Herguth cylnfaceRevaling Engine Oil’s Secrets

A close analysis of your pickup’s engine’s oil can tell you a lot about both the oil you’re pouring into it and what parts are wearing down

by Bruce W. Smith / Special To ProPickup

Oil manufacturers add certain metallic elements to engine oils as a way of making them better at multi-tasking. So when oil is put to work inside the engine, it immediately goes to work collecting and protecting.

Here’s a list of what an engine’s oil will probably contain when it’s analyzed by a lab specializing in oil analsis. (Underlned shows a natural oil additive; bold is a contaminant.):  

  • Aluminum (Al) – Pistons, bearings, bushings, pump vanes, blower/turbos, washers, dirt, shims
  • Antimony (Sb) – Babbitt bearings, greases
  • Barium (Ba) – New oils (dispersant/detergent), grease, water
  • Boron (B) – New oils, coolant, seals, dust, fuel dilution
  • Cadmium (Cd) – Bearings, platings
  • Calcium (Ca) – New oils (dispersant/detergent/anti-acid), water, grease
  • Chromium (Cr) – Plated parts (primarily piston rings), coolant, anti-friction bearings, shafts, gears, seals, bearing cages, fuel leaks gas turbines
  • Cobalt (Co) – Bearings, turbine components
  • Copper (Cu) – Bearings, bearing cushions, bushings, thrust washers, valves, guides, injector shields, oil cooler tubes, wet clutches, coolant (copper radiator), gears
  • Iron (Fe) – Rings, crankshaft, cylinder walls, valve train, pistons, anti-friction bearings, gear train, shafts, clutch plates, washers, rust, water
  • Lead (Pb) – Babbitt or copper-lead bearings, platings, leaded gear lubes, leaded gasoline, grease, paint, seals, solder
  • Magnesium (Mg) – New oils (dispersant/detergent/anti-acid), bearings, superchargers, water
  • Manganese (Mn) – Steels, shafts, valves, corrosion, blowers (exhaust & intake systems)
  • Molybdenum (Mo) – New oils (anti-wear additives), piston rings
  • Nickel (Ni) – Shafts, valves, anti-friction bearings, gears, rings, turbine components
  • Phosphorous (P) – New oils (anti-wear additives), gears, coolant leaks.
  • Silicon (Si) – New oils (anti-foam0, sand, dirt, dust, anti-freeze, gasket sealing compounds
  • Silver (Ag) – Anti-friction bearings, silver solder, wrist pin bushings, gear teeth, shafts
  • Sodium (Na) – Some new oils, coolant, salt water, grease
  • Tin (Sn) – Babbitt bearings, platings, solder, coolers, wrist pins, pistons, rings
  • Titanium (Ti) – Wear turbine engines, springs, valves, bearing hub, compressor discs, turbine blades
  • Vanadium (V) – By product heavy fuel oil, occasionally wear metal, turbine blades, valves
  • Zinc (Zn) – Anti-oxidant, anti-corrosive, anti-wear agent, bearings, platings, gears, seals, coolant leaks, grease.