In previous articles, we have discussed topics related to advancing equipment maintenance practices, such as our series on The Maintenance Journey, Safely Extending Oil Change Intervals, and World Class Oil Analysis Program (Parts I & II). You can find all of these articles within the Archives section on the home page.
Continuing with this theme, we will be reviewing the use of premium lubricants to safely extend oil drain intervals. First, we must define what “premium” lubricants are and how they are different from “non-premium” lubricants.
Premium lubricants are engineered and formulated to perform above the standards that exist for various applications. For heavy duty diesel engine oils, the American Petroleum Institute (API) sets the performance standard, which is known as the API Service Category. In conjunction with representatives of the engine manufacturers, the additive and lubricant companies, ASTM and other interested parties, API sets minimum performance standards for engine lubricants, as well as the development of engine and bench tests needed to verify performance.
The current API Service Category for heavy duty diesel engines is CJ-4, while the next service category is under development and is known as PC-11. The whole process is outlined in the Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System, which you can learn more about at the API website.
The important point is that API and the manufacturers set minimum performance standards for lubricants, but they do not create maximum performance standards. It is the realm above the minimum performance standards where premium lubricants are intended to work and separates them from standard lubricants. You may ask why lubricant companies don’t just make “premium” products. The simple answer is that there are costs associated with increased performance. Pushing the boundaries of base oil and additive technology can result in many advances in lubrication performance, but those advancements come at a cost. Of course, there are limits to what end users will pay for increased performance, so there must be a balance between what is possible and what is practical.
But, are costs for premium lubricants really higher? The answer to that is realized when you understand the difference between price and overall maintenance cost. Price is what you pay for a product and cost is the aggregate of expenses incurred. This is why premium products can be very cost-effective when used to extend drain intervals. The benefit from the reduction of overall maintenance costs outweighs a higher initial acquisition price.
You may be wondering if premium lubricants must be used to safely extend drain intervals or if standard non-premium products achieve the same result. Well, the answer to that has to be qualified. Do the products in question meet the minimum performance standard for the application? Have you completed a baseline assessment of your current maintenance practices? If so, have you addressed any shortcomings uncovered by that assessment? Do you have a comprehensive oil analysis program in place?
We’ve covered each of these topics in previous Engineering Solutions articles. If you have answered “yes” to the above questions, then you may be able to extend drain intervals using standard, non-premium lubricants. However, to ultimately extract maximum cost reductions, you should consider upgrading to premium products. This will allow for greater oil drain extensions and, at the same time, provide superior lubrication and protection of your assets.
We recommend that you consider working with a lubrication specialist, such as a member of the Castrol Field Engineering team, who can provide guidance as you make changes to your equipment maintenance program.