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Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/20/2011 3:09 PM

I have been assigned by the professor of my engineering class to research practical ways by which any driver could check the engine oil of his car and know whether the oil has service life left in it or it is burnt out and needs to be changed.

No great accuracy is required. Any testing gadget or method is allowed provided it is simple and could be performed in a practical way on the spot in order to give a rough indication of the mileage left in the engine oil.

Any hints or ideas are welcomed with thanks.

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#1

Re: Mileage left in used engine oil

04/20/2011 3:29 PM

I use the odometer.

I change the oil out BEFORE it is "burnt out and needs to be changed." If there is service life I am disposing of, I am OK with that.

Sulphur content, maybe? Check the TBN and TAN. Subject a sample to a shake test and see how foamy it gets. All of these require a sample be drawn... if suspect and I have to drain a sample, I will drain it all. But we covered that already.

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#57
In reply to #1

Re: Mileage left in used engine oil

04/22/2011 1:13 PM

What we used to do on the railroad was take a oil sample, then we would pour it into a test tube with a ball bearing of known weight. There was three test tubes. The first one had 40 weight oil, brand new. The second tube had the fresh sample. The third tube had worn out oil of the same weight in it. All had steel ball bearing of the same weight. You turned it upside down, and let the steeel balls go against the tops of the tubes. Then you turned it back upright, and watched the steel balls decend. If your sample decended a short time after the new oil, then it was still good. If it fell as the same rate as the worn out oil, then you knew it needed changing. This always worked for us. I used the same method in my personal shop on my gas and deisel engines. I had a test tube kit for each . Always was reliable for me. My wifes 2004 Ford Focus has 245,000 miles on it using this method. My Sable has 189,000 miles also. Simple, and accurate.

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#2

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/20/2011 4:31 PM

Will we at least get a slice of the pizza you're eating while we do your work for you?

/If so, no anchovies on my slice, thanks.

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#16
In reply to #2

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 3:34 AM

Research means asking your friends, use references and make the most out of existing knowledge by combining and compounding common wisdom and ideas. This does not mean that you are not entitled to a slice...

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#53
In reply to #2

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/22/2011 8:53 AM

When I ordered a pizza, I asked for it to be cut into 4. The man said he could cut it into 8 pieces. I replied that I could not eat that many pieces!

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#3

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/20/2011 4:35 PM

Just off the top of my head, either monitor the colour of the oil or use colour change materials in either the oil filter or anywhere you can get easy access to oil flow. As the oil degrades it changes composition and colour.

The normal way people check oil at the moment is based on time between oil changes (somewhat accurate) and using the dipstick to check oil colour (and smell).

Here's another - a simple oil sample test kit - a colour change material you rub your oil sample on (off your engine dipstick) that changes colour as the oil composition changes.

Too complicated? How about a simple colour chart (like a set of paint swatches) that the vehicle owner can compare to the oil on the dipstick to tell visually approximately how much millage is left.

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#4

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/20/2011 5:21 PM

You do what the big boys do - send it out for an oil analysis!

Maybe you should search for one or two, give them a call, and ask them how they do it and what they check for. Then figure how you can do it and what kind of accuracy you might theoretically get.

Works for race cars and municipalities that want to get the most out of their dollar.

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#5

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/20/2011 6:11 PM

Hold on! You've ask two questions here, and it turns out that they are both homework.

We don't do homework here! Homework is where you learn things like, how to perform searches and research independently, instead of having someone else do the work for you.

I, for one, will no longer help you. Bye Bye.

  • Do your own homework. CR4 is not a homework cheat site. While some here might relish the opportunity to sharpen up old rusty skills by working the homework problem, consider the following and consider it well. If you cheat on your homework by using someone else's answers, you are only cheating yourself, because the purpose of any homework or other academic assignments is to help you learn - by practice, repetition, and self-discovery.
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#18
In reply to #5

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 4:09 AM

Hi Lyn,

I respect your opinion but I do not agree with you. Place yourself in my shoes and you will know why. This is too empirical and the expert knowledge cannot possibly come out of the blue to the head of a student like me. What I am doing here is conducting a research looking for hints and ideas. These I intend to combine, compare, analyze and research and test further. Any work is relying on existing knowledge and references. Mine is no exception.

Take care. Chris

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#31
In reply to #18

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 9:32 AM

This statement: "This avalanche of sites and information is my problem. I wonder whether I could get distilled down info from a friend who is knowledgeable and has done the rounds."

Sounds like you want someone to do your homework for you. You also made this post sound like a humanitarian effort instead of homework.

