The quality of a machine’s oil directly correlates to its lifespan and how well it functions. Without the proper lubrication, parts grind together, engines overheat, contaminants run rampant, and machinery failure becomes imminent. Buying quality oil is only part of maintaining the health of your machinery, and oil health is just as important. Without consistent sampling, even the highest quality oil will cause your machinery to fail over time. To help you maintain the health of your machinery and your lubricant, let this article be your complete guide to oil analysis and sampling.
What Is Oil Analysis?
Conducting an oil analysis should be part of equipment maintenance. The purpose of oil analysis is less to understand the quality of the lubricant in a machine and more to determine if a machine operates properly. These analyses are small parts of what’s known as “tribology,” or the study of wear and tear in machinery. The idea is to take the oil sample, send it for testing, read the report, and adjust practices and machine usage accordingly. By running a series of tests, which we will discuss, you can identify unseen problems and mitigate future issues.
Common Types of Oil Analyses
We can break down oil analyses into three main categories: wear debris, contamination, and fluid properties. Wear debris tests are great for predictive maintenance, while contamination and fluid property tests are best for proactive maintenance. If you have trouble deciding which test is best for your machinery, the laboratory you work with can determine the ideal test for you. Below are a few common oil tests.
Viscosity is the measurement of a fluid’s resistance to flow due to internal friction. The viscosity of your oil will determine how well it flows, and your OEM has specific viscosity requirements. You can test the viscosity of oil in many ways, but the intention is to determine whether the oil in your machinery meets expectations and is considered a part of proactive maintenance.
An elemental analysis, also known as element spectroscopy, is part of proactive maintenance and uses sensitive equipment to detect and measure specific elements, such as aluminum, calcium, and copper. It’s an effective way to determine if the oil has been contaminated, especially if it has been contaminated by water.
Analytical ferrography is common for predictive maintenance and allows analysts to examine and quantify the number of wear particles in a sample. This test looks for traces of steel iron. Unlike other tests, the equipment does not have particle size or metallurgy limitations. By separating solid contaminants and wear debris, you can determine if excessive wear is occurring and even where it’s coming from within the machinery.
Base and acidity levels, as well as water contamination, are tested using titration methods, all of which are critical parts of proactive and predictive maintenance. Oil needs to neutralize acids that result from the combustion process—too much acid, and your oil may not be doing its job. Additionally, water and oil don’t mix, and water in your oil can increase the rate of wear and tear. If titration analysis identifies a certain amount of water content, take preventative measures to protect your equipment.
Why Conduct an Oil Analysis?
As you may already know, conducting an oil analysis can tell you a lot about how your machine functions and if your lubricant can do its job. Many tribologists will tell you that oil analysis is like a blood test. It doesn’t just determine the “health” of your blood; it also determines your health, which is the machine in this example.
These tests aren’t necessarily cheap to conduct, so it’s understandable that you may try to find ways to cut costs or circumvent this necessity. However, it is in your best interest to send in samples, as these tests can prevent failures, maximize the service life of oil and equipment, save money on unnecessary repairs, and do much more. In the long run, having your oil analyzed will save you more money than you would spend on maintenance and repairs down the line.
How To Take an Oil Sample
There is no single way to take an oil sample, as the lab you choose to work with will have specific tools and requirements for you to take your sample. Depending on the tests you wish to run and the laboratory’s instructions, you may have to conduct pressurized line camping, drain port sampling, or tube sampling.
The goal is to minimize the potential for contamination and recreate the exact environment the machine typically operates in. Ideally, you’ll do this while the machine is up and running, but this isn’t always possible or safe. In this case, you would quickly shut off the machine and take the sample before the oil cools and the contaminants settle to the bottom of the container that holds the sample.
When choosing a laboratory to work with, make sure they follow and adhere to International Organization of Standards (ISO) guidelines. If they have a certification issued by the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML), they likely follow these guidelines.
Reading Your Report
When you get your report, you might be overwhelmed by what you see, but don’t panic! The report will neither provide you with specific recommendations nor will tell you whether the results are good or bad. Compare your results to the ideal levels written within the machinery’s OEM instructions. For example, if your report states the oil’s iron level is at 300 ppm, and the maximum level in your engine’s manual states this level should not be over 200 ppm, you need to address a wear trend in the machinery.
Hopefully, this guide to oil analysis and sampling makes maintaining your equipment a little easier. Santie Oil is a bulk oil distributor with everything you need to get parts moving and keep that motor humming. If you need an oil refill or your machinery is in desperate need of an oil update, contact Santie Oil today.