In a perfect world, we would be able to prevent all component failures within the equipment we manage. Unfortunately, we do not live in such a world, so unexpected failures do occur.
When a failure does happen, it is good practice to determine the root cause in order to prevent a reoccurrence. You can often repair a failed component, but if you don’t fix the cause of the failure, it will likely happen again. As you may have experienced, unplanned component failures can have a devastating effect on your ability to control costs.
Piecing together the events that led to a catastrophic component failure can be a difficult job… even under the best of circumstances. If the evidence involved is lost or destroyed, the exact cause of the failure may never be determined.
In the event that a piece of mobile equipment in your fleet experiences a component failure, the following steps will help to preserve the evidence needed to determine the cause:
- A hot oil sample should be drawn from the component as soon as possible. This may seem counter-intuitive to some mechanics and equipment managers, who view used oil analysis (UOA) only as a preventive tool. They may feel that once a component has failed it is too late for preventive measures. However, UOA is also a diagnostic tool, so that is why drawing a sample is so important. There may be valuable information about the cause of the failure contained in the oil, so take a sample quickly before contaminants settle out or other degradation occurs.
- If you’re going to request failure-analysis assistance from the Castrol® Field Engineering team, please reach out to us right away, so we can help you to preserve the information needed. If possible, we will make arrangements to visit the scene to gather information and observe parts as they are removed from the component. The worst course of action is to contact us after the component is apart and scattered about the shop or in the trash/recycling bin.
- Be sure to check and record the oil level. Importantly, do not top off a sump that was allowed to run low; if that is the condition, leave it like that and record the level. Changing conditions after the fact only deprives you of an accurate diagnosis.
- Preserve oil filters… do not remove and discard them. The same goes for the suction screen if the component has one (i.e. a powershift transmission). If these do get removed from the component or the fluid reservoir, be sure to store them in a clean re-sealable plastic bag.
- Gather the service and repair history of the component, including dealer repair invoices with mechanic’s reports and used oil analysis records. Oil level top-off records can also be very valuable. If you are not currently keeping records of top-off oil usage, it is recommended that you add this activity to your maintenance process immediately. Tracking the history of oil consumption is valuable for more than just post-failure analysis and should be a regular practice of every proactive maintenance program.
- If Castrol Field Engineering is involved in a post-failure analysis, the component will need to be dismantled. An appropriate shop and competent mechanic will be required. We always prefer to be onsite at the time of the tear down, but from time to time, due to difficulties in arranging schedules, this is not possible. In these cases, we would prefer to discuss the process with the shop manager prior to the disassembly of the component. The technician doing the work should be experienced in failure analysis, or at least in how to preserve the components for inspection. We can provide advice as required.
The steps outlined above should help to ensure the best possible outcome following a component failure.
As always, please contact your Castrol sales or field engineering representative for assistance.