Oil analysis is an effective tool that can help you monitor the condition of your engine,” says Dan Arcy, OEM technical manager, Shell Lubricants. “The knowledge gained from a consistent oil analysis program can assist you in optimizing your oil drain interval, help increase equipment reliability, minimize unscheduled downtime and more precisely track operating efficiency and maintenance practices.
“The combination of all this contributes to helping lower total operating costs.”
Diagnostic oil analysis alerts maintenance personnel to hidden or emerging potential problems or failures, says Will Willis, Jr., president and CEO, On-Site Analysis, a company that offers technologies that interpret sophisticated technical measurements into simple-to-understand diagnostic statements.
“That means you can do preventive maintenance repairs while they’re small, rather than wait for costly catastrophic failures,” he says. “Less failure translates to fewer tows and breakdowns and less vehicle downtime, and that generates improved vehicle uptime.”
There are a number of reasons for, and benefits to be had, from used oil analysis, Mark Betner, heavy duty product manager, Citgo Lubricants says. Among them:
- Verify when to change oil – “One of the more frequently asked questions is: What is the right time to change oil or how far can equipment go on any oil?” he says. “This question requires an understanding of engine manufacturer recommendations, but oil analysis can also provide insight as to what factors impact oil change intervals.”
- Engine warranty protection – Oil analysis can provide support in the event of a warranty dispute, says Betner. “Knowing oil condition history provides additional input as to what has been happening with oil, and to some extent, engine wear related problems.”
- Increased resale value – Some oil analysis programs, like Citgo’s LubeAlert, have a data summary analysis feature that gives a detailed oil analysis history on a vehicle. The information “provides a prospective buyer with valuable information as to how the vehicle was maintained and the wear history of the engine, adding potential resale value to the vehicle,” he says.
- Preventative maintenance tool – Successful users of oil analysis “will testify to the fact that oil analysis has saved costly downtime and engine repairs because they are aware of developing problems.” When oil contaminations reach critical levels, premature catastrophic engine failures can result.
- Oil quality evaluation – Most lubricant manufacturers offer different quality levels. “If used correctly and consistently, oil analysis can provide oil condition trends that reflect the superior performance capability of an oil,” says Betner.
Oil analysis involves sampling and analyzing oil for various properties and materials to monitor wear and contamination in an engine. Sampling and analyzing on a regular basis establishes a baseline of normal wear and can help indicate when abnormal wear or contamination is occurring.
Simply put, oil that has been inside any engine or moving mechanical apparatus for a period of time reflects the possible condition of that assembly. Oil is in contact with the mechanical components as wear metallic trace particles enter the oil. These particles are so small they remain in suspension.
Products of the combustion process of an engine will also become trapped in the circulating oil. Any externally caused contamination also enters the oil.
Consequently, the oil becomes a working history of the engine or mechanical apparatus. By identifying and measuring these impurities, one can get an indication of the rate of wear and of any excessive contamination.
Virtually all oils used for automotive equipment can be tested, but the majority of tests are engine oil samples, followed by transmission, driveline or gear applications and hydraulics, says Citgo Lubricants’ Betner. The tests performed will differ depending on the fluid, adds Arcy of Shell Lubricants, and the analysis program should also be tailored for the type of fluid.