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1 June 2018

There are basically two different ways of using the information gained from used oil analysis.

The traditional and common use of used oil analysis is to watch for problems or imminent failures that may be developing in an individual component (engine, transmission, pump, etc.) so that corrective action may be taken to prevent a complete failure. The savings in reduced part costs and reduced downtime resulting from planned versus emergency repairs can easily pay for the cost of an oil analysis program.

Comparing the costs of a before-failure repair to an after-failure repair can show dramatic savings. When you add in the savings from reduced downtime (aka increased equipment availability), the economic benefit of using an oil analysis program is usually quite evident. This is so apparent that the major equipment manufacturers, such as Caterpillar and Komatsu, endorse oil sampling or may even require it as a condition of warranty.

Even if an equipment manager never takes oil analysis beyond this point, it can still be a valuable tool for reducing a company’s operating costs.

However, an oil analysis program can be taken to a much higher level. Gathering together all of the used oil analysis data from a fleet of equipment and compiling it so that it can be sorted and mined for information can lead to a powerful tool for an equipment manager.

To clarify, data by itself may have the potential to be helpful, but data by itself is not information. What is needed is a way to sort through all of the data in order to find the information within. A world-class oil analysis system can not only catch the danger signals and warn the user of an impending catastrophic failure, but it can also sort through all of the data to indicate patterns in the used oil analysis data. The goal is to identify problem areas, which can help a wise equipment manager to address the cause of the problems. Used this way, used oil analysis can become a far more powerful tool than many users ever imagined.

If oil consumption is not tracked, then it is almost impossible to identify exactly what happened and when. The usual outcome is a “guesstimate” based on clues. This often results in no one being held accountable and no changes being made to avoid repeat occurrences. Having an accurate record of events can really make a big difference.

Finally, in modern diesel engines with exhaust after-treatment equipment, like diesel oxidation catalysts (DOC) and diesel particulate filters (DPF), excessive oil consumption can negatively affect these devices, requiring servicing or replacement. Knowing the engines that are consuming oil and how much they are consuming allows an equipment manager to be prepared for problems affecting the DOCs and DPFs in his fleet.

Keeping track of top-off oil is one of the “low-hanging fruit” activities that can be implemented to improve your maintenance program. The cost to implement is low and can be as simple as tracking forms placed where mechanics, oilers, and drivers/operators will have access to them when they top-off the engine oil… see image for an example.

Simply load up a clip board with a pen and a stack of the forms and place it next to the bulk oil dispenser or next to where new oil bottles are stored. As your employees dispense the top-off oil, they should record this critical information.

Another option is to include this activity as part of the pre-trip inspection process that your drivers/operators use to record the condition of the equipment each day. You then need a routine where the logs are collected and entered into a computerized maintenance management system or even into a simple spreadsheet created for the task.

It is then up to the equipment manager to make time to review this information on a regular basis. It will require a small initial outlay of time and resources to implement, but the payoff is keeping better track of the oil consumers in the fleet and how much they are consuming. Benefits include helping to improve equipment availability, reducing costs, and reducing workload… this results in a win-win-win situation.

Please consider contacting the knowledgeable and experienced Castrol®field engineering team, which is available to help you with oil top-off issues or any other questions you have regarding your used oil analysis or fleet maintenance programs.