a couple of minutes of shutting off the engine. It is important that the engine has been properly warmed up prior to shutting it down; this step ensures the oil has been circulated well and that the sample is representative.

Next, fill out the form to identify the sample for processing and send it off to the lab. Don’t worry; 3 ounces is not considered hazardous, so you can send it via regular mail.

That’s it. You’re done. In a few days, you’ll get the results back, and you won’t need to have a Ph.D. to read the report. The lab will provide a general interpretation of results. With some additional help from the tips coming up in this article, you can interpret the results yourself.

It’s just THAT simple — and it can make a big difference.

To really stay on top of things, it is good practice to have the oil analyzed on a periodic basis, like every six months to a year for road cars and a least every few races for a race car.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the basics of interpreting oil analysis results. While correctly interpreting oil analysis results is critical for making good decisions about preventive maintenance, it is a skill that is easily learned with a little bit of experience and some training. It is important to understand the report does not always pinpoint a specific problem, but it will provide details for troubleshooting.

The results are usually organized in a spreadsheet with numbers indicating the test results. Check the report to make sure it includes your name, sample date, mileage or time on the oil, the type of oil used and the ID of the engine. The laboratory has a rating system that notifies you of normal, marginal and critical levels, so the report will list the condition of your engine and lubricant. Also, the report may include comments from the analyst who reviewed your results. These comments can help you gauge the severity of a problem and provide a suggested course of action.

Viscosity Results

Viscosity is the most important test run on the oil because viscosity is a lubricant’s most important property. The viscosity test measures a lubricant’s resistance to flow at a specific temperature. If the oil’s viscosity change is greater than plus or minus 10 percent of the new oil value, it is considered marginal. Viscosity changes greater than plus or minus 20 percent are considered critical.

If the oil does not have the right viscosity, it cannot perform properly. If the viscosity is not correct for the load, the oil film cannot be established. Without enough oil flow, heat and contamination are not carried away at the appropriate rates, and the oil can not protect the engine properly. An improper viscosity oil can lead to overheating, accelerated wear and, ultimately, failure of the engine.

Measuring Wear Metals

Interpreting an oil analysis report involves understanding the concentration of expected and unexpected elements in your oil. You can know what to expect by analyzing the new oil before putting it in the engine. This becomes your reference sample. From this, you know what metals, like Zinc and Phosphorus, are naturally in the oil, and it let’s you see which metals, like Iron, are wear metals in the used oil.

Some contaminants are picked up as the oil circulates through the engine. Other contaminants can enter the engine during routine service, or from poor filters and breathers. No matter how these contaminants get in, they can cause significant damage. Elemental analysis determines the concentration of wear metals, contaminant metals and additive metals in the oil sample. An increase in wear metals can be indicative of abnormal wear.

Just remember, Elemental analysis cannot measure particles larger than 10 microns, which leaves a blind spot to larger particles. It is also worth noting that some variance is normal in the results. Any change less than 20 ppm is typically nothing to worry about. When you see changes greater than 50 ppm, be cautious. When you see changes greater than 100 ppm, be alarmed.

Understanding Wear Metals

When looking at the wear metal levels in your test results, look at the history of each engine. This is why periodic samples are the most helpful. For example, two identical pieces of engines may have vastly different elemental results due to variations in operating conditions and maintenance practices. However, both machines could still be healthy based on the trending of the analysis results. In fact, trending is an extremely important tool in determining an engine’s health.

A good rule of thumb is to use your judgment and review the trend data. Has anything changed with the operating conditions? Have you been running the engine longer? Have you been putting more load on the engine? You can also discuss the test results with the lab analyst before making any decisions.

Watch Out For Contaminants

Contamination is a leading cause of many oil system failures. It often comes from materials such as water, metals, dust, sand and rubber. Even the smallest particles can produce significant damage, so monitoring the level of contaminants is critical – especially in a dirty operating environment.

The goal here is to detect the presence of contaminants, identify their source and determine how to prevent further entry. Contaminants can act as a catalyst for component wear. If the cycle is not broken, wear accelerates and the life expectancy of the engine is reduced. The elements that typically suggest contamination include silicon, boron, potassium, and sodium.

Water

Water is a terrible lubricant and promotes rust and corrosion of metal surfaces, so it poses a serious threat to an engine. Dissolved water in motor oil produces oxidation and reduces the oil’s load-carrying ability. Water contamination can also deplete the oils additive package. Increased amounts of water in oil results in accelerated wear, increased friction and high operating temperatures. If left unchecked, water can lead to premature engine failure.

