Marine Questions

Where is my sample? I sent it in at least a week ago and haven’t heard anything.

Chances are we don’t have it yet. We do a pretty good job keeping up, unless there was a holiday or something and we’re just inundated with samples. If tracking tells you it’s here, then it may be in line for testing. It’s also possible it’s done, but the email went to spam. If it’s not in your spam folder, you should create an account online to view your reports. You will need your customer number to do that. It’s located in the lower right corner of the pre-printed oil slips that are in your kits. (If the slips are generic, then call or email us for your customer number.)

Also, we automatically send two new kits when we get your very first sample or you make your very first payment. So it’s possible you’ll get new kits before you get your results. That’s normal. Note that the two kits are just to have on hand. You don’t need to fill them both to send us a sample.

Aw, come on. Are you sure you don’t have it stashed away somewhere?

Trust me. We don’t make money unless we run your sample, so we don’t have any reason to leave them sitting around in back somewhere. If you receive more kits from us, then we either got your sample or we got your online payment. We automatically send a couple kits when we put you into the system. Sometimes your new kits arrive before the mail delivers your sample to us.

You know, I thought the post office looked kind of suspicious when I took the sample in. Since you don’t have it yet, maybe it’s lost. Should I yell at the post office?

Feel free. They are pretty good about delivering…eventually. Be sure to check the tracking number. You’d be amazed at the number of people who don’t take this simple step before calling us.

But I need to yell at someone. How about you? Can I call up and yell at you?

Knock yourself out.

Seriously. How long should I wait before I give it up for lost and send in another one?

Give it at least a month. They don’t actually get lost very often, and they do usually find their way here eventually. Sometimes they go to another lab and then to us. Sometimes they get held up in quarantine while the post office figures out whether it’s hazardous. (For the record, it’s not: You can print off a letter that explains so here.) And sometimes, we think the pony must die en route to Indiana.

Is there any way to avoid the post office hassle?

Sure, put your sample in a box. Postage will cost a little more, but it might be worth it. Or send it UPS or FedEx.

Do I need to have one of your kits to send in a sample? Can I borrow one from a friend?

You can send us oil in any package that won’t leak. Notice the key words here: won’t leak. Any clean and dry container with a screw-on cap should be okay. Bad choices for the mail include Tupperware, film canisters, pickle jars, and aspirin bottles. If you borrow a kit, be sure to note the tracking number!

How about tape? Will it help if I tape the hell out of it?

Apparently everyone loves tape. We get so much tape on oil sample containers that we should be in the used-tape business. But you know what doesn’t work very well? Scotch tape. Don’t do it. It’s really not any good. Our apologies to the Scotch tape people. Now electrical tape – that’s tape we can respect.

I don’t think you understand my deep, unyielding love of tape. I am going to tape that container so well, the oil couldn’t get out if it tried.

You and everyone else, brother.

I’m a little confused about how this kit works. I see a black bottle, a white bottle, some gray stuff, a Ziploc bag, a slip, and a white envelope.

Put the oil in the white bottle, put the bottle and the gray absorbent material in the ziplock bag (so if it leaks, the oil is contained in the bag and doesn’t get all over your slip or check). Put the bag and the slip in the black mailer, then the mailer goes in the white tyvek envelope with the label on it. And make sure the lids are on tight! We can’t test your oil if it all leaks out by the time we get it.

I didn’t get any oil slips in the black bottle.

No, you did. We put the slips in the white envelope now instead of in the black mailer. Look in the Tyvek envelope that had the black mailer it. Also be sure to separate them if they’re stuck together.

Ok, I’m filling out the slip and it asks for the Unit ID. What’s that?

That’s what you want to call it. The name of the boat is best, or use something like “2018 SeaRay.”

What about this part that asks if the oil was changed when I took the sample? I didn’t change it until two days later.

We want to know if you intend to run that oil fill another month/season/whatever, or if you went ahead and did an oil change around the time you took the sample. If the oil is still in place, we’ll let you know how much longer we think you can run it.

This oil slip paper sucks. My pen won’t write on it.

I know. Use a pencil.

How much oil do you need?

Our bottle holds 3.5 oz, or a little less than half a cup. You can get away with less, though we need at least 2.5 oz to do all of our tests.

