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In May of 2011, we ran a story about a small company seeking backers for an innovative do-it-yourself device engineered to measure the level of contaminants in a vehicle's motor oil. Armed with the knowledge, consumers could extend oil change intervals, save money and help the environment. Things apparently went well for the startup, as its Lubricheck hit the market this year and it wasn't long before a sample landed in our hands.

About 25 percent smaller than an iPhone, the self-contained plastic tester has a small recessed button on its lower face that serves as a tray to receive a few drops of used oil – we used the dipstick. Sensors measure the capacitive and resistive properties of the oil (the lubricant degrades with use and the changes cause a variance in capacitive and resistive properties) and then score the fluid with a number between 1-10, indicated with an illuminated LED. Oil with a low score is still good, but oil with a high score is contaminated and needs replacing.

In practice, the Lubricheck ($39.95) seemed to work as well as promised. We tested a handful of cars, a lawnmower and a pressure washer, and the scores all appeared to be spot-on with the known life of the oil. We liked the size of the device, how simple it was to execute the test and how quickly the results appeared (less than a minute). Our only complaint was that the user needs to be careful to not drip oil into the unprotected slide switches - easier said than done when shaking oil off a thin metal rod (we accidentally got oil in the ON/OFF switch, but apparently to no ill effect).

Overall, the little plastic device impressed us, and it appears to provide consumers the information they need to extend oil change intervals. Of course Lubricheck isn't as accurate as spectroscopy, flash point, viscosity and chemical-based oil testing – we will still mail samples to Blackstone Labs for that.


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  • 29 Comments
      hp
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wouldn't buy one. Seems like a waste of money. Doesn't take THAT long to change oil anyways, especially in something like a lawnmower. Just follow the factory recommended schedule. If the manual of my car, who was written by people who designed my car (and the ones who will warranty my car), suggest I change the oil at a certain time, I'll follow their advice. Not some device that I bought for $40 to save a couple dollars and the environment.
        Ross
        • 2 Years Ago
        @hp
        Once you are out of warranty though you are throwing away money by doing frequent oil changes. Seeing as how I've never had an oil analysis done (The very same Blackstone Labs mentioned by autoblog) that says I should be changing the oil on my 2003 subaru at an interval less than 5,000 miles (factory spec is 3,000 miles), why should I throw away good oil? I run the car with a few auto/rally crosses in there too on each oil change. I used to be one of those people who religiously changed oil at 3,000 miles/3 months, until I started getting oil analysises done. But if you like throwing away money, go for it.
          johnnythemoney
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ross
          Not to jump on the environmental bandwagon, but oil isn't exactly harmless so avoiding changing it for no reason is a win-win situation. How long until such little handy device is installed as standard on some cars?
          fairfireman21
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ross
          But if your car has a computor that tells you the life left on the oil then why use this thing. For example the comp in my truck told me to change it so I did the next day (had it done in garage) his sticker said 3000 miles and like three months, November I was supposed to have it changed due to that but did not because the comp still said I had 90% left. The light did not come on untill August. I would need the oil change once a year by the computer, if I went with the 3 months or 3000 miles well that would have been 4 times per year. Take my Sons Cruze for example it had the oil changed when we got it in August and OnStar is telling me it will not need changed at the rate it is being driven right now till it reaches 13,700 miles right now it has a little over 7,000, so how would this help me? $40 dollars would change the oil in any one of the three cars we have that can go a year without needing one, if they did not believe in this then why would they say that is when it needs changed while under warentee?
      upx42
      • 2 Years Ago
      I hope car stores (like AutoZone, etc) will allow potential customers to use these for free ! The same way they'll tell you why your "Check Engine" light is on....
      Camaroman101
      • 2 Years Ago
      anyone know how much does a blackstone lab analysis costs?
        imnuts
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Camaroman101
        Standard analysis is currently $25
        rex
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Camaroman101
        Blackstone gives you a breakdown of what is in the oil and can pick up a problem with the engine,,,different animal.
      jnbcressy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Spectrometric Oil Analysis was first done on indy cars in the late 1960\'s by Baird Atomic to test their equipment. By knowing the make up of an engine you can burn an oil sample which produces a spectrum of light. By knowing that metals suspended in the oil produce a certain spectrum of light you can predict engine wear. The equipment was built to analyze the oil in jet engines but, was first tested at Indy. This unit if accurate is a great idea.
      Trist
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is pretty cool but I think it\'ll prove to be more than a novelty than anything else. It would however be nice for this unit to be built into the engine and show up on your dashboard to let you know how your oil is doing. But then again considering the fact that engines are being produced with no dip stick in an effort to make sure you perform your own oil changes, I doubt any manufacturer would have something like this built into their cars.
        360_AD
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Trist
        I think you're missing a "don't" in there. Anyway, cars already come with dummy lights of various sorts for oil service intervals. This really wouldn't give you anything you don't already have. It's a product that is probably several years too late.
          Trist
          • 2 Years Ago
          @360_AD
          Yeah I am missing a "don't". And I agree, this is a few years too late, but may be useful if you are a maintenance fanatic and you drive a really old car.
          dougs2k
          • 2 Years Ago
          @360_AD
          You can say this if you took all cars less than five years old off the road. You're forgetting that there are still many cars that are more than five years old that DON'T have oil life indicators built in. And I think they probably outnumber the amount of younger cars on the road. It's definitely not too late as it's the only product on the market that can measure oil life for the average consumer that's in that price bracket. It's also a handy tool to have to more accurately measure the condition of a motor in a perspective used car that doesn't have an oil life indicator before you make the purchase.
      chad_erickson
      • 1 Year Ago
      Regarding Bander's comments, he is correct. The Lubricheck is temperature sensitive. The instructions make that clear. The dielectric properties of oil change with temperature, and the physics of this cannot be ignored. If the tests are made with the oil and Lubricheck near room temperature, you will see consistent results. The Lubricheck carries a one year warranty. If you suspect the unit is defective, please send it in to be checked. Best regards, Chad Erickson WaveOn Tech Makers of the Lubricheck
      glenw
      • 2 Years Ago
      The most important oil change u\'ll ever make is between 850 n1000 mi (along w filter)! 18 wheeler studies showed this early wash-out change extended engine life some 30%. I got the black box n see a 7-10 reading at 12k on Penn Silver Syn. Bout rite n my 53 yrs of observation.
      montegod7ss
      • 2 Years Ago
      Pennzoil Ultra 5W-30 and Wix filter every 5k. No need for a tester.
      Bander
      • 1 Year Ago
      Some test was done. after engine off, i tested immediately and lubrichecker show 7.. after 30 seconds later, lubrichecker show 4-5 and after 1 minute later, lubrichecker show 1. korea weather is winter in now (outside temperature is 0~2 ℃) in finally, lubrichecker is very sesitive on temperature and i could not believe lubrichecker data. In lubrichecker manual, it said the oil temp must be 17℃ ~ 25 ℃. But how can i check and catch the oil temp change? expecially in winter season I also tested 10000 miles used oil in cool temp. It show 1. And my lubrichecker on/off switch already is out of order.. (always on mode. I must remove battery for power off) In flankly, i expected much for lubrichecker. But i was very dispointed.
      raktmn
      • 2 Years Ago
      I would want to see the results of extended testing of this device with comparisons against Blackstone reports before I would use it to actually make choices about how long to extend my oil change. But it does look like a fun little device to play with.
      canuckcharlie
      • 2 Years Ago
      \"Due to high demand, we\'re temporarily out of stock.\" Darn it...
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