This month, I got on the phone with Ryan Stark of Blackstone Labs to talk about the most interesting topic in the world! OIL!
Well, okay, I'll give you that oil isn't terribly interesting but it is a vital fluid in our engines and one that is wrapped up in a lot of confusion, forum legend, and marketing bull. Matter fact, what's actually really interesting is what information out there is actually true, and what's complete and total B.S.
Ryan has been analyzing oil samples for over 15 years from pretty much every type of engine in existence. He's seen oil samples from airplanes, military vehicles, and nearly every passenger car or truck in existence. The people over at Blackstone have a massive database built from these samples so if there were ever an independent authority on which oil is best to use - he'd probably be it, if you ask me. Especially if your interest is in protecting your engine as best as possible. Ryan therefore is another one of our Tuner University Certified Experts.
During our interview I asked Ryan to explain what all the numbers on the oil bottle really mean, whether it was okay to use a different viscosity than the factory recommends, when someone might want to do that, what the best brand of oil is according to his 15 years of analyzing samples (including some pointed questions about "racing" oils like Redline, AMSoil, Royal Purple, etc), what operating conditions or modifications seem to affect engine wear, when we should really change our oil (how often is really necessary), and a lot more.
I have to admit that when I asked these questions submitted by Tuner University Premium members that we were going to get very different answers from what we got. I was taking notes the entire time we spoke and I walked away with some hugely valuable nuggets of wisdom that are going to help me save big bucks in the coming years. I actually told the Tuner University Insiders (TU Premium members) that this interview would easily pay for their year's membership all by itself.
What is Oil Analysis?
Now what exactly do they do over at Blackstone Labs? They are an oil analysis laboratory.
What that means is that you can send them a sample of your oil (taken during your regular oil change or by sucking a sample out of your oil pan) and they can tell you exactly how your engine is wearing by measuring the precise amount of metal in your oil. They can also tell you if there is any antifreeze in your oil (indicative of a blown head gasket for example), if your engine is experiencing really high amounts of "blowby" which is shown by high amounts of fuel in the oil. Below there's a quick video that shows how you use one of their kits to send oil of for a sample.
I personally use Blackstone every time I do an oil change just to keep an eye on my engine's condition and see if any problems are developing. The report has always come back good and has occasionally revealed a few minor issues before they became actual problems. With every report they provide a paragraph or so of information that explains what the numbers mean. It's kind of like getting blood work done on your car.
I find it particularly useful when I'm looking at buying a new (used) car or checking out an engine I might buy for a swap.
If you're curious about the condition of your engine or about an engine you're about to buy, I highly recommend getting an analysis done, it's around $25 or so to get a highly detailed report and they'll even send you a few kits to take a sample for free.
Ryan goes into more depth about oil analysis and what it can tell you in the interview/class as well but he covered a whole lot more interesting tid bits like:
- What's the best oil out on the market today and why (the answer will surprise you!)
- What the numbers on the oil bottle really mean and whether it's okay to use a different oil than the one the factory recommends
- When you might want to use a different oil viscosity
- What operating conditions or modifications affect engine wear and how badly?
- When we should really change our oil (how often is really necessary)?
- Do oil additives work? are there any that Ryan recommends based on his lab results?
- What oil analysis can tell you about the internal workings of your engine, and what it cannot.
The full class with Ryan, as well as the written transcript of the interview are available in our resource center.
It is available at a deep discount to TU Premium subscribers. Past classes like this one are removed from the TU Premium member's area each month and replaced with a new one every month. You can get 3 months of TU Premium free with the purchase of this resource, details in the resource center. TU Premium member pricing is also available there.
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