Hammer Time: What’s In Your Oil?


Two hundred thousand miles.

It’s a beautiful time for many car owners.

How for me? Well, I admit I cheated when I saw this number scrolling in my wife’s car back in March. Like many enthusiasts, I bought it used and planned to keep its daily driver for the long haul.

The question for me was, “How much would the long run be?” Since I have been buying, repairing and selling many vehicles and have deeply absorbed the fluids of wisdom from the Bob Is The Oil Guy website, I have decided to live my life on the wild side.

I did an oil analysis.

What I got in return was a variety of technical information and a concise summary that looked like this.

“STEVE – 200,000 miles? Please! This engine is still a spring chicken. The metals look great here, so assuming it’s still working fine and not having any issues, then there’s nothing about this sample that looks weird at all. Averages are based on approximately 7,600 miles on oil. You could run your oil a bit longer, that’s for sure. TBN is a bit low (it’s down to 1.4 and 1.0 or so is low), but TBN tends to drop more slowly the longer an oil is used, so it can stay at that level for quite some time . Viscosity was good assuming I was using a 5W/20. Try 9,000 miles.

I loved the spring chicken part. Boy that made my day. However, this whole TBN comment baffled me.

And what was a TBN in the first place? The wrong number???

Well, that’s when my quest for knowledge turned into some big shit. I went here, and then here. It was that second “here” that really opened my eyes to what that TBN comment really meant, and why I probably don’t want to delve into the inner workings of motor oil.

My engine was great. Case closed. Barring any unusual events, he was ready for many more miles. I could extend my oil interval to 9,000 miles from 6,000 miles with a synthetic blend. Or maybe you could do a full 15k with a high performance 100% synthetic built for longevity.

Mobile 1 EP? Amsoil? Dark purple? I’m sorry.

The sad fact is that my wife drives a stock Prius like kudzu with a brisk pace and enough driving distance to keep the engine warm. The local store charges $20 for a quality synthetic mix and filter. My net savings would be maybe $5 if I did it myself once a year with synthetic (her car of hers is just under 4 quarts).

I spent $25 to figure it all out. So much fuss over nothing. It was time to take off my engine oil gauge and worry about one less thing in my life.

My technical results are highlighted here. In a world where enthusiasts have to deal with the economics of maintaining a car for a long time, an oil analysis can help answer the uncertainties of a valve train’s health. But chances are, if your oil is changed regularly and you’re using API-certified products, there are better ways to spend your money.

If your car stalls, it’s most likely not your oil’s fault.

Source : thetruthaboutcars.com

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