Jim Smart
April 7, 2010

Imagine if you could look inside your Mustang's engine, transmission, and rear axle without taking anything apart. Your lubricants tell a very important story about what's going on inside when you have them analyzed by a laboratory like Oil Analyzers Inc., which helps you make informed decisions about your Mustang's engine and driveline.

Oil analysis is nothing new. Fleet managers have been using it since the 1940s to stay on top of maintenance without the added burden of having to dismantle components. When you consider the cost of an expensive teardown versus a tiny fraction of that cost for oil analysis, it makes perfect sense to have the analysis performed first.

Lubrication analysis is like a blood test performed in your doctor's office. Trained professionals look at your Mustang's lubrication chemistry to help determine a course of action. Oil Analyzers, for example, takes a sample of the lubrication you provide and examines its chemical properties. From that, they can tell if your Mustang suffers from excessive wear or other ailments by the elements that shouldn't be there-such as antifreeze or water from a coolant leak, gasoline from a sticking carburetor float or bad fuel injector, or just routine wear.

Because lubrication flows throughout your engine, transmission, and rear axle, it comes in contact with all moving parts and picks up everything in its path. When oil has been flowing throughout a component for an extended period of time, it shows the condition. As components wear, specific types of metal show up in the lubricant. As engines wear, specific types of metal from tri-metal main and rod bearings show up. If there's copper in the oil, as one example, bearing wear is excessive and a teardown is required. The same can be said for iron particles from ductile iron piston rings and cylinder walls. If you're using the wrong type of lubricant, that will also show up in oil's chemical analysis. Oil analysis isn't just about wear and tear issues, but early detection that can prevent serious engine damage later on.

And here's another twist on oil analysis. Use it to analyze a vehicle or engine you're about to purchase. Take an oil sample from a Mustang you'd like to buy and have it analyzed. Oil analysis can yield information to protect you from a lot of potential expense. Few things are more insulting than investing in a classic or late-model Mustang purchase, only to have to rebuild the engine or replace a transmission.

Oil analysis is easy to accomplish. All you have to do is follow simple instructions included with the kit provided by the laboratory. Oil Analyzers sends you a sample kit with all of the necessary shipping paraphernalia along with instructions. Oil samples must be taken when the engine has been at operating temperature for a while, which is why you should grab your sample right after a highway run. Catch it before it hits the drain pan. Included in the kit is a form identifying your account and your vehicle specifics, including engine type; application; fuel type; oil brand, type, and viscosity; oil filter type and micron rating; and date oil was changed.

On average, the cost of oil analysis isn't much more than an oil and filter change-around $25 to $35. We're working with Oil Analyzers Inc. located in Superior, Wisconsin. These folks offer outstanding service and a prompt response when your sample is received.

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Oil Analyzers Test Kit
The first thing you'll need to do is purchase an Oil Analyzers Kit, which is available three basic ways for gasoline-powered Mustangs.

KIT01 with pre-paid USPS postage $24.99
KIT02 (KIT401 in Canada) with UPS pre-paid $25.75 (Higher in Canada)
KIT06 (KIT 402 in Canada) with non postage paid $17.95 (Higher in Canada)

There's also a coolant test kit available (KIT09 US and KIT403 in Canada) for a good look at your Mustang's coolant properties.

What You Can Learn from Oil Analysis
Gasoline in the oil: Reduces the oil's lubricity. Unacceptable amounts of gasoline from a poorly tuned carburetor or faulty fuel injection system wash oil off cylinder walls and hinder lubrication.

Viscosity or oil density: Indicates a lubricant's ability to flow based on temperature and oxidation. Oil gets thicker when cold and with oxidation.

Antifreeze in the oil: Causes oil to turn into a thick, brown substance, which hurts lubricity. Will cause engine damage if not corrected. Antifreeze in the oil raises sodium content in the oil.

Oil oxidation: A measure of contaminants in the oil, such as gum and varnish from fuel and excessive heat. When the engine overheats, it will cause excessive oxidation in the oil. Blow-by from worn piston rings and excessive piston-to-cylinder wall clearances also causes oxidation.

The Total Base Number: Shows acid reducing capacity of the oil.

Total Solids: Shows ash, carbon, and lead salts from gasoline and oil oxidation.

Sodium Levels: Detects coolant levels in the oil due to an internal coolant leak.

Silicon Levels: Indicates sand or dirt in the oil, which comes from poor air filtration or inadequate crankcase ventilation. If you live in a dry, dusty desert environment, don't be surprised if silicon levels are high.

Nitrate Levels: High amount indicates excessive piston and ring blow-by from wear.

Lead Content: High levels come from the use of leaded gasoline or octane enhancers. Some unhealthy engine wear patterns will yield high levels of lead.

Iron Levels: Many sources, including crankshaft, connecting rods, cylinder walls, main bearing caps, cylinder sleeves (where equipped), camshafts, timing sprockets, and more.

Copper Levels: Abnormal wear in bearings, bushings, valveguides, and shims. If you find excessive amounts of copper, you have abnormal engine wear.

Aluminum Levels: Indicates wear patterns with aluminum engine components, like piston skirts and ring grooves, bearings, thrust bushings, timing sprockets, and oil pumps.

Chromium Levels: Mainly from chrome moly piston rings or certain types of oil additives. Chromium also comes from airborne particles ingested via air cleaner or crankcase ventilation.

Boron Levels: Oil additive found in engine oil or an oil additive.

Other Metals, such as Calcium, Magnesium, Barium, Zinc, and Phosphorous: Also found in engine oil and additives. These metallic additives are normal and no cause for alarm unless levels are extremely high.