Engine Oil Sample Analysis & Smoke Generation

Oil Analysis Fee £90.00 inc. per engine     –    If undertaken at time of Survey Attendance

Oil  Analysis Inspections    –   Carried out to ISO 9001: 2008 standards

Oil is the life blood of all machinery To protect yourself from potentially expensive repairs why not get an engine health check at the same time as the inspection.

Engine(s) visual only inspections are carried out on yachts and power boats

As surveyors (not qualified engineers) we visually inspect engines and generator installations during our inspections, when instructed / arranged the engine is run up to access its general running characteristics, vibration levels etc.  No dismantling of the engine or associated equipment is carried out within the scope of a condition survey so no detailed comment upon the internal parts is possible.

As we are unable to comment on the internal condition of the engine(s). It is therefore always strongly recommended that the engines(s) are examined and further tested by a qualified marine engineer familiar with the make and type of machinery installed.

On larger power vessels the engine represents a large part of the vessels value and is fundamental to safety. The above visual examinations will be carried out where possible but we will probably recommend a full engine trial to put the engine(s) through their paces.

On most marine engines an oil analysis is a worth while investment and considerably less expensive than attendance by a qualified marine engineer as it can tell a lot about the engines internal condition.

Attendance Only – Oil Analysis Sample Fee £ 150.00 inc  per engine  –  plus 60p per mile travel

It represents very good value compared with the cost of rectifying damaged engines

We will if requested recommend qualified marine engineers to undertake a more in depth engineering report

Oil Analysis is one of the most useful and important maintenance support programs available.

  1. Detects problems early, so actions can be taken  before they become major failures.
  2. Helps schedule downtime to fit the workload.
  3. Monitors positives as well as negatives, so you won’t have to pay for repair of components that are not worn out.
  4. Allows you to monitor maintenance schedules to verify that routine maintenance has been performed.
  5. Enables you to better manage budgets by predicting repairs, downtime, and equipment life.
  6. Helps you develop a complete service history for each machine. This proves invaluable when evaluating performance and planning replacement purchases.
  7. Documents service history for a higher price at trade-in or sale.

For maximum protection, you need oil sampling for all major oil lubricated systems (engine, transmission, hydraulic system and final drives) and coolant sampling for your cooling systems. By pinpointing trouble early, you can avoid unplanned repairs or catastrophic failures.

Our Marine Engine Oil Analysis Laboratory operates to ISO 9001:2008 standards and meets all manufacturer warranty requirements. The Laboratory can provide analysis for all types of synthetic, mineral & bio-degradable oils ,engine oils, gas engine oils, hydraulic oils, transmission oils, gear oils, transformer oils, coolants, grease, cutting fluids, water based oils, glycols emulsions, diesel fuel, fuel and biodiesel etc. 

We would expect the marine engine oil analysis sample report return (by email) within approx four working days.


Petrol & Diesel

With oil and fuel rising in price yet again, it is essential to look after your existing oils and help to extend the life of those oils and protect your machinery.The high price of oils & fuels is a fact we have learned to live with. Although taxes artificially inflate fuel prices in the UK, the underlying trend in recent years has been the global increase in crude oil prices.


Engine oil serves several important functions in the engine. Primarily, engine oil lubricates moving parts and operates hydraulic actuators. During its journey through the engine, removing heat from the engine, its secondary function, tends to shorten its lifespan. As we know, engine oil is a petroleum product, just a few steps down from gasoline and diesel fuel in the refinery tower. Even some synthetic oils use petroleum bases, and all synthetic oils are various grades of hydrocarbon. When faced with heat inside an engine, they all do the same thing: They burn.

Petroleum and synthetic base oils, anti-wear and corrosion inhibitors, dispersants, detergents, and anti-foam additives eventually succumb to the overwhelming heat in the engine. Over time, both the bases and additives in conventional and synthetic motor oil oxidize, vaporize, or degrade. While the oil filter can remove some of the leftover deposits, most of the leftover material flows straight through, which you’d notice as a marked darkening of the oil. Less-noticeably, the oil viscosity is changing, as is its ability to lubricate and cool the engine.

Dark oil is absolutely normal, and the engine is designed to handle this gradual change, but only to a certain point. Eventually, continuing oxidation and vaporization further degrades the oil, at which point it starts to leave deposits of itself in low-flow areas, such as in the valve covers. Oil and additive deposits and sludge reduce the amount of free-flowing oil in the system, leading to a vicious cycle of increased motor oil overheating, oxidation, vaporization, and deposits. Given enough time, the engine can convert the entire oil charge to useless sludge. With no oil to lubricate engine bearings, timing chains, and high-pressure fuel pumps, engine failure is just a few revolutions away.

We have found in many case where marine engine oil is changed, that due to both access & physical constraints (eg no access to sump drain plug etc) the oil is changed without the ‘sump sludge’ being first flushed out. All this does is to retain (possibly) several seasons of oil contamination / sludge for recycling, as many boat owners are not in the regular habit of changing their engine’s oil        

Therefore, when the oil is sampled it still displays ‘contamination’ when in fact all that has happened is that the normal wear and tear residue accumulated over several seasons has been concentrated.

