It’s not just “golden-clear = clean” and “dark-opaque = dirty.” Motor oil is a complex, highly-engineered fluid before it’s even poured out of the container. And after it has been sprayed, dripped, and sloshed around in a running engine for a period of time, coming into contact with multiple materials and wearing surfaces, it holds the secrets of that engine’s overall health. There’s real science behind determining what the chemical and physical composition that oil can tell us. To learn more about this, and share it with you, we’ve tagged along with an enthusiast owner as he explores a new-to-him old-car purchase.
Rodney Kemerer bought a Maroon Metallic, five-speed manual-equipped Honda Accord LX brand new in June 1978, when he was living in Pennsylvania. Now a resident of Beverly Hills, California, he has maintained and cherished that two-door hatchback for 43 years, and Rodney knows firsthand how difficult it is to keep the car running and looking factory-fresh, considering the near-total lack of replacement parts. When a virtually identical (save for its paint color, dealer-added accessories, and California-spec emissions controls), running-and-driving ’78 LX came up at an online auction last autumn, he took a chance and bought it, sight-unseen, with the idea that it could be a complete source of parts for his own car.