By Karl Rudman, Business Development Manager at Petro-Canada Lubricants Europe

Fleet owners and operators who want to reduce operational downtime and maintenance costs, along with improving the productivity and efficiency of their fleet are advised to incorporate used oil analysis into their maintenance schedule.

Oil analysis should be a crucial element of a fleet’s maintenance because by identifying early warning signs of maintenance problems, used oil analysis can highlight mechanical failure before it becomes too expensive or serious to repair. Additionally, undertaking oil analysis offers the chance to extend oil drain intervals*, which is another way fleet owners can reduce maintenance costs and keep their vehicles on the road for as long as possible.

A three-step process

Typically, oil analysis is a simple three-step process which involves taking a representative sample from the oil, sending the sample to a qualified used oil analysis laboratory, and then interpreting and most importantly, acting upon the recommendations once the results are received.

When oil analysis is incorporated regularly into a maintenance program, it allows technical advisors to evaluate the results and trends over a long period of time. This information plays a factor when making a recommendation on whether it’s possible to extend oil drain intervals without compromising the protection of vital engine components.

Report comprehension and interpretation

Technical advisors will provide detailed and knowledgeable insight into the findings of a fleet’s used oil analysis report, but it’s also useful for fleet owners and operators to be aware of what might come up. Having that level of understanding can help to analyse the findings of the report, and determine how the fleet may be impacted. With that knowledge, fleet owners can identify trends and anomalies in a timely manner and maintenance schedules can be changed accordingly.

For example, if the results show that glycol or coolant is present in the engine oil, it could be an indicator of a failing EGR cooler seal which would require a mechanic to have a closer look and a potential engine oil change. For fleet owners reading their used oil analysis report, increased presence of silicon, potassium or sodium within the oil could be one of the first signs that this is taking place.

Significant increases of iron and aluminium can also be a sign that something is wrong. A failing camshaft, coolant leak attacking the liners, or the engine requiring mechanical adjustment could all be potential causes of this. It’s easier and more cost effective to undertake smaller maintenance tasks so when it comes to spotting these signs, sooner really is better.

An obvious sign that the protection of crucial engine components may be compromised is the presence of unburnt fuel combined with an increase in wear metals (iron, aluminium, lead and copper) within the sample. Whenever this is the case, it is recommended that fleet owners seek expert lubricant advice to help resolve these serious issues.

Used oil analysis gives fleet owners the ability to predict wear throughout service life and highlight any maintenance needs before they seriously affect engine performance and become more expensive to address. Used oil analysis can help predict future maintenance and prevent any imminent failures to drastically reduce downtime. Additionally, when owners monitor the levels of key properties in the engine oil themselves, these impurities can reveal how and why machinery is wearing down, giving them even more time to identify where their engine is failing so it can be dealt with swiftly.

*Extending drain intervals should always be undertaken in conjunction with an oil analysis program.