Should You Get Your Engine Oil Analyzed?

Regularly changing your oil is a classic and constant part of vehicle maintenance. One that, with modern engineering capabilities and the rise of synthetic engine oil, has dropped in frequency somewhat. However, some people go beyond simply replacing their engine oil and send it off for analysis. But why do they do it? And should you do it, too?

Why would someone order an engine oil analysis?

Your engine depends on a constant supply of oil to work properly, kind of like your body needs blood. It keeps moving parts lubricated, protects and cleans the internals, and helps regulate temperatures. And without it, internal-combustion engines would violently seize and fail. That’s why it needs to be regularly changed to keep your powertrain in tip-top shape.

But in another blood parallel, your engine oil can also serve as an indicator of potential problems, Edmunds explains. The debris it picks up during its travels isn’t limited to soot from combustion, after all. The oil picks up random dirt, metal shavings, rubber seal particulates, and so on, TruckTrend explains. Gasoline, antifreeze, and other chemicals and liquids can also leak into your oil supply, The Balance reports.

Failed Porsche IMS bearing
Failed Porsche IMS bearing | RPM Specialist Cars

And if you can pinpoint what these contaminants are and where they’re from, you can theoretically diagnose internal engine issues. For example, a clear-cut sign that a 996 911’s IMS bearing is failing is finding metal debris in the engine oil and/or filter.

That’s why a common diagnostic method is sending your engine oil out for analysis at a certified lab. And it’s just not new and used cars that can have their oil analyzed, Bankrate reports. You can analyze the oil from boats, motorcycles, and airplanes, too. It’s even possible to send out fresh oil and have its additives looked over, The Drive reports.

How do you get your engine oil analyzed?

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While there are several companies performing oil analysis, Blackstone Laboratories is arguably one of the most commonly cited. Autoblog and Road & Track have both used Blackstone in the past. And the company’s name crops up in numerous owner forums, including Rennlist, Hagerty, Grassroots Motorsports, and FocusST.org.

Getting your engine oil analyzed by Blackstone Labs, or a similar company is fairly straightforward. Contact the lab and you’ll receive a kit in the mail, Tread Magazine reports. The kit includes an oil receptacle as well as a fillable form. On the form, enter the make and model of your vehicle, the kind of engine you have, your oil change interval, as well as your engine oil brand and weight, FCP Euro explains. As for the oil container, try to fill it with oil taken from roughly the middle of the draining process, Autoblog reports.

Two high school students change a car's engine oil
Two high school students change engine oil | Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images

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Once the lab receives your engine oil, you’ll get your analysis results in about a week, Riders Recycle reports. The report includes a break-down of your oil’s contents, including metallic additives, antifreeze, water, and so on. The lab also typically reports some of the oil’s physical properties, such as viscosity and flashpoint. Plus, the report provides an interpretation of the results, like if there’s any excessive wear, or if your oil-change interval can be adjusted.

Is it worth getting it done?

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Oil analysis isn’t terribly expensive. Blackstone Laboratories charges $30 for its standard engine oil analysis test. More detailed analysis, or more specialized tests, cost extra. But even so, Blackstone’s most expensive test, a whole-canister oil filter analysis, tops out at $150.

But should you have your own oil analyzed? It’s not strictly necessary if you perform regular maintenance and haven’t noticed any warning signs, such as strange exhaust smoke, a strong gas smell, or odd engine noises. If you’re trying to buy a used vehicle, though, especially a classic one, and you want to be absolutely sure nothing’s wrong internally, it can’t hurt.

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