Good luck, I'm sure there are plenty here who will "help" you.

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#42
In reply to #31

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 12:26 PM

You do not get it. Do you? You sound clever enough to know that most of this avalanche of information on the Internet is not valid or proven scientific knowledge. A great part of it is just claims or promotion or wishful thinking. How do you discern the good information from the rest. Only by asking and seeking expert opinion. This is not cheating. It is the only way to go about a serious investigation. Cheers

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#58
In reply to #18

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/27/2011 8:08 PM

Lyn is right, you need to do the research your self, the best well learned lessons are learned by your own mistakes.

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#59
In reply to #58

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/28/2011 4:10 AM

Maybe so, but we help increase the number of mistakes to learn from.

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#19
In reply to #5

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 4:16 AM

Lyn,

I have seen responses like this many times on CR4 and have mixed feelings about the "homework" type of post........

I was taught that it's not just the answer but the MEANS of acquiring it that counted and that if you didn't know the answer, then find someone who does.

I applaud the poster for:-

1. Knowing that CR4 actually exists.

2. Having the courage to admit that the question is "homework".

3. Phrasing the question in an understandable manner.

I would sooner help this type of poster than some of the (employed?) morons who ask stupid, basic, sometimes dangerous questions (and, incidentally, receive poor advice from so-called engineers who obviously know little or nothing about the subject in hand).

We older, time-served engineers ought to stand up and be counted. Surely ANYONE - professional or student - is entitled to our advice and guidance, are they not? Where better to go for a free engineering consultancy. That's why I joined CR4, to help and advise wherever I can. And, by the way, I've learned a lot on the way. I'm also a cricket coach and am prepared to offer any help to young or old (free of charge!) to anyone who asks. It's my way of giving back a little to the community. It's the same with CR4 for me.

So, guys (and gals) let's be tolerant and share our knowledge with anyone with the gumption to ask. Save the cynicism and cryptic comments for the "deserving cases" (you know the sort - over-unity devices; how to change a tyre; how to boil water, etc) and I'll gladly join you in your castigation.

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#35
In reply to #19

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 9:47 AM

I accept that in the second post the OP gave an honest reason for asking the question, but I still believe that she has an unfair advantage over her classmates by having all of you compete to give her the best answer advice.

If you will note, I gave her the very first answer to her first post, so I don't know how I have become the target here.

But, I'm used to having the bulls-eye on my chest, so take your best shot.

Seriously, anybody who has been around here for long knows I try to help students who are up front with their motives and don't just want the answer poured into their brain.

I'll bow out now,

Cheers.

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#43
In reply to #19

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 12:39 PM

Hi Daniels,

Thanks for your position and view of this matter. This positive attidute of yours makes a lot of difference in that we are not intimidated in asking questions. We are encouraged to learn from those who know. Regards. Chris

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#20
In reply to #5

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 4:49 AM

You'r poor kids.

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#32
In reply to #20

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 9:37 AM

My kids do their own homework and I help them(THIS DOES NOT MEAN GIVE THEM THE ANSWER) when they need it.

How do you do it?

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#6

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/20/2011 7:16 PM

If you are too cheap or too poor to afford to do an oil change at the proper time then you are likely to cheap or too poor to be out driving around.

As far as knowing when to change, heavy trucks, industrial machines and farm equipment go by running hours not miles.

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#7

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/20/2011 7:56 PM

This is obviously homework, but you only asked for hints and ideas. My suggestion would be to research optical transmission, conductivity, and/or dielectric changes of new vs. spent motor oil. IF there is correlation, these tests could be implemented using small (and fairly simple) electronic sensor circuits.

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#8

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/20/2011 11:24 PM

Oil really doesn't "wear out". Temperatures from an engine are incapable of "degrading" oil. It does, however, become contaminated from carbon and metal, and that's why it discolors and needs replacing.

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/20/2011 11:35 PM

Nicola, you are very much mistaken. Oil most certainly wears out. The long molecules that provide lubricity get broken down to ever shorter molecules and the oil's viscosity degrades, eventually so far as to lubricate no better than water (which can be a perfectly fine lubricant if that's what the journals were designed to be lubricated with).

