The following article will describe for you one from a total of six incredibly informative engine oil tests that you can use to quickly establish the continued viability of your oil, without ever paying a single dime to an oil analysis lab.
Even though any individual can end up with water in their engine oil, it is more commonly an issue for those vehicle owners that make primarily low mileage trips with their vehicle, drive their vehicle very infrequently and/or live in a humid climate or one with significant fluctuations in temperature. If you happen to be one of these individuals, I would highly recommend that you perform the crackle test, which is useful for determining whether condensation has caused a build-up of water in your oil.
Why test for water in your oil?
Because water build-up leads to acid build-up. Acid causes corrosion , and that can lead to pitting. Of course, you don’t want pitting in your engine. Even a high TBN (Total Base Number) extended drain synthetic oil like AMSOIL or Mobil’s new Extended Performance synthetic oil can eventually be overcome by water/acid build-up. Thus, it stands to reason that you’d want to know if you were getting water in your oil BEFORE acid build-up depletes the acid fighting additives in your oil. THIS is why I recommend performing the crackle test.
However, if performing the blotter spot test before the crackle test shows that there is fuel in your motor oil, performing the crackle test will likely be of little use, since the fuel in your oil will “throw off” your results. This is the reason that the blotter spot test (business card test) is most often performed PRIOR TO the crackle test. If you’ve got fuel in your oil, you may already need to drain your oil, and the results of the crackle test will not be clear anyway.
So, how do you do it?
Simple. Find a hotplate of some kind. Set the temperature between 250 and 300 degrees F (which is greater than the boiling point of water – 212 – but lower than the typical volatility level of a motor oil – which is generally greater than 350). Then, place a few drops of oil on the plate.
When you place the oil on the plate, you will hear a crackle as the water boils off. The crackling should occur very quickly as long as the amount of oil you use is small. Of course, if there is no water in your engine oil, you will hear no crackle.
Go Professional or Do It Yourself?
Paying for a professionally performed oil analysis will tell you not only IF there is water in your oil, but also how much contamination has occurred. Nevertheless, even though less information is provided through the crackle test it’s nice that you can utilize this free test to at least tell you if there is water in your oil.