Used Oil Analysis

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...


Oil and lubricant analysis programs differ in many aspects, including tests available, interpretations and reports, turnaround time, price and more. Consequently, adequate time and effort needs to be invested in order to choose the program that best serves your requirements and needs.

Citgo’s LubeAlert Oil Analysis Program, by way of example, is an electronic oil analysis program for heavy duty oils, gas engine oils and special products, including water-based hydraulic fluids. It manages more than 160,000 engines and more than 1,700 fleets, with all makes and models and a vast database documenting trends on virtually all types of diesel engines.

The program can also customize tests for oils not falling into standard categories.

The Summary Analysis feature of the LubeAlert Oil Analysis Program creates a “maintenance report card” that allows management to rate maintenance facilities, target problem areas and evaluate engine makes and models.

Late last year, Shell Lubricants revamped its Shell LubeAnalyst oil analysis program to better help customers improve equipment and vehicle reliability, while reducing maintenance costs. The program provides an online user interface that offers a worldwide sample historic database and failure trends on various types of equipment and engine types.

Reports show results from previous tests, graphs on oil properties, wear and contamination. Comments about any possible trouble areas and any recommended actions that may need to be taken are also provided.

The Shell LubeAnalyst program offers easy-to-use software enabling users to view results, track test results and view offline management information.


An inconvenience of lab analysis is the duration between sampling cycles and the turnaround between sampling and processing before the results are available to the shop for evaluation, observes Fluid Rx’s McElroy.

“For instance, glycol contamination and/or fuel dilution, which are two of the main killers of diesel engines, can begin to manifest shortly after sampling cycles,” he says. “Component damage or catastrophic failure may occur before the next sampling cycle and lab analysis is performed.

“Instant lubricant diagnostics is the stopgap between lab analysis cycles to catch these problems and prevent costly repairs and equipment downtime.”

Compared to the lab process, instant analysis offers a low-cost, quick and simple-to-understand method for determining a fluid’s condition at regular intervals on the spot, says OilCheckUp’s Wohlwend.

Instant analysis kits are simple to use, and no tools or special knowledge is needed. Simply follow the instructions included with each kit, says McElroy:

Willis of On-Site Analysis points out that with immediate results:

  • Test results are available while vehicles are in the shop so corrective action can be determined and necessary repairs addressed.
  • Service bay through-put is improved by speeding up the diagnostic phase of the repair service.
  • Vehicles are not taking up yard space while waiting for test results.
  • Scheduling of repairs can be planned before they become critical.
  • There is no loss of urgency due to lack of information.


All modern lubricants contain additives that inhibit breakdown, explains McElroy of Fluid Rx. As these additives are depleted, sludge forms. Instant analysis kits utilize a chromatographic process to provide a measure of additive depletion and the level of sludge or debris in a lubricant.

The chromatography technique indicates the total amount of wear metals and particle contaminants based on particle size (micron rating) with visual and comparative results to a new fluid sample of a preferred brand, Wohlwend of OilCheckUp says.

According to the two officials, the process basically works as follows: A drop of the sample oil or lubricant is placed on a thin layer of absorbent filter paper or specialized media. As the fluid test specimen percolates through the paper/media, bands and/or zones of different colors, densities and even unwanted wear metals and debris, form a chromatogram – a series of color bands or color graph.

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