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Old 16-04-2007, 17:13   #1
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Survey and Laboratory Oil Analysis

I have a survey coming up the end of this month, and I have been asked by the surveyor if I want to have the engine oil, as well as the transmission oil, analyzed in a laboratory. There is a $50 charge for each analysis, and, as this is a catamaran, two engines/saildrives.

I can easily see the value of such analyses, and do not begrudge spending the additional $200, but I am hesitant for what I feel is a logical reason. That is, if the present owner has been diligent about changing the oil (he reportedly has been), and if he changes the oil just before the survey (I'm sure he will), what will a laboratory analysis reveal, other than the status of the new oil?

The surveyor has suggested that I should at least have the oil in the saildrives analyzed, as it is prone to the intrusion of seawater. That seems reasonable to me.

The engines are Volvo Penta 20hp units. I'd appreciate any insight from those more knowledgeable about diesels and saildrives than I am, which means everyone on this board.

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Old 16-04-2007, 17:36   #2
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Oil analyisis won't tell you much if the oil has been changed. Even on old oil it can be hit & miss identifying potential problems. It is best as a trending comparison, done at every oil change but that gets expensive. If water in the saildrive is the main concern a simple test can be done by yourself. After running the engines in gear until warm, take a small sample of the saildrive oil and place in a metal or pyrex container and apply a butane flame or similar to the underside. If, as the oil gets hot you hear a crackling sound it means their is water in emulsion in the oil. The noise is the water turning to vapour at boiling point and escaping from the oil.
Of course if the oil looks like mayonnaise then you don't need to do this test at all, you definitely have water in the oil.


PS, I think this method was invented in New Zealand ;-)
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Old 16-04-2007, 17:50   #3
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Brilliant idea, pwederell . . .

Quote:
Originally Posted by pwederell
Oil analyisis won't tell you much if the oil has been changed. Even on old oil it can be hit & miss identifying potential problems. It is best as a trending comparison, done at every oil change but that gets expensive. If water in the saildrive is the main concern a simple test can be done by yourself. After running the engines in gear until warm, take a small sample of the saildrive oil and place in a metal or pyrex container and apply a butane flame or similar to the underside. If, as the oil gets hot you hear a crackling sound it means their is water in emulsion in the oil. The noise is the water turning to vapour at boiling point and escaping from the oil.
Of course if the oil looks like mayonnaise then you don't need to do this test at all, you definitely have water in the oil.


PS, I think this method was invented in New Zealand ;-)
. . . pwederell 1, TaoJones 0.

I concede the point, pwederell, and I'm not even going to open Wikipedia!

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Old 16-04-2007, 18:21   #4
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While I think PW's test is a good one, I think a clinical lab test does go a long way when determining the potential of purchasing a diesel engine (or 2!)

The lab tests look for a myriad of telltale signs including things like metal shavings indicating wear, odd pH and scorching indicating ring issues, etc.. etc...

These tests are well worth it. If the owner changed the oil especially for your viewing of the boat, it's a good chance there is a problem he's hiding.


Maybe as part of the purchase process, you can specifically communicate with the seller letting him know you are conducting a lab test on the oil and he should not change it.
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Old 16-04-2007, 18:39   #5
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FYI

This is not a yes or no in regards to the test but just info.

The purpose of the test is to seek out impurities in the oil. It will tell you if it's been over heated or frozen. It will tell you if your parts are wearing and which ones. And as above, if there is water in the oil.

The oil is filtered thru a membrane and the particles that come out are analyses to determine which metals are present. This will include ball bearings, babbit bearings and bronze bearings.
The remaining oil it tested for lubricity and viscosity. Over heating and freezing will change oil molecular structure.

Two things should be required a sample of old hot oil and a sample of the original unused oil for comparison. Along with the amount of hours on the oil and if any had been added over the course of its lifetime. There should be at least 100 hours unless it's really old. And then it will probably not be enough for metal detection unless it's really bad.

I send in samples from several pieces of equipment at work on a regular schedule. If your motor and saildrives have low hours this may not be warranted but if the hours are getting up there it may not hurt to see if any metals are showing up.

