It was a nice clear Indiana morning as I drove toward Fort Wayne.
The sun was working its way up in the east and the road was clear ahead.
There was a crop duster plane doing its thing in the early morning sky.
In the old days these planes were bi-planes and as they skimmed over a field great clouds of dust, usually DDT in those days, would pour out and cover the crops. Today they still fly low over the fields but you don’t see anything visible coming from the spray nozzles.
Anyway, I was headed to meet the head of a company that I’ve been doing business with for at least thirteen years.
This is the place I’ve been sending my oil samples for analysis for all these years. Blackstone Labs.
Done properly, oil analysis can really give you insight into how your car’s engine is doing. This information can save you a lot of trouble, especially if you are modifying your engine or racing your car.
When I bought one of my cars new I started out right with the first oil change sending samples to Blackstone and keeping a record of the wear rate of the engine. It was interesting to see the reaction of the car dealership when I showed them the results from every oil change. Even if I changed my own oil, they could see that I was keeping track and there was no question how the oil and the engine was performing.
So I met with Ryan Stark, the son of the founder of Blackstone Laboratories. His father had started the company because he was a pilot that needed to be sure that his aircraft’s engine was running reliably. He also realized that there were many businesses out there with truck fleets that needed to know how their vehicles engines were doing and one of the best ways was to analyze the engine oil. Over time people like me found out about what oil analysis could do for the individual owner and tapped into the services of this company.
So Ryan gave me a tour of their facilities.
Here is where it all starts. Every day hundreds of samples are received from all over the world and the process starts. They are separated into batches and then moved to the lab where all the work is done.
Here the samples are put through various tests and all the results are tallied.
Things like flashpoint are determined:
Viscosity is determined.
The samples are inspected for the amount of visible particulates.
The samples are put through a spectrometer where parts per million of various elements is determined.
All this provides you with a report that gives you a record of the results over many oil changes so you can watch the changes over time. Here is what these reports look like.
They can analyze engine oil and transmission fluid and other oils including hydraulic fluids. While engine oil analysis is enough for most individual users there are fleet and factory situations where the analysis of other lubricants is required.
One of the neat projects Blackstone did was to analyze old oil that was produced and sold decades ago. They bought vintage oil cans off eBay and ran them through all their usual tests. The results were enlightening.
It was nice to get a chance to see the facility that has been providing me with valuable information on my oil changes as well as the condition of my various cars’ engines. The people at Blackstone were just great, too!
Now I was off to Ohio.