Regular, consistent oil analysis is an important component in ensuring the longevity of every fleet. Yet, many companies neglect to provide the sample information necessary for the laboratory to accurately identify trends in lubricant and equipment condition and make actionable maintenance recommendations.
Including the following information with every sample enables the laboratory to provide a comprehensive analysis of your test results and give you the reliable recommendations you need to make informed maintenance decisions.
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Unit IDs Ensure Accurate Customer Information
Customer location information needs to be accurate by both component and unit type to avoid duplicates within the laboratory’s database. If results are split between duplicate accounts for the same piece of equipment, vital trends in both lubricant and equipment condition can easily be missed.
Unit IDs give fleet managers the opportunity to assign a unique number to units and components. The unit’s serial number is an excellent unique identifier but unit ID can be any type of description that distinguishes it from others being tested. The laboratory report below illustrates this information provided for a mud pump.
- Unit ID: 3 MUD PUMP
- Component Type: GEAR SYSTEM
- Component: Gear Case
- Unit Manufacturer and Model: Oil-Well A1700PT
- Component Manufacturer and Model: Oil-Well A1700PT
The physical location of where a piece of equipment works is also vital information for a data analyst, as climate, elevation and proximity to geographic features can impact oil degradation and the introduction of particulate matter. The location of the equipment can be incorporated in the unit ID for more specific identification. Conducting an equipment assessment and creating an equipment list for the laboratory prior to starting your sampling program provides an ideal opportunity for assigning unique unit IDs.
Unit, Component & Lube Information
The more detailed the information submitted with a sample is, the more in-depth the analysis will be and the more actionable the maintenance recommendations. The following information should always be provided:
- Component Type – The type of compressor, gearbox or engine influences specific metallurgies, analysis flagging parameters and confirms component wear.
- Unit Type, Manufacturer and Model – Every manufacturer produces components and equipment differently, resulting in different maintenance guidelines, maintenance intervals and potential wear patterns. Providing manufacturer information gives the data analyst a baseline to work with so that abnormal conditions can be more accurately identified.
- Lube Type and Grade – Using the right lube for each piece of equipment is vital to ensuring a long lifespan. Lube type and grade identify a lube’s properties, such as viscosity, and are used to determine if the correct lube is being used or if lubes have been mixed.
- Miles/Hours on Lube and Components – For accurate time-based trending, the number of hours or miles on the component between the last oil change and the time the sample was taken should be included. This helps the analyst better understand wear rates and better identify outliers in new samples.
- Filter and Lube Change Information – The data analyst needs to know about all filters or lube changes to properly draw conclusions about the component’s lifetime. Significant changes in viscosity, for example, could warrant a filter change and results could look significantly off when compared to previous results.
Spectrochemical analysis identifies wear, contaminant and additive elements present in the oil sample and measures them in parts per million by weight.
- Wear Metals – Even with proper lubrication, friction between components can wear away metal surfaces. The wear metal products then suspended in the oil are composed of the same materials as the surfaces from which they originated telling the analyst which components are wearing. The level of each wear metal remaining in the used oil indicates the relative wear rate of the lubricated parts. Knowing equipment brand and model, as well as time on both the unit and the lubricant are vital to accurate wear metals analysis.
- Contaminants – Depending upon the circumstances, many substances can be classified as contaminants. Silicon, in the form of silicon dioxide (sand), is one of the most common contaminants monitored by spectrochemical analysis. Information regarding any environmental conditions the equipment is exposed to should be submitted with the sample as they can greatly affect the analysis of test results and the resulting maintenance recommendations. Although the term contamination is commonly associated with substances entering a component’s oil system from an external source, wear and additive metals themselves are also contaminants.
- Additives – Chemical compounds – or additive packages – are added to oils to enhance specific physical properties when in use. For an analyst to correctly determine whether or not a particular element is a contaminant or an additive that should be present, it is important to include the lubricant’s brand, type and grade when submitting samples. Additives present that are not part of the oil’s formulation could indicate “lube mixing.”
Testing a lubricant’s physical properties can identify even the earliest stages of degradation and is instrumental in determining suitability for continued use. But a data analyst’s analysis can only be as detailed as the information submitted with the sample allows. As with spectrochemical analysis, monitoring changes in physical properties can only correctly identify impending problems when given complete and accurate sample and equipment information. Physical tests include:
- Viscosity – a lubricant’s resistance to flow at a given temperature in relation to time
- Acid Number – total acidic material present in the lubricant
- Base Number – total alkaline material present in the lubricant
- Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy – identifies the number of various substances present in a sample by measuring the wavelength at which the substances absorb infrared light
- Fuel Dilution – the amount of unburned diesel fuel present in a lubricant; instrumental in identifying improperly adjusted or malfunctioning fuel system assemblies
- Fuel Soot – the amount of soot carbon suspended in the oil; can indicate reduced combustion efficiency.
- Glycol – positive/negative test for the presence of ethylene glycol which is indicative of a coolant leak
- Nitration – the presence of organic nitrates which form when combustion by-products enter the oil
- Oxidation – a measure of oil degradation due to the introduction of oxygen; causes formation of organic acids corrosive to metals
- Particle Count (or Quantifying) – count and measurement of the sizes of particles present in the lubricant
- Water – measure of water present in percent volume