As for saildrives you'll want to change seals on those in a scheduled maintenance time frame. In doing so it'll ensure the least likelihood of a water intrusion.
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Old 16-04-2007, 18:58   #6
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Quote:
I can easily see the value of such analyses, and do not begrudge spending the additional $200, but I am hesitant for what I feel is a logical reason.
I changed the oil on the boat I have for sale. What idiot wouldn't? Even people that are not that savvy know you have to change the oil regularly.

If they didn't change the oil the problems on the boat should be jumping out at you left and right. People that don't change oil don't do much. Even a not too Savoy person would expect you to look at the oil. If they had a transmission problem and wanted to hide it you could change that too, but the problem is still there and should show up. If nothing shows up during the sea trial then maybe it's just a used engine.

What you want is a series of oil sample reports that the last owner did with each oil change. Not really a reasonable expectation except on some twin engine monster trawler.

Quote:
If the owner changed the oil especially for your viewing of the boat, it's a good chance there is a problem he's hiding.
Maybe he is hiding something even worse too! What if they actually cleaned everything up really well? There may have been massive oil leaks
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Old 16-04-2007, 19:22   #7
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When I bought my boat 8 years ago the surveyor asked if I wanted the oil analysed?

Yeah, why not...Only $50.00 or whatever the charge was.

Glad I did:

The lab sent a fax saying not to start the engine unless repairs were made:

They found 6% diesel in the oil.
It was tracked down to a leaking lift pump.
The owner did not know about it.

Money very well spent...Done it twice since then, the cost to you is only $18 or $20.
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Old 16-04-2007, 19:37   #8
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I'm beginning to get the drift here . . .

Quote:
Originally Posted by CSY Man

Money very well spent...Done it twice since then, the cost to you is only $18 or $20.
. . . I'd be stupid to forego the analyses, it appears, so I'll go ahead and have them done. But CSY Man, are you saying that if I pull the samples and submit them to a lab myself, the cost is only about $20/analysis?

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Old 16-04-2007, 20:57   #9
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$20

There are categories to tests. A $20 is probably only a centrifugal and visual test. Full analyses can be as high as $500. You have to specify!!
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Old 16-04-2007, 21:13   #10
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But CSY Man, are you saying that if I pull the samples and submit them to a lab myself, the cost is only about $20/analysis?
Yup, I use a lab here in West Palm Beach that charges only $18.00 t0 $20.00 including shipping and the sample-container.

Ya get a detailed print-out, just like the surveyor's sample.
The difference is that the surveyor gets a pretty good cut of the final bill.

(same company, same lab, same everything)

Will look for the details and post here:
Name/number of lab.



Quote:
Full analyses can be as high as $500. You have to specify!!
Must be for nuclear submarines...?

Tried to get my tank water analysed last year and was quoted as much as $500.00.
The labs were dealing with city water and the local Governments..Price goes up then I guess.

Finally got their chief chemist on the phone, he was also a boat owner and told me why I did not need the expensive test of my water...Posted the whole story on this board a while ago.
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Old 16-04-2007, 21:46   #11
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Found it:

Motor Check Analysis Clinic.
2200 North Florida Mango Rd.
Ste 303
West palm Beach, FL 33409
561-648-7799
561-684-6409 (Fax)

They check for:

Aluminum
Chromium
Copper
Iron
Lead
Tin
Silicon
Potasium
Water
Oxidation
Viscosity
Glycol
Fuel
TBN
SAE
Soot

My latest sample was from 1-8-06 and the verdict says:

All engine wear rates normal. Sample appears free of external contamination, Analysis indicates proper performance of the lubricant and unit.

They also give ya values for all the above wear metals and physcal properties.

If ya do this every couple of years and compare the values, ya could spot a possible problem early on.

For example: all my reports says Glycol: NIL.
No leaks from the cooling system......

I also see a difference after I changed to Shell Rotella: getting less wear.

At any rate: For $20.00, that is a pretty good deal.
I drink for more than that in a few hours in good company...
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