Thank your lucky stars you had the Oil Tested

Mar 24, 2014 | condition monitoring, Engine Oil, Newcastle Laboratory, oil analysis, Techenomics

Service intervals are decided by the Vehicle Manufacturer prior to the release of New Vehicles. When it comes to car servicing, it is recommended by the Car Manufacturer that you take your car to an approved service centre each time it is due for its service, now depending on where you purchased your car from or whom you speak to, some people will tell you that you must take it back to the genuine service centre so you don’t void your warranty and they know the ins and outs of your vehicle! (As if they themselves built the vehicle) others will tell you it does not need to be an authorised service centre, it simply needs to be someone that holds a motor vehicle repairers certificate.

The truth is that you will not void your warranty as long as the mechanic or business repair centre holds a motor vehicle or business repairers certificate, this enables them to carry out work on vehicle under warranty. Fair Trading ensures that the repairs centres have equal rights and you are not limited to the one repairer.

Last week a client of Techenomics was concerned about his BMW X5, an expensive vehicle that had only travelled 45,000klm. The car was due for its 45,000klm service and its warranty was soon to expire unless the client was to purchase another three years through BMW.


The car was taken to the BMW dealer service centre for its genuine service, now normally at this service interval these inspections and work need to be carried out:

  • Change engine oil and filter while engine is at normal operation temperature
  • Check transmission for leaks
  • Check rear axle for leaks
  • Visually check fuel tank, lines, and connections for leaks
  • Check condition, position, and mounting of exhaust system. Examine for leaks
  • Check power steering system for leaks
  • Check overall thickness of front and rear disc brake pads
  • Examine brake disc surfaces
  • Clean brake pad contact points in calipers
  • Grease wheel centre hubs
  • Check steering for absence of play, condition of suspension track rods, front axle joints, steering linkage, and joint disc
  • Check front control arm bushing for wear
  • Check brake and clutch system connectors and lines for leaks, damage, and incorrect positioning
  • Check for free movement of the parking brake cables. Adjust parking brake if necessary
  • Check all tire pressures (including spare). Correct if necessary
  • Check condition of tires (outer surfaces (left/right)), tread wear and pattern; In case of uneven tread wear readjust wheel alignment if required. If alignment is needed additional charges will apply.

Engine Compartment:

  • Read out diagnostic system
  • Check engine cooling system/heater hose connections for leaks
  • Check coolant level and antifreeze protection level; add coolant if necessary
  • Check level of brake and clutch fluid in reservoir; add fluid if required
  • Check windshield washer fluid level and antifreeze protection. Fill up and/or correct if necessary
  • Check air conditioner for operation
  • Reset Service Indicator

They then check the body and electrical checklist. As you can see there isn’t much to do on the list, most is simply check only.

The BMW X5 at its service did not have the engine oil and filter replaced, instead when the owner (Techenomics Client) asked the service man if the Oil had been changed, he replied the cars computer told him that the Oil was ok and it didn’t require changing!

The owner than asked, “What about the oil level? it was over full” the serviceman answered “I drained about a litre out and then toped it back up to the correct level, it should be fine now”.

If you know anything about Oil Analysis, this would have told you straight away that without top-up oil then there must be fuel in the oil. The oil level doesn’t go up by itself, something needs to be added.

The owner was not convinced that the car’s computer could state the oil was ok and could go another 15,000klm to the next service interval. This could take another 12 months or longer and the vehicle would be well and truly out of warranty before then. Warranty runs out in approximately two weeks.

The owner brought his vehicle in to Techenomics to have the oil sampled. Once the oil was analysed the verdict was in, this is what was found:

  • Fine Iron wear – 109ppm
  • Aluminium – 27ppm
  • Copper – 17ppm
  • Tin – 7ppm
  • Silicon – 11ppm
  • Low calcium – 149ppm
  • No Phosphorous – 0
  • PQ – 9
  • Soot – 60 A/0.1mm
  • Fuel Dilution – 1%
  • Low TBN – 3 mg/KOH
  • Low Viscosity @ 100˚C – 9.64 (12 of NEW)
  • Low Viscosity @ 40˚C – 54 (73 of NEW)

The results clearly indicate that the Oil is not in a satisfactory condition and it is not able to withstand another 15,000klm. You have to ask yourself why would they even follow the computer diagnoses when it states in the vehicle manual to change the Oil and filter at each service.

What is this sensor able to diagnose?
The Manufacturer states that the sensor is called the Oil Condition Sensor, if this is the case then it doesn’t work very well!. The sensor is able to evaluate:

  • Engine Oil Temperature
  • Oil Level
  • Engine Oil Quality

So how does it evaluate Quality?

The sensor is able to detect changes in the electrical properties of the engine oil. The change in the dielectrics cause the capacity of the capacitor to change. The electronic unit then converts the measured capacity into a digital signal which is sent to the engine management system. The system then calculates the information into a result.

This could gather to be an extremely expensive mistake on behalf of the Service Centre, the engine will be out of warranty in two weeks with leaking injectors, engine oil and filter that has not been changed and is clearly indicating low Viscosity and TBN that is causing further unnecessary wear to the cylinder walls, rings, bearings, turbo, and crankshaft.

The Techenomics client is taking this information back to the service centre and requesting they look at it and then act accordingly. This time he will not leave without the filter and oil being replaced.

We now have a plan to resample the oil and ensure those injectors are not leaking, otherwise they are going to need replacing. Unfortunately there isn’t enough time to get the car kilometres up enough to actually see a difference of the fuel dilution before the warranty runs out, so it may pay for the client to get the extended warranty.

Next time you have your car serviced, ensure you check what work has been performed and compare it to what is in the manufacturer handbook, otherwise you could be facing a similar problem. With the help of Techenomics, this may have been an extremely costly learning curve for our client.

If you are unsure of what’s happening in your engine, drop in and have an Oil sample taken, you may end up thanking you’re lucky stars you did….

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