The Karl Fischer water test is the most common method used to analyze water levels in oil. When reviewing these test results, remember that low levels of water are typically the result of condensation, while higher levels can indicate a source of water contamination. In most systems, water should not exceed 500 ppm. Common sources of water include external contamination, internal leaks and condensation.

These are the basic facts related to Used Oil Analysis, and how to interpret the results. Implementing an analysis program may seem like a daunting task, but is actually very simple and easy to do. The results you get pay for themselves and provide the facts you need to make good decisions.

Performance claims may not be accurate, even apply

A recent quality survey looking into performance claims made by lubricant manufacturers found some products were incompatible with oil categories established by the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (ACEA).

Driven Racing Oil’s Lake Speed Jr. says while the survey results originated in Europe, the truth is there are lubricants across the globe whose performance claims may be inaccurate.

“Some products claim to meet a laundry list of specs. But wait, some of the specs are mutually exclusive. One motor oil can’t be an A3\B4 and C3,” says Speed, who is a STLE Certified Lubrication Specialist. “Not only are some motor oil specifications mutually exclusive, this is also very true of automatic transmission fluids.”

For example, a Dexron 6 fluid can’t meet the same requirements as a Mercon 5 fluid. There’s just “no such thing” as a multi-vehicle automatic transmission fluid, Speed says. “Basically, if it says universal, like it’s supposed to fit all applications, it probably fits nothing,” he adds.

Speed goes on to say his “buyer beware” caution applies equally to transmission fluids and motor oils.

In America, the American Petroleum Institute (API) sets motor oil specifications based on the needs of vehicle manufacturers. So, determining the correct oil type and viscosity for an OEM vehicle with no modifications is as simple as checking the owner’s manual. That same vehicle with equipment modifications may require a different oil, however.

“If there’s no change to the oil system, go with the same OEM viscosity, but in a high-performance grade oil,” says Speed.

To further illustrate, Speed explains the oil requirements of an LS engine, based on various modifications.

“A stock LS engine is a great example; 5W-30 and Dexos 1 spec oil is what GM calls for,” he says. “But with a cam swap and rocker arm upgrade, exhaust tuning and 4L80 transmission to make it street/strip capable, you still need 5W-30 but are outside of the Dexos limit. Use our LS30 oil that has an additive package for upgraded engines.

“When road race or autocross and make oil system changes, you’d want to talk an engine builder,” Speed continues. “You’ll probably need a racing oil.”

Generally, he says, oil selection for modified vehicles should be based on upgraded components and how the vehicle will be driven. It’s likely, at some point, an API-certified oil will no longer meet the needs of your modified engine.

Speed notes Driven Racing Oil develops oil especially for those modified engines, which often means including more phosphorus and sulfur (think ZDDP), among other ingredients, than the API allows to meet manufacturer recommendations.

“Driven oils actually exceed the API’s specifications,” he says.

Buyer Beware: Diesel oil has changed

If you use diesel engine oils in your car for their higher levels of anti-wear additives than found in off-the-shelf standard engine oils, it’s time to consider a change. The American Petroleum Institute has adopted two new heavy-duty engine oil categories that increase the importance of seeking out an engine oil containing the correct formulation of detergents and ZDDP for your application.

ZDDP, or Zinc dialkyldithiophosphate, is an anti-wear additive that has been reduced in all engine oils through the years to help extend catalytic converter life and lessen harmful emissions. The ZDDP reduction in gasoline engine oils particularly spelled trouble for older — think flat tappet camshafts — and high-performing engines, however, leading owners to opt for diesel engine oils that contain higher levels of the additive.

Certified Lubrication Specialist Lake Speed Jr. explains ZDDP creates a sacrificial film on contact points that acts as a wear surface in place of the metal. As ZDDP is reduced or more detergent is added, that film can decrease and component wear increase.

Substantial chemistry changes in the new diesel engine oil categories mean the widely accepted use of diesel engine oil plus ZDDP additive during the break-in process is now a riskier proposition than it was a few years ago.

“Diesel oils are becoming more specific to applications, and people using them off-label need to be aware,” says Certified Lubrication Specialist Lake Speed Jr.

The American Petroleum Institute’s new heavy-duty engine oil categories effectively eliminate backwards compatibility in the industry. CK-4 is the replacement for current diesel engine oil categories, while FA-4 is a new category altogether, created in response to updated greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards affecting engines to be manufactured in 2017 and after.