I took a sample three months ago and forgot to send it in. It’s been on a shelf ever since. Can I still send it in? Will the results still be good?

Should be fine. We might find some moisture, from condensation, but otherwise the results should be okay.

What if I don’t have your kit when I take the sample? What should I store the oil in?

Just put it in anything that’s clean and dry, like a dry plastic water bottle. Storing it won’t hurt anything.

I think $35.00 seems kind of steep for an oil analysis. I know other labs do it cheaper. Why should I pay you $35.00?

Because a person – not a computer – sits down and writes the comments for each and every sample we do. We look at your results and tell you in plain English how your engine is doing. Plus, if you call us you always get a live person, and we’re happy to talk to you about your results. Plus, each report is infused with love. Can’t you feel it? Feel the looooove!

Uh, whatever. $35.00 still seems steep.

Then you are just the candidate for our discount program. Click here to read more about it.


So do I need to set up an account to get started or what?

All you have to do to start is send in a sample. If you’ve got one of our kits, just fill out the little slip that comes with it, and we’ll set up your account when we get the sample. If you don’t have one of our kits, you can print out a form from our website to include with the oil.

I want to set up an online account. What’s my customer number?

Once we receive your sample or you submit a payment, we will create an account for you and assign you a customer number. You need that number to create an online account. If you have one of our oil slips, your customer number is in the lower, right-hand corner.

I don’t want to use this black mailer you sent me. I march to my own drummer. Can I just use this address on the label and send it in something else?

Sure, but be sure to send it to the correct address. We are at 416 E. Pettit Ave., Ft. Wayne, IN 46806.

I’m confused. I got some results, but they’re addressed to Oscar Huff. That’s not me, and this is not my engine.

What you are looking at is a sample report. Oscar is my old dog, and he’s dead, and he never did an oil sample in his life. Look for an attachment to your email. Those are your results.

OK, now for the technical questions. What is a TBN?

A TBN (total base number) measures the amount of active additive left in a sample of oil. The TBN is useful for people who want to extend their oil usage far beyond the normal range. To learn more, click here.

How long should the oil stay in the engine before I sample it?

We like to see at least 5 hours to get decent data. Ten is better. If the engine has a problem, it may very well show up with fewer hours than that, but more hours are preferred.

I see a question mark on the report. What does that mean?

It means there are signs of contamination, but not enough to say for sure. We usually use a question mark in the antifreeze category; since we don’t test for glycol directly, we use potassium and sodium to look for coolant. When one or both are present but at very low levels, we’ll call your attention to it, but not call it a problem outright. Sometimes we’ll also use a question mark when the oil behaves strangely and it seems like something is present that shouldn’t be, though we weren’t able to identify it.

What about “TR”?

TR means “trace” – or a very low amount.

Can you analyze the oil in the generator?

Yes. The kit is the same and the cost is the same. We also sell pumps for drawing samples.

The Post Office refused to take my sample and said this is hazardous material. Is that true?

No. Click here to see a letter that explains how our kit (and the oil in it) meets postal regulations.

Why are my molybdenum, boron, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc levels different from universal averages?

We do not separate out the various oil brands and grades when we calculate universal averages, so in effect, the universal averages are a mix of all different types of oil out there. Therefore, the additives that are present in your sample will not match those in the universal averages column. Click here to see what all the elements mean and where they come from.

I don’t understand the Unit/Location averages.

These averages are particular to your own boat, so you can compare your own engine’s average wear to national averages, which are what you see in the universal average column. Note that if you have two of the same engine (for example, port and starboard engines on the same vessel), the unit/location averages will show average wear for both engines together. Your “fleet,” if you will.

Is there anything special you need to know about my marine engine?

Let us know if your cooling system is opened or closed. If it is open, we need to know if you operate in fresh or salt water. We have a special slip available here specifically for marine engines.

I was a horse’s behind when I filled out the slip, and I didn’t put down the hours on the oil, the hours on the engine, the right engine type, or the right oil type. Can I give you that info now and have you redo the report?

Well, yes, we’ll do it, but repeat offenders make me grouchy.

But not me, right? I’m special. You wouldn’t get mad at me!

Uh, right.


Blackstone Labs. Not your everyday oil lab.