Oil analysis can be a benefit to any maintenance program by helping maximize oil change-out intervals and improving vehicle reliability. Regular assessment of the oil condition is one of the most effective ways to monitor the engine.
“Serving as an early warning system, oil analysis can alert you to trends and problems before they become costly headaches,” says Arcy of Shell. Used oil samples can typically detect subtle changes and ingress of contaminants such as water, coolant, fuel or dirt which can indicate a head gasket leak, a leaking fuel injector or other problems, Citgo’s Betner adds.
Plus, oil analysis builds a historic database.
“Ideally, you want to analyze a sample of used engine oil after every oil change,” says Arcy.
A good oil analysis program can be a major tool in the maintenance toolbox, remarks McGeehan of Chevron, but it is only as effective as the maintenance personnel that implement the program. “If the maintenance staff does not sample at the recommended intervals, or dismisses warning signs from the in-service oil analysis, then the program is of no use.”
Present day oil analysis programs are electronic and data can be managed very easily, Betner of Citgo says. These programs can generate reports than can assist maintenance managers with targeting areas of maintenance needing improvement. However, some managers have never learned how to use the programs or don’t react to the information, he observes, and as a result, become apathetic about oil analysis and either discontinue its use or don’t believe it has any real value.
Betner encourages these manages to review how oil analysis can help their maintenance program by discussing oil analysis programs with a reputable and knowledge oil analysis provider. “Look for providers that will assist with training, set up and overall implementation, and will work with you along the way to get full value and a true ROI.”
Among the advantages of effective oil analysis programs: prevention of premature engine failures such as cooling system contaminant problems; improved vehicle resale value by having a complete engine heath history combined with maintenance service records; helping with debates over the cause of warranty claims; and helping to extended component life by knowing how the component is wearing in respect to operating conditions.
The bottom line is that “failure to effectively remove contamination will lead to excessive wear and premature engine failure especially in modern engines,” concludes Purolator’s Enright. “The onus is on the fleet maintenance manager or owner to understand the combinations of engines, varying duty cycles, oil types and service intervals in their fleet and to take these factors into account in their choice of oils and filters and their oil and filter suppliers.”