Speed says owners should just steer clear of diesel engine oil in their gasoline engines and pay close attention to new labeling if using diesel engine oils in their towing vehicles.

“This really is risk management,” says Speed about the importance of protecting engines with the right oil, from the start. “Curveballs are being thrown here. So, buyer beware.”

He recommends during the break-in process owners turn to a ZDDP-enhanced oil rather than the new diesel engine oil options to improve surface mating and extend the durability of internal engine components in their new or rebuilt engine.

Driven Racing Oil offers break-in oil — actually a trio of products designed for different applications — as well as both synthetic and conventional oils specially formulated for street performance, hot rod, competition and race, and small and power sports engines.

5 Things You Should Know About Motor Oil

Let me begin by saying that I have personally made every mistake on this list, so don’t feel judged. Heck, I grew up the son of a NASCAR driver who was sponsored by an oil company, so if I didn’t know any better, don’t feel bad if most of this is news to you.

Among performance enthusiasts (read things that go fast), bringing up the topic of oil or lubrication is akin to talking politics or religion – there is going to be an argument. A major reason is an overwhelming amount of opinion regarding the science of lubrication and very little fact. This is why I am sharing this with you. I’m a member of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers, and we deal with the science of lubrication. Throw out all of the marketing slogans. Forget about the sponsorships. STLE deals with the facts. The next 5 points are not my opinion – they are facts condensed from hundreds of Ph.D. scientists that have spent the last 100 years learning how lubricants work.

THE 4 “R’S”

Proper lubrication can be defined as having the right oil, in the right place, at the right time and in the right amount. You can define the right oil as one that has the proper viscosity and additive package for the application. But that oil is useless if it can not reach the parts it needs to lubricate, clean and cool. In fact, it just doesn’t need to reach those parts. The lubricant needs to arrive on time and in enough quantity to properly lubricate, cool and clean the part.

Think about an engine oil. Motor oil needs to flow through the engine to provide an oil film for the moving parts, which reduces friction and carries away heat and contaminants. Some people talk about an oil’s “load carrying” ability, but that fails to consider motor oil is more than just a lubricant. Motor oils must cool, clean and transfer power (think hydraulics) in addition to being a lubricant. If “load carrying” was the most important factor, then you would use grease to lube your engine, but that is simply not the case. While greases and even gear oils have “load carrying” capacity well beyond motor oils, these products do not have either the proper viscosity or additives to properly lubricate, cool, clean and transfer power in your engine. Conversely, don’t put engine oil in your rear gears or wheel bearings.

The key takeaway here is to make sure you are using a lubricant designed specifically for the equipment you are lubricating. Today, performance enthusiasts have a broad selection of lubricants engineered for specific applications, and these products can really make a difference in the longevity and performance of the equipment they are designed for.

BALANCE IS BEST

Second, more is not better. If some ZDDP (Zinc) is good, then more has to be better, right? Nope. I know this runs counter to most of the thinking in the performance marketplace, but when it comes to lubrication, balance trumps more. Too much of any one thing in a lubricant, or even the lubricant itself, is damaging. Too much ZDDP can actually increase wear. Too much viscosity can starve parts of the lubricant they needs (see the 4 “R’s” from item 1), and too much lubricant itself causes churning which increases operating temperatures. Overfilling an engine by just one quart of oil can raise the oil temperature 40°. The number one reason for failed, overheated bearings is overfilling the bearing with grease.

The more is not better mantra also applies to aftermarket additives. Even though the parts store has a wall full of miracle chemicals in a bottle, just keep walking. If you think your current lubricant is deficient, don’t try to find and additive to “fix” it – just use an oil designed for the application. When an oil is designed for the application, it does not need “more” additives or anything else.

Also, know that putting an additive in an oil is like playing chemical Russian roulette. If the additive and the lubricant don’t mix properly, you will have less lubrication than if you had done nothing. This especially applies to ZDDP additives and other “motor oil supplements.” Again, just use an oil designed for your equipment, and you are on the right path.

CLEAN, COOL & DRY

The third thing is to keep the lubricant clean, cool and dry. Now that you have the proper lubricant installed and filled to the proper level, it is time to protect it. Dirty oil is a bad lubricant no matter how “good” the oil itself is. Sometimes, keeping the lubricant clean can be a challenge, especially in dirty and wet environments. However, it is a job worth doing. Not only do dirt particles cause abrasive wear in the equipment, the increased wear metals mean the oil gets even dirtier faster. Keeping the dirt under control is the job of the filters. Very high quality (not necessarily high flow) filters can capture dirt and remove it from the system. In fact, it is proven that oil stays cleaner if you change the filter between oil changes. This is a great way to get the maximum life out of your lubricant. If the oil is cool, clean and dry, then the oil will be good for a very long time. This will allow you to extend drain intervals without compromising the protection of your equipment.