Important:   Always flush the engine through prior to an oil change

OIL ANALYSIS – RESULTS / MEASUREMENTS                                                        Notes:  For Information and Guidance purposes ONLY

Good lubrication, that is, the prevention of metal to metal contact, is an essential part of the modern high performance combustion engine. Preventing excessive wear and aiding in cooling, the lubricating oil within an engine should be considered as one of its most important components. Unfortunately, as with most precision parts, there are many factors which can effect smooth operation and lead to degraded performance and a shorter working life, both for the oil itself and for other major parts, leading to greater running expenses and maintenance costs.

There is therefore great benefit in a method of investigating the internal state of a main engine, gearbox or hydraulic system which obviates the necessity of physically opening the system and removing components for inspection. Lubricating oil analysis can provide this benefit. This procedure involves an analysis of the various properties of a sample of lubricating oil with testing for water, fuel and other impurities. The analysis involves the following tests:

This is a measurement of the thickness of the oil or its ‘resistance to flow’. By maintaining the oil at its correct viscosity level, friction and wear are prevented whilst avoiding overheating or drag in the machinery.
Changes in the flash point or ignition temperature of the oil can indicate dilution by another fluid, usually fuel, and may indicate potentially serious internal leakages.
The presence of water within the lubricating oil can be indicative of component failure or wear and can lead to serious failure if not checked.
TBN (Total Base Number)
The TBN indicates the alkalinity of the oil and its ability to neutralise acidic compounds (usually the products of combustion).
These insoluble particles (e.g. carbon) are usually products of combustion and can be indicative of engine wear and combustion efficiency.
A test of how much an oil has deteriorated in service due to the detection of the weak organic acids which form over time as the oil oxidises. More commonly used for units which do not have combustion products, such as hydraulics, turbines, compressors and gearboxes
Linked to the TBN and/or acidity it is a measure of the acidity or alkali concentration of the oil.
The accurate measure of elements which are virtually soluble in oil. This can determine if there has been oil contamination, or when monitoring for trends, can indicate component wear by identifying the metals involved and the most likely source of origin.

Common elements which may be identified by sampling and the possible sources of their contamination from within the machinery.

Aluminium -pistons, bearings, gears, housings and fuel
Carbon – fuel and cylinder liners
Chromium – piston rings, hydraulic actuator cylinders and piston rods
Copper – bearings and oil coolers
Iron – cylinders, piston rings, rotating shafts and gears
Lead – bearings
Manganese – cylinders
Molybdenum – piston rings
Nickel – bearings, valves, gear plating and fuel
Silicon – dirt, fuel and oil additive
Silver – bearings
Sodium – Salt water, antifreeze additive and fuel
Tin – bearings
Vanadium – Fuel

In assessing engine condition for a survey from a single oil sample, it is the spectrographic test that will reveal the most information. Many of the other tests are only of interest when sampling is done regularly and trends plotted from the results.


EXHAUST SMOKE  – EXPLANATION                                              Notes:   For Information & Guidance Purposes ONLY

Diesel engine exhausts should be clear with the possible exceptions of:

Sudden acceleration or extra loading. The engine may give off a little black smoke for a second or two until it settles down.

Idling or running under low loads. The fuel pump may have problems metering out the minute quantities of fuel needed, resulting in an uneven idle and a little smoke. Diesels should not be idled or run at low loads for prolonged periods, as they tend to carbon up. If the engine must be used for battery charging, calorifer heating at anchor or dockside, buy a high-output alternator to keep the time to a minimum and, if possible, switch in other loads (e.g. refrigeration) or put the engine in gear. Give the engine some work to do.

Generally, any other smoke is a sure sign of problems. The colour of the smoke is a useful guide to the source of the trouble.

Black Smoke

Black smoke results from inadequate combustion of the injected diesel. This can arise from a restricted air flow through the engine. (plugged air filter, defective turbocharger, or blocked exhaust);too much fuel injected (generally due to overloading-the governor responds by opening up the fuel rack and pumping in more fuel). Or improper fuel injection (an injector fails to atomise the fuel correctly, dribbles fuel into a cylinder after the main injection pulse, or injects to late).

Check the air filter first. If the engine has a turbocharger, check all the ducting for air tightness. Remove an inspection cover and check the compressor assembly for carbon build up. If you find build up, clean the assembly, making sure it spins freely with no binding. Open up the exhaust line for any kinks or other restrictions.

If the air flow is deemed adequate, what about overloading? Is a line wrapped around the propeller? Are you powering hard into a head wind. Has any extra load been placed on the engine recently, such as belt driven auxiliaries equipment, a high output alternator, or a new propeller?

In the case of faulty fuel injection, remove the defective injectors and send them in for servicing. Make no attempt to work on the injectors yourself.

Blue Smoke

Blue smoke comes from burning oil. There are only a few paths by which oil can find its way into the combustion chambers-up past the piston rings; down valve stems; through defective turbocharger seals; and out of crankcase ventilators, where there is high crank case pressure as a result of defective piston rings.

White Smoke

White smoke is indicative of one or more cylinders misfiring, water or air in the fuel, or water in the cylinders (most likely from a blown head gasket or cracked cylinder head). If the smoke occurs on start up and at light loads but clears when the engine warms, it maybe due to condensation or water vapour formed in combustion and is acceptable, but then again one or more cylinders also may have a compression problem and be failing to reach ignition temperatures until the engine warms up. If the smoke develops during normal operating, generally accompanied by erratic misfiring, the engine is running out of diesel or has water in the fuel.