The oil analysis results will let you know if the oil is excessively contaminated with fuel, water or antifreeze, all of which reduce the oil's ability to lubricate your engine effectively.

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Engine Oil Analysis Kits

You have two options for analyzing your motor oil with a kit. You can buy one that lets you interpret the results for yourself, or you can purchase the services of a professional laboratory, such as Blackstone Labs or Oil Analyzers, Inc., just two of the leading firms out of many that offer oil analysis.

Either way, kits typically cost less than $30, and sampling your oil is relatively easy. Or at least, it can be. There's the somewhat messy sampling method, of removing the oil filter and catching a sample of oil (enough to fill the small container for the kit). Or you can do it the no-mess way: use a vacuum pump to siphon oil from the dipstick tube or crankcase filler hole. Such pumps are available at auto supply stores, or often, from the providers of the analysis kits.

So what's actually in the kit? If it's one that you mail in, it will likely include a small jar or bottle for the sample, along with a label you fill out that tells the lab about the sample. It may also include a separate container into which you can pack the sample for mailing. You then receive the results by mail, e-mail or phone, typically within a few days.

For tests that let you read the results at home, (like QMI of Missouri's MotorAnalyzer), you just place a drop of warm motor oil on the supplied test sheets. Then you compare the pattern produced by the oil drop with the patterns shown on the included test analysis guide. The pattern of colored concentric rings gives you insights as to:

  • How efficiently your fuel is being burned
  • How much life remains in the motor oil
  • Whether there's water, fuel or other contaminants in the oil

If you're a novice, especially, it can be pretty intimidating trying to interpret what those results mean. Click to the next page to learn more about interpreting the results of an engine oil analysis.