Keeping the oil dry is very important to oil life and performance. Not only is water a poor lubricant, it also depletes the lubricant of the additives that help the lubricant do its job. To keep the lubricant dry, it is recommended the oil sump temperature reach between 180° and 220°. That is hot enough to evaporate out any moisture build-up but not too hot to hurt the oil. This is the keeping the lubricant cool part. While most people would not say 220° is a cool temperature, it is a good temperature for most lubricants – moisture evaporates, oil is unhurt. Every 20° over 220°, the life of the oil drops significantly, so it is similar to our “more is not better” discussion. You need some heat in the oil, but not too much. It is a fine balance.

GET THE FACTS

The 4th thing to know about lubricants is used oil analysis ends speculation and provides facts. Let’s face it, there are many different types of performance equipment operating in a wide variety of environments around the world, from 2-stroke snowmobiles in Canada to jet boats in New Zealand. Each combination presents its own unique challenges, but used oil analysis can give you data to help navigate these challenges based on fact rather than speculation or opinion. Used oil analysis is not very expensive, and it is easy to do. Most heavy equipment dealers (Caterpillar, John Deere, etc…) sell used oil analysis kits for less than $20 in most cases. All you have to do is take a small 3 oz. sample of the lubricant directly from the equipment within a couple of minutes of shutting down the equipment. Fill out the forms to identify the sample and send it off the lab for processing. Don’t worry, the 3 oz. sample is not considered hazardous, so you can send it regular mail. Nothing special needs to be done. In a few days, you get back your results, with interpretation. It is just that simple but can make a big difference for you. For best results, have oil analyzed on a regular, or at least periodic, basis.

FUEL MATTERS

The 5th thing is don’t forget about your fuel. You may be wondering what fuel has to do with oil, but the type of fuel you use (and any additives you may have put into your fuel) do directly effect the life of our oil. For example, upper cylinder lubricants tend to increase fuel dilution of the motor oil, and the upper cylinder lubricant itself can leave deposits in the engine. This shortens the life of the oil because the oil is trying to clean the deposits off the engine parts. Once the oil is “full” of fuel and the upper cylinder lubricant, the oil can no longer hold these contaminants and they separate out from the oil. You don’t want that to happen. Conversely, some fuel additives actually help the oil by keeping certain areas of the engine clean and by keeping the fuel that does get past the piston rings from turning into varnish. So, you do have to pay attention to your fuel and what you put in it; avoid products containing alcohol. You can either improve or decrease the performance and life of lubricant, and the equipment it protects, by the choice of fuel and fuel additives.

If you keep these five facts in mind, they can guide to a safe place that provides protection, performance and value.

Lake Speed Jr. is a Certified Lubrication Specialist at Driven Racing Oil. 

Driven Racing Oil Unveils 2016 Master Catalog

The latest catalog from lubricant-technology leader Driven Racing Oil is hot off the press. It contains more product info and helpful tech tips than ever before.

Since its inception over two decades ago Driven Racing Oil has set the industry standard for utilizing cutting-edge technology in all of its products. The brand’s ever-expanding line is featured in a new 40-page, full-color catalog featuring a wealth of detailed information. Driven’s full line of XP Race, BR Break-In, HR Hot Rod and other specialty oils are included, as are its state-of-the-art cleaners including Race Wax, Speed Clean, Speed Shield and Speed Lube. The popular Carb Defender, new Injector Defender and a wide range of other fuel additives, engine protectants and ancillary products get ample attention as well. A master application chart provides racers the ability to choose precisely the right oil for their vehicle, while a variety of tech bulletins and FAQs ensure that vehicles perform to their optimum potential. QR Codes also link to helpful technical videos produced by the Driven staff. The 2016 Driven Racing Oil Master Catalog is available at www.drivenracingoil.com/catalog and at races, shows and events throughout the country.

Driven Racing Oil Will Have A Strong Presence At 2015 PRI Trade Show

The leader in lubricant technology will showcase a variety of its newest and most popular products this December at the PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis.