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#61
In reply to #9

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/29/2011 12:15 PM

http://cr4.globalspec.com/member/20555/baxterm-kos-net While I agree with your assesment that oil can wear out, but only for the intended application. The oil would become contaminated, and thin, for its application in a motor. But Niclo Tesla is right also, as oil degrades, but never wears out. It may no longer fit a particular application, but it will work some where else as a lubricant. This is why OLD OIL is collected, cleaned, refined, and put back into service. There are many places that collect used oil, and after processing, they sell it again. Years ago, my Dad would pull his car up to the pump, and Andy would check his oil, and clean his windows. Then he would reach over and get a jug of 30 wt. oil and put it into my Dads motor. It was reconstituted oil. It was also much cheaper. I think it was 10 cents a quart, as new oil was 30 cents a quart. Some of you fine people are probably to young to remember those days. I think Wal-Mart sells used oil. Anyway have fun, thats the main thing. KC0VEA.

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#46
In reply to #8

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 3:03 PM

I have also heard that the Polymer "chains" get chopped up and the oil gets "thinner". Maybe a method of "borrowing" a fixed amount from the engine and letting it run through a hole into a second container may give some help with that. returning it if its OK and undamaged...

A temperature correction chart may also be required.....

Combine that with some way of measuring how contaminated the oil is....

I did read about a superfine filter system that kept engine oil looking like new as all carbon and metal was filtered out, but under test the oil had lost large amounts of its important lubricating properties before it had covered twice the normal oil change distance (from memory)...

Here is at least one of them:-

http://www.cleanest-oil.com/en/oilwear.php

Just a thought or two.

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#56
In reply to #46

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/22/2011 12:16 PM

Thanks Andy. This is most useful info. Cheers

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#10

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/20/2011 11:44 PM

You can start with color, move to PH value and then look at carbon or material contamination. For a diesel engine it is PH and particles are an issue. yOU COULD DEVELOPE a simple reactive test kit that combines color and PH value.

What is in contaminated gas engine oil? Run a spectrum or get it from the oil mfg..

PS, this is worth slices of good Pizza!!

Good luck!

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#17
In reply to #10

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 3:50 AM

THANKS FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE

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#11

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 12:28 AM

I do it the easy way, after the odometer reaches 3500 miles, I pull out the dip stick, check the color and then taste it. If the color looks good and the taste is good I put the dip stick back in and go eat pizza for another week or 500 miles and check again.

If I changed my oil every 3000 miles, I'd be doing it 6 times a year. As long as it doesn't taste burned, it stays for another week. Although there is a time when it looks all brown and really crappy, I do not taste it then, I just change it and the filter too. Then go out for pizza!

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 12:58 AM

Jim, bang on, especially about bass player and picks! Picks,,, phwwwt!

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#14
In reply to #12

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 1:11 AM

You a bass player? I like all 10 fingers I've been given - 1 severed tendon...

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#37
In reply to #14

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 10:14 AM

Not much these days, more time on a classical guitar. I tried for 11 fingers once, slid my thumb into a table saw,,, thank God it healed ok.

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#24
In reply to #11

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 6:49 AM

I like your humor. I suggest that you eat engine oil regularly so that you

continue to come up with great ideas and hone your appetite for pizza as a dessert.

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#26
In reply to #11

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 8:00 AM

The secret is to have a car that leaks or burns just enough oil to need topping up every couple of weeks. That way you always have fresh oil.

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#13

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 1:10 AM

Dear--- I have read the replies to your problem. Your situation/ problem has been grossly misunderstood and very wrongly interpreted. Some body is saying RU too poor to change oil in time other says do ur home work. Many more comments etc etc.

As far as I could take your question, you are an Engg. Student and ur Prof. has asked you about practical ways by which any driver could check the engine oil of his car & tell if the engine oil need to be changed or it can go on for some more time.

As and when we take our cars to Motor Mechanic for service or repair, invariably he will check the engine oil. He will ask how many kilometre the car has run after last engine oil change and he will take out the engine oil cap and attached metal strip and take a pinch of oil in his hand and by the colour and viscosity he will tell if the oil is Ok or need to be changed. That all about his experience which is working well so far.

As far as practical ways are concerned there can be few tests like: Viscosity and specific gravity at a constant temperature that can tell you the changes in the fresh and used oil. But as you/ ur Prof. want testing to be done on spot, it is bit difficult because every type of testing will require certain equipments/ instruments, which may or may not be available on spot. The simplest thing that comes to my mind is compare the weight of equal volumes of fresh and used oil, but even for that you need very precise weighing machine/balance.

Another method that I can suggest you is: to drain out oil and heat it to the operating temperature ( aprox. 80 or 90 degree cels) and allow it to cool and settle for long and observe if anything like small metal/ carbon particle, debries etc are settled /deposited on the bottom of the vessel. But even for this you need some arrangement/items.

Without equipments/instruments, the driver need to develop skills of a car mechanic to know if oil need to be changed.

