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Boatyard Tip: The Benefits of Oil Analysis


Should you have your oil analyzed?
These experts say yes, since the lab report can tell you a lot about the health of your engines.

Alex Miller - Blackstone Labs:
We offer a standard oil analysis service that includes four tests, including one for viscosity and another that finds solids in the oil and determines how well the oil filter is working. Blackstone compares the figures from these tests to averages from engines of the same model and type, and compiles the data into a test report. Our analyst explains possible causes and remedies for variations from normal readings. Standard oil analysis costs $28. Many boat owners test their oil on a yearly basis. And not just engine oil: Transmission and gearbox samples are tested just as frequently.

JB Turner - Front Street Shipyard:
About 80 percent of the boats we service get an oil analysis, whether they have big engines or small. We send a sample to the lab every year, so it gives us a good sense of what’s going on inside the engine before trouble starts. Maybe you find sodium or something else that shouldn’t be there. We usually do the main engines and generators, not the transmissions so much. Taking the sample is easy. Then we just send it to the lab. We also keep a log of the annual test results. That’s good for the maintenance program, but also adds value to the boat when it’s time to sell.

Jeff King - Rex Marine:
Oil analysis can determine the breakdown in lubricating properties of oil if several factors are known, including the type and weight of oil, the run time and operating condition of the engine. From this information, the operator can determine if he needs to shorten or lengthen his oil-change intervals. Analysis is most conclusive on diesels [above]; the internal components have a tighter seal because of the compression ratios. I put faith in oil analysis when the engine is run in a consistent manner under normal operating conditions, and the filter was changed, among other things.

David Yish - Naiad Dynamics US:
A clean hydraulic system is essential for proper equipment function and long-term reliability. Contaminants such as dirt and loose particles of hose or pipe material can clog valves and other vital components, and are the most common cause of problems. A hydraulic oil analysis can identify system component wear or failure and the presence of water from condensation, or seawater in the hydraulic circuit from a failed heat exchanger. A hydraulic oil analysis should be performed every five years. If the test shows anything abnormal, get an inspection and replace damaged components.