Each winter the PRI Trade Show brings together manufacturers, buyers, racers, tracks, series and media members at the Indiana Convention Center. This year the event is scheduled for December 10-12 and Driven Racing Oil will be right in the middle of the action. The lubricant company will be in booth no. 419. Among the products planned for display are Driven’s popular line of XP Race Oils, its revolutionary gear oils, new Carb Defender Race Concentrate, and cleaners including Race Wax, Speed Clean and Speed Shield. Driven technical and sales staff will also be available to answer questions and provide detailed product information. Additional info on the PRI Trade Show and the more than 1,200 exhibitors in attendance can be found at www.performancracing.com/tradeshow.

Download the full press release – Driven Racing Oil Will Have A Strong Presence At 2015 PRI Trade Show

Driven Racing Oil Will Be A Major Player During 2015 SEMA Show

The latest and most innovative lubricants from the experts at Driven Racing Oil™ will take center stage during this year’s SEMA Show. Each November SEMA provides automotive aftermarket companies an opportunity to showcase their most impressive products at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Driven will be taking advantage of this opportunity again in 2015. The leader in lubricant technology will display its popular race, hot rod and engine break-in oils, and introduce a wide variety of additives to complement its popular Carb Defender offerings. Storage Defenders, Injector Defenders and Defender + Booster are a sample of the new products Driven will debut at the show. The company’s popular cleaning products including Speed Clean, Speed Shield and Race Wax round out the products slated for display. Helpful sales and technical support staff will also be available to provide information, and a brand new master catalog will be available for the first time during the event. The SEMA Show takes place from November 3 – 6; Driven Racing Oil will be in booth no. 22613.

Download Full Press Release

Driven Racing Oil 75W-140 Racing Gear Oil Is Now Available To All Racers

Huntersville, NC – This new racing gear oil from Driven dominated the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule in the summer of 2015, with wins in six races. It is now also available for hobby racers to run on short tracks and road courses.

Driven 75W-140 Racing Gear Oil is a synthetic blend used by top race teams. It reduces operating temperatures by up to 15 degrees more than other brands. The oil also reduces friction and provides shear-stable viscosity for outstanding gear durability. It eliminates the pitting and scratching of gear sets seen as a result of lower viscosity oils, and it does not increase drag or reduce horsepower. Even after six hours of driving it maintains its viscosity, and extended change intervals allow it to be used race after race. These performance gains can be just the advantage needed to reach Victory Lane. Driven Racing OilTM 75W-140 Racing Gear Oil is available in quart bottles or cases of 12.

Purchase Driven Racing Oil 75W-140 Racing Gear Oil

Part Numbers: #04330 (qt.); #04331 (case of 12 qts.)
Price: $19.99 (1 qt.); $215.89 (case of 12 qts.)

Driven Racing Oil Extreme Pressure Grease Is Designed For Demanding Applications

New Extreme Pressure Grease from Driven Racing OilTM delivers unrivaled protection, even in the Driven’s Extreme Pressure Grease is designed for the toughest high-load and high-temperature applications. It is also perfect for centers when machining, as well for use as a thread lubricant. It features a greater load-carrying capacity and a higher dropping point than traditional lithium greases. This means it will maintain integrity and thickness, even in extreme heat. This premium grease also delivers exceptional mechanical stability for improved protection. It resists water wash-off and spray-off as well. Driven Extreme Pressure Grease provides exceptional consistency and wear resistance in 400 mg. cartridges. It is for use anywhere that calls for an NLGI #2 grade grease.

Part Number: #00738
Price: $9.99

Seminar – Protecting Against Ethanol Corrosion & Wear

street-rod-nationalsOne of the hottest subjects in the street rod community over the last several years has been the usage of Ethanol in pump gas. Driven Racing Oil™ will address this topic at the 2015 NSRA Street Rod Nationals with a seminar entitled, “Protecting your Street Rod Against the Dangers of Ethanol Corrosion and Wear.”

The seminar will take place from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. on Friday, August 7, in Rooms B101 and B102 of the South Wing Conference Center at the Kentucky Exposition Center. The program will be hosted by Driven’s Lake Speed Jr. and is one of eight seminars slated for the weekend by companies from all corners of the performance aftermarket. Over 10,000 street rods, customs, muscle cars and more descend on Louisville each August for the prestigious Street Rod Nationals. With so many enthusiasts in one spot, Driven sees the show as the perfect opportunity to alert folks to the dangers of both Ethanol corrosion and its reduction on the ability of Zinc in oil to prevent wear. Speed will cover the topics of why this corrosion and wear occurs, why it is problematic, and the benefits of using Driven Carb Defender™ and other lubricants.

The seminar is free to the public and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information on the NSRA Street Rod Nationals, visit www.nsra-usa.com.