Holiday Gift Guide

Holiday Gift Guide

When I first started driving I was told to change my car’s oil every 3,000 miles, which I did religiously. Today I hear of cars that don’t need an oil change until every 10,000 miles occurs, which makes me a little nervous. In recent years, oil technology has grown by leaps and bounds, so I find it no coincidence that many new cars are sold in modern day with free oil changes as part of the deal.

So this past fall, when we purchased a used 2006 Volvo XC70 with about 105,000 miles, I was determined to make sure I maintained the car properly. Everyone at the office told me how long a Volvo can last with the right maintenance, and considering the turbo, I wanted to be really sure I got the right oil and changed it at the right frequency.

I went online to gather information and opinions on the subject I came across, which was Blackstone Labs. They perform oil analysis for owners of cars, boats, airplanes and more. Instead of guessing when to change the oil, why not analyze the condition of the used oil to see if we could have gone a little longer with it? I requested a special kit to collect and return the oil sample for analysis. Blackstone sent me the kit for free knowing I would eventually pay for the analysis.

These are the results after 3,000 miles of use on synthetic oil, plus commentary from the lab, including their suggestion that I could push out the next oil change to 5,000 miles and retest again. So the result is that I can cut my oil change cost by at least half, and more importantly, do so knowing I am not putting the car’s engine at risk.


Costs of the tests I chose was $35 total

Standard Oil Test - $25

  • Spectral Analysis - establishes the levels of wear metals, silicons and additives present in the oil. Also checks for coolant.
  • Viscosity: Determines the grade of the oil
  • Insolubles: Quantifies percentage of solids present in the oil.
  • Flashpoint: The temperature at which the vapors of the engine ignite. When a flashpoint is lower that it should be, it shows a contaminant (usually fuel) is present.

TBN Test - $10

  • Measures the amount of active additive left in the oil.

An oil analysis is a great method to learn the finer details behind each part of these tests. In short you will be surprised how monitoring these data points can help you identify a possible engine problem early.  For me, all was clear, although I do plan to do a second test near the 5,000 mile mark so I can confirm I can go 5,000 between oil changes (perhaps even longer), as well as compare the Standard Oil Test over time.

I invested $35 (and perhaps a second $35) to be able to extent my oil changes 66%, which likely means I can earn back my investment in about 1-2 years considering I change my own oil. If you pay someone to change your oil, you will earn you investment back much faster. Most importantly I have a better sense of my engine’s condition.

Do you agree with Blackstone's comments? How long do you go between oil changes?

About the Author: Alex Fiehl

AlexIMG_0896 is FCP's Blog Editor and a Desktop Engineer from Endwell, NY. He has over 9 years of experience working on a wide array of import makes, but has found his home with European cars. With a Volkswagen and Volvo at home, the garage is always busy.

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Written by :
Alex Fiehl

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