Used oil analysis is a proactive maintenance measure that can highlight signs of mechanical failure within the engine before it starts, ultimately, saving you time and money.
By Ron LeBlanc Sr.
Collecting and transporting recyclables and waste puts waste hauling vehicles and equipment under extreme pressure. Having to operate in high idling conditions while operating a hydraulic pump, at varying temperatures, with regular stop/starts, puts a significant amount of strain on their engines. Therefore, any unplanned maintenance that leads to unnecessary downtime can be extremely disruptive for managers trying to run a cost-effective fleet.
Operating vehicles smoothly and efficiently has multiple benefits—it can increase safety and improve the reliability of vehicles while ensuring that operator time is not wasted. In turn, this allows the maintenance team to use their time more effectively by being able to get ahead of potential issues and avoiding expensive critical repair needs.
A proactive maintenance program will not only help to keep vehicles safe and reliable, but also keep them working for longer between maintenance periods, making it the most cost-effective solution for ensuring vehicles run at peak performance. Individual pieces of equipment are always vulnerable to wear and tear, but if maintenance issues are ignored, they could lead to a catastrophic failure that requires larger and more expensive repairs on the whole vehicle.
Seeing the Bigger Picture
To secure potential efficiencies, managers should take a holistic view. As part of this approach, engine oil quality needs to be considered, as lubricants play an important role in maintaining the efficiency and operation of waste fleet vehicles. High-quality engine oils help minimize metal-to-metal contact between components, reducing pumping and cranking losses, and, therefore, improving efficiencies.
Regular maintenance, monitoring and testing is crucial to ensure reliability, safety, longevity and productivity. However, maintenance costs can be expensive. So how can these costs be reduced while ensuring that equipment is monitored effectively?
Analyzing the used oil in an engine can play a central role. It gives vital clues as to what is happening inside machinery, providing early warnings of any potential problems and minimizing the risk of damage and unplanned downtime.
Used oil analysis is a proactive maintenance measure that can highlight signs of mechanical failure within the engine before it starts, ultimately, saving you time and money. The data from a used oil analysis report can indicate to operators the potential to extend oil drain intervals,1 providing another effective method for reducing maintenance costs and increasing the time that the fleet is working.
Easy as One, Two, Three
Used oil analysis is a three-step process, consisting of taking a representative sample, sending it to a qualified used oil analysis lab and acting on the recommendations that experts provide:
1. Taking a representative sample—Getting an accurate sample is crucial. Working from an improper sample can lead to inaccurate interpretation of the results and potential equipment damage or failure. A clean, dry container suitable for holding used oil should be used, with a label affixed to it that has the information for the laboratory to put into their database; for example, equipment type and miles/ hours of operation. Before taking the sample, the sampling point should be clean, and a small amount of oil should be flushed to ensure that no foreign contaminants make their way into the bottle.
2. Sending the sample to a qualified used oil analysis laboratory—Once the sample has been taken, it should be sent to a certified oil analysis laboratory. This needs to happen quickly as in some cases, a delay can mean the difference between being able to diagnose and correct a serious condition, and losing a critical piece of equipment due to failure. The laboratory will then test the oil and provide accurate results and diagnosis in a report.
3. Interpreting and acting upon the report results—To effectively interpret the results for your equipment, it is key to have guidelines on what levels are normal for your type of machine and how it operates, as looking at the trends over time provides more insight than single values.
Analyzing and Interpreting
The report will provide information, but how to interpret it is crucial and having a base level of understanding allows operators to identify anomalies, trends and what adaptations they may need to make.
If glycol or coolant is present, it could suggest a failing EGR cooler seal. Key indicators are levels of silicon, potassium or sodium—if any of these are present in higher quantities than expected, checking the engine and potentially changing the oil may save issues in the future.
Detecting higher levels of iron and aluminium are also indicative of potential issues. This could be caused by a failing camshaft, coolant leaking and attacking the liners, or the engine needing mechanical adjustment. As with all mechanical issues, discovering the problem early often results in a cheaper, quicker and easier fix.
A strong sign that the engine has developed a fault is the presence of unburnt fuel, as well as an increase in wear metals (iron, aluminium, lead and copper); if ever either of these metals are present at significant levels, it is recommended to seek advice from a trained lubricant expert.
When analyzed and actioned, used engine oil analysis reports can provide waste fleet operators with the ability to predict issues and stop them before becoming a problem, which, ultimately, can enable the equipment to run more efficiently, with less unplanned downtime, and crucially, without costing you more money. | WA
Ron LeBlanc Sr. is Senior Technical Services Advisor, Heavy Duty Engine and Driveline Oils, at Petro-Canada Lubricants (Mississauga, ON). He joined Petro-Canada Lubricants in 2006, having been certified as a lubrication engineer in 1997. A longstanding STLE member and a Certified Lubrication Specialist, he is responsible for introducing potential customers to Petro-Canada Lubricants technical services. He covers all markets and customers with an industrial operation, including food processing, power generation, lumber processing as well as fleet, mining and construction. Ron is responsible for five states: Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Idaho and Oregon. For more information, visit https://lubricants.petro-canada.com/.
1. Extending drain intervals should always be undertaken in conjunction with an oil analysis program.