Oil Analysis Should Be Part of a Vehicle Maintenance Program

By Karin Haumann

Oil analysis is a proven way to check the condition of the oil in your engine and detect oil contamination or conditions within your engine that could cause premature wear and downtime. Oil analysis should be part of a regular truck maintenance schedule, which can contribute to reduced Total Cost of Operation (TCO).

Engine oil is the lifeblood of the engine, so closely examining the characteristics of the oil can tell you a lot about its health and indicate mechanical issues with an engine. A regular oil-analysis program also lets you build a historical database and watch for trends. Ideally, a sample of used oil should be analyzed after every oil change for every piece of equipment.

Early Warning System. Oil analysis should be thought of as a cost-effective early warning system. Is there too much diesel fuel in the oil? You may need to check your fuel system. What about traces of coolant? Your cooling system may require a check-up. Too much dirt or soot? Maybe you’ve overextended your drain interval or have a leak in the air intake system. An oil-analysis lab can notice minor abnormalities long before you may be aware of them. This will allow you to act before these become possible operational problems or engine damage.

Finding the Right Oil Change Interval. What is learned from a consistent oil-analysis program can help you determine the best oil change interval, help increase equipment reliability, minimize unscheduled downtime, and, more precisely, track operating efficiency and maintenance practices. This combination can contribute to lower total operating cost and potentially help to extend oil change intervals, which can save on operating cost.

Oil Analysis for Engine Health. A good oil-analysis program can provide information on engine condition and oil quality. Data on every oil drain can provide a record of the engine’s health by showing contaminants that can indicate issues like engine wear, fuel dilution and soot.

For example, the wear metals section of an analysis report may detect a mechanical engine problem unrelated to the oil. For example, high levels of iron could indicate cylinder liner wear. Unusual levels of chromium, aluminum, lead, copper and tin – can be spotted and interpreted by the lab, helping provide valuable information about an engine.

Engine Oil Life. Oil analysis can also determine the useful life remaining in engine oil by looking at oxidation and nitration, additive depletion, viscosity and more. It can also show information about the condition of your oil. If the oil’s viscosity is too high, soot or other contaminants could be the cause of the oil to thickening.

High-Quality Engine Oils Combined with Oil Analysis. Shell Lubricants is committed to helping drivers and fleets reduce the TCO of their trucks across duty cycles and operating conditions with high-quality engine oils and oil analysis. The line of Shell Rotella synthetic blend and full synthetic engine oils can help increase fuel economy and protect against wear, deposits and oil breakdown. Oil analysis through Shell LubeAnalyst can help to optimize oil change intervals which can help drivers and fleets ensure maximum protection of their engines and to have the peace of mind that comes with taking the guesswork out of oil changes.

Karin Haumann is OEM technical manager, Shell Global Solutions.

Accurate Oil Analysis Sample
For accurate results, an engine oil analysis program requires users to follow a few fundamental procedures that often don