Oil Analysis: Anybody use it? (sorry, long post) - Team Camaro Tech
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old Jul 23rd, 01, 09:10 AM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Benicia CA
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Do any of you fine folks out there analyze your motor oil?
Reason I ask is I am using it to try and determine if any damage was done to my 69 396 when the folks at the local oil change place (I know, do it yourself! I do now) started the engine BEFORE putting the oil back in. Only ran a minute or so at idle when the lifter clatter had me yell to shut it off and inquire.

The owner of the shop is trying to make things right if there was any damage. I suggested oil analysis. This happened back in January and we have tested it 3 times (plus a "baseline"). The reason for the retests is that the results are strange and inconsistent each time. One time it showed glycol in the oil and no ring or bearing wear. (Maybe I have a slight head gasket leak? Doesn't show up in any performance or loss of cooling issues.) The next showed iron and said ring wear detected but no bearing wear or glycol. The next showed bearing wear but no ring wear and the glycol is back.

The problem is how much I can rely on these results. If there was ring wear one time, it should be there each time, right? The same with bearing wear. It seems that it is something different each time.

The car has worn valve seals and therefore uses some oil. It also has a crankcase eductor system and can literally suck some oil out of the heads at higher rpm.

The compression is good - 155-165 across the board. I have a light tick in the front end of the block that I think is piston slap or some scoring on the bottom of one piston. These were all there before the "incident".

I appreciate the shop owner's diligence and don't want to take advantage of what could be some free engine work, but I also want to protect myself.

My thinking is that if it did some noticable damage, it would have showed up pretty convincingly by now (~3000 miles).

Is it time to cut him loose from the hook?
Any advice is welcome!

Thanks in advance.


69 SS396 Resti-Clone
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[This message has been edited by Joe G (edited 07-23-2001).]

[This message has been edited by Joe G (edited 07-23-2001).]
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old Jul 23rd, 01, 11:29 AM
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Location: Vacaville, CA
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Wow Joe, That is a tough one. How many miles are on the engine? Is it close to rebuild time? If so I would tell him to split the cost with me and build/rebuild an engine. You know for sure the dry run didn't do your engine any good. I would have went nuts if that was my car (I guess that's why I won't let anyone touch it). At least the owner is being a stand up guy. Have you cut open you oil filter to have a look? I would look for copper and aluminum colored material. If you find any of this in your filter (typically flakes) I would definetly have him pay or help pay for a rebuild. You are a good guy, most people would have taken him to the cleaners. At the same time I don't want to see you get screwed. I don't think there is any doubt some damage had to be done, the question is how much. Tough call and I'm sure I didn't clear it up, just thought I would give an opinion. (maybe pull the engine and have a look with the pan off) look at the bearings and the cylinder walls. (I guess if you go that far you might as well rebuild if you have any doubt).


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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old Jul 23rd, 01, 05:02 PM
David Pozzi
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How was the first sample? That is the one that would show the wear metals. Is that the one you call "baseline"?

I doubt there is serious damage due to no load on the engine.

The coolant might be coming from a leaky head bolt. It might be not enough sealer was put on the threads of a head bolt.

If you can pressureize the cooling system and pull the valve covers and look for a leak around the bolts.
could also be a crack or bad intake or head gasket.

Check the fuel pump for the ticking noise. There is a rubber washer between the pump fork and diaphram that can fall out and make a noise.
Use a piece of hose as a stethiscope to find where it is coming from.

I've seen engines that had the thrust bearing worn out that had the counterweight slapping the front of the block. It was worse when the car was pointed down hill. Went away when pointed uphill.

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[This message has been edited by davidpozzi (edited 07-23-2001).]
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old Jul 23rd, 01, 05:29 PM
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I really think he has kept up his end.I doubt little if any damage was done at all.It sound's like the the testing can be deemed "who know's".I cut my filter's apart on my street and race car to inspect the element.If you are not losing antifreeze and the motor run's strong fagetaboutit.Good luck.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old Jul 24th, 01, 06:47 AM
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Oil analysis, or S.O.A.P programs as they are refered to in aviation, are great. They tell you what kinds of metals, carbon grit or dirt they found in your oil in parts per million. If you know the metallurgy of each part in the engine you can determine exactly where the material came from before you have a failure. The problem is you need to be diligent and take samples every oil change to establish what is normal for your engine. The baseline sample is the one taken after the break-in period. This is the one they will plot your normal trend from.
We use oil analysis on all our turbine engines and after a recent flight with an impending oil filter bypass warning they were able to determine from the sample exactly which bearing in the core of the engine was beginning to lose its plating. In your case the best defense you may have is what you find inside your filter. But if you want the names of some analysis laboratories I can get them for you.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old Jul 24th, 01, 07:16 AM Thread Starter
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Thaks guys. Here are some answers.

The base line was after a 300 mile run after the "incident". It tested OK.

The glycol reading could be from a bolt leak or intake leak. The engine got hot a couple of times when I was going through the belt throwing phase after the new radiator and pump were installed. The tests results were showing just above a trace. I could have "sprung" the aluminum manifold a bit.

The ticking noise is from the driver's side front, low using my stethescope. Barely noticeable at the fuel pump. Not a knock, but a "click". Pretty sure it's piston noise, but who knows?

I'm using a local lab that does work for the refinery I work at. Oil analysis is one of their standard offerings.

If the readings were consistent, I would know for sure, but with the scattering of data, the results are pretty inconclusive. I'm changing the oil at about 1500 miles during this period.

I am planing on pulling the engine this winter to freshen it up anyway, so I guess I'll let the guy go. As much as I would like to have someone else help pay for it, I don't feel right doing it this way.
Besides, he's a gearhead too with a 72 vette.

The car runs as good as ever, so.....

Thanks for the advice


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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old Jul 24th, 01, 08:13 AM
Join Date: Apr 2000
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My 2 cents worth from experience.

Yes, I have very stupidly started and ran an engine w/ no oil in it to get to the pitman arm grease zerk to grease it. Heck, I was so pissed at not being able ta get to the zerk, what w/ sweat running in my eyes,I just plain forgot.

BTW, the engine ran fine after the encounter. I did, however start putting heavier oil (switched from 5W30 to 10W40 in winter and half 20W50/10W40 in the hot summertime)in it later just to keep the oil pressure up but this was after say, 100,000 or so miles on the engine. Got rid of it at about 150,000 miles and it always ran fine!!!

And, anyway, I never beat on it anytime!! pdq67

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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old Jul 24th, 01, 11:21 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, pdq! I am feeling better about cutting the guy loose...


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