order to provide a cost-effective oil analysis option when a full fluid
analysis is not required, Oil Analyzers has launched a new Oil Analyzers Value
Kit. This focuses on the most critical used-oil analysis tests. It provides
less information than traditional kits, but more focus on the areas of most
importance and effectively reveals whether the oil is suitable for continued
Value Kit focuses on oil viscosity (or thickness), corrosive wear potential,
wear metals and remaining oil additive components. These four indicators were
chosen because they correlate with the causes of almost all engine
lubricant-related failures: 1) oil is too thin to effectively lubricate; 2) oil
is too thick to effectively lubricate; 3) lack of oil, which is not really the
lubricant’s fault, but it is a leading cause of failure; and 4) oil is overcome
with acids, leading to corrosive wear.
thickness (or viscosity) at 100°F is a vital oil analysis measurement. The most
important function of lubricants is to provide separation of metal surfaces. If
oil becomes excessively thin (usually from fuel dilution), it can’t keep
surfaces separated adequately, resulting in faster wear or catastrophic damage.
On the other hand, if oil becomes too thick (usually from water or soot
contamination), it can’t be pumped to critical areas fast enough, resulting in
failure due to lack of oil.
development is the second area of focus in the new report. Your engine is being
fed a constant stream of acids from combustion gases. Antacid (detergent) is
built into the engine oil to neutralize these acids, but there is only so much
available. When acid-neutralizing additives are used up, you get an
accumulation of acids that attack metal surfaces, resulting in corroded
surfaces that break up quickly when stressed.
is measured by testing for the Total Base Number (TBN) and Total Acid Number (TAN).
TBN measures the acid-fighting capability left in the oil. The higher the number,
the more you have left. TAN is used primarily with lubricants that contain
little detergent. TAN is typically measured on hydraulic or compressor fluids.
next two areas are related because they are measured on the same test
equipment, but they represent two different bodies of information. Oil analysis
measures the types and amounts of elemental materials in the oil. Some of these
materials are beneficial components of the oil additive package and others are
contaminants or wear metals from the engine. The lab needs to know which oil
you are testing to plug in the expected amounts of beneficial oil additives for
comparison. These materials (e.g. calcium, zinc) need to stay in the oil so it
continues to provide good protection.
the other hand, even during normal operation, there will be some level of
engine wear taking place, so you always see some wear metals, i.e., iron,
aluminum. Normal wear metals that show in an oil analysis report are microscopic
particles; larger particles will be trapped by the oil filter. It is important to watch the rate at which
these build in the oil so that something causing the level to spike upward is
detected and corrected.
the Value Kit, these are the four key areas that can provide insight to the oil
condition. However, there are many times
where more information will be needed and one of the full-service oil analysis
kits should be used. If the unit being tested does not have an existing oil
analysis history of three or more samples, or if there is a suspected problem
with the equipment or lubricant, a full-service oil analysis should be used. The
additional testing provided in a full-service kit includes fuel dilution, soot
level, water contamination, and oxidation and nitration levels. These test
results are needed for troubleshooting lubrication problems and also for
setting extended drain intervals.
blend and full synthetic oils last longer and protect equipment better than conventional
petroleum-based products. However, for how much longer and how much better, an oil
analysis is needed to answer these questions.
Allen Bender is a manager with Oil