LUV-Dr N P Singh

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#40
In reply to #13

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 10:43 AM

What a crock, Dr.Singh! Never heat oil outside of its intended usage. It is a dangerous and not simple feat!

Boy, follow instructions of the owner's manual or develop a pattern for changes based upon your duty cycle. The "Clean" oil is really superfolus issue. Oil will stay within its intended requirements for much longer than it is "Clean". This study is a maintenance program issue, not about when time your change.

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#15

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 1:24 AM

Before you can design any test you need to know what you're looking for.

So go do some research on the following questions:

What's the different between clean new oil and used one? ie particle count, chemical composition, pH, dielectric property etc.

How does the oil protect the engine? At what condition does it lose it protection property? ie 1000ppm? 10000000ppm? above below a certain pH? etc

What is the relation between mileage and the above? What's the different at 1000 miles? 5000 miles? 10000 miles?

Now with the above information, decide the easiest method to test the oil. Could be a simple pH test or conductive test or whatever you've found.

Engineering is about defining your problem, collection information and find a suitable solution.

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#21

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 5:02 AM

Try this, take the dip stick out and wipe it on your bare forearm. Then take a clean shop towel and lightly wipe your arm. Just one stroke of the towel. If there is black residue on your arm you need to change the oil. How's that for scientific/ research/analytical double-blind/ back-to-back/testing. It should get you an "A" though.

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#41
In reply to #21

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 11:40 AM

If you ever drove or worked on diesel engines you would know the oil is typically pitch black within a few miles of an oil change. You can't determine soot loading by smearing it on your arm. Because doing it that way you would be changing it several times a day....when it was still good for thousands of miles even in severe usage.

And the OP never gualified WHAT the oil was used in.

The only way to know how close it is to "worn out" is via a profession oil analysis. Anything else is taking a wild guess.

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#60
In reply to #21

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/29/2011 1:52 AM

And if it 'irritates', it's possibly a tad acidic

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#22

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 5:17 AM
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#23

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 5:48 AM

Mainly what ends up being added to the oil are: water, acid, carbon, metal. When are these excessive? How do each of these affect the surfaces being lubricated?

When is oil no longer adequate to lubricate ie to keep two surfaces apart hydrodynamically, maintain viscosity, and conduct heat away from the surfaces?

Tests for these?

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#25

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 7:30 AM

Use a color ocde chart to determine the life of the oil. You can break it down by weight (5-W30, 10-W30 ect) and then run some tests to deterrmine how fast the oil is breaking down. It goes in clear gold come out black as night.

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#27

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 8:09 AM

Place my vote on a simple resettable hour-meter or countdown timer. Once a baseline has been established pick an appropriate amount of hours of engine running time.

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#28

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 8:18 AM

For the average car owner/operator, monitor the levels often to make sure there is not a sudden change indicating oil burning or fuel leakage. Smell... Learn what new oil smells like then you'll know that rancide/burnt smell. Looks... Take small smear on your fingernail and move it around in the light of the sun or other strong light to see if there is any sparkling indicating minute pieces of metal. Also if THE color is muddy looking. These are rough indicators that any one can do at any time without no extra gadgets. Shine up the dip-stick with fine sandpaper to make reading easier.

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#29

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 8:32 AM

Saab's currently come equipped with an oil service life meter. It doesn't measure any actual oil properties, but it assumes the remaining service life based on time and engine load. Before the company had turned into GM's unwanted stepchild, they were working on possibly installing viscometers into the sump to measure oil quality.

Diesel engines are great at ruining oil. They have a tendency to shear the molecular structure and permit unburned fuel to migrate from the combustion chamber into the oil sump. Both will reduce the oils viscosity and ability to protect.

Check out Blackstone Labs. They have an oil analysis service which measures oil quality and contaminants such as fuel and metals. The metals test is useful in estimating engine wear.

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#47
In reply to #29

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 3:12 PM

Petrol engines do the same, especially when only used for short runs. Then you drive on a long run and all the petrol and water cooks off and leaves you with a quart of oil missing.

At least diesel oil lubricates to a much higher degree than petrol ever does!!!

Hence the saying "It only uses oil on long runs!!"

Diesel was used as lubricating oil for a short time by some people years ago to clean out a dirty motor (diesel or petrol I believe,, but only at tick over, not driving........never done that myself....

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#30

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 9:10 AM

I want to comment about the complaints about doing someone's "homework" for them. If I ask a question that relates to my field of work, are you going to complain that you are doing my "job" for me, and refuse to help? If so, I think you should go somewhere else where you can be just as useless. Whatever the reason someone is here asking for help, beyond building a bomb of course, I think they should get a polite answer to their question.

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#34
In reply to #30

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 9:44 AM

I saw a Texas prison warden interviewed one time. He made a classic statement. He said, "you can't rehabilitate someone who hasn't been habilitated in the first place". That still makes me laugh. I think the same applies to attitude. You can't expect people with a negative attitude to post positive comments. It's a forum, as long as people follow the rules of the forum everyone is welcome. Manors aren't mandated.

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#36
In reply to #30

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 9:48 AM

Don't rag on me, answer the question!

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#33

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 9:44 AM

I hope he is talking about an old out of warranty vehicle. If it is in warranty and you cannot prove keeping up with the mfg maintenance schedule, well is guess it is out of warranty after all.

Try checking with one of the oil analysis companies. The service department of any big truck dealer or leasing co should be able to get you a name.

My concern with a simple test is that so much goes on with the ageing of the oil, the test you perform may show everything is OK and something you are not testing will bite you.

just an un-educated mans opinion. -- JHF

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#38

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 10:17 AM

Hi There, Just had a call that we were given as an solution in your quest to research ways to check the service life of oil. Happy to help a student, and if you send me some details I will send you an OIL-SPY kit as a freebie from UK. Rgds Larry

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#39
In reply to #38

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 10:25 AM

Can we all have a free kit for helping?

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#44
In reply to #38

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 1:14 PM

Dear Larry,

Thank you for your kind offer. I cannot resist it, so I shall accept it.

Please forward to:

Chris Constantinides, 12 Dimitros Str., GR-15342 Agia Paraskevi, Athens, Greece

Will send you my comments soon after I use the kit.

Kind regards, Chris

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#49
In reply to #44

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 5:11 PM

No problem.

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#45

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 2:25 PM

If you wanted to measure oil viscosity, and easy approach might be to fill a known volume and measure the time it takes to empty (or change from one level to a lower level). You would need to test this out to see if the difference in drain time between new and used oil was measureable and repeatable.

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#55
In reply to #45

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/22/2011 12:09 PM

In my opinion this might not be practical as the temperature of the oil at the time of the measurement will affect the viscosity reading.

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#48

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/21/2011 3:27 PM

This is why I like CR4...

A seemingly simple question is asked... actually a pretty good one..

It's one that we should all have a similar grasp on the answer.. but do we?

The voodoo is sorted through and all the while we can enjoy reading the various answers while we each gain a bit more insight.. (at the very least) in a rather pertinent topic.

we all win!.. ...and much like a radio call in show.. there's a guy chiming in to gripe about the subject "because he listens all the time" rather than changing the channel!?

lyn.. i support you reasoning.. I do..

tho.. it seemed like you had your "auto response" activated considering how up front the op was.

keep up the good posting..

to the op..

...I just look at the oil.. if it look's disappointed, I know our relationship is over.

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#50

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/22/2011 1:35 AM

This may be a shot in the dark, but you might be able to do something with electrophoresis.

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#51
In reply to #50

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/22/2011 1:51 AM

Does this mean I don't have to taste it any more?! Tongue is being degraded monthly.

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#52
In reply to #51

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/22/2011 2:20 AM

Hey, your original technique was pretty easy...when the yuck factor reaches about 7 on a scale of 1-10, it's time to change the oil.

Reminds me of the Cheech & Chong routine about feeling, smelling, tasting, etc., some dog poop, and then deciding better not step in it.

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#54
In reply to #52

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

04/22/2011 10:47 AM

From Big Bambu I think it was ?

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#62

Re: Mileage Left in Used Engine Oil

11/22/2014 9:29 PM

Amazing, 61 comments and nobody mentioned the "thing" that "wears out" in modern motor oil, the additives. A lot of the properties of motor oil rely on the additive package that characterizes and "tunes" the oil for its particular duty/rating. Many of them are sacrificial and once gone, the oil no longer can perform all its intended functions.

Sure lubrication is at the top of the list, but there's also: buffering for ph, suspending solids, maintaining/adjusting viscosity, resisting temperature breakdown, etc., etc. Just looking at the oil tells you more about the condition of the engine than the condition of the oil (dirty, sludgy, overheating, etc.); i.e., put clean oil in a dirty engine, voila, instant "dirty oil".

The only way that you can tell about the chemical properties is through chemical analysis. Once the tester knows the make and rating of a particular oil he knows what the baseline quantities of the additives is, and then compares the sample against the baseline to compute the percentage of the additive package remaining in the oil sample. All those rules of thumb are nice and worked just fine when oil was a much simpler product, but that's no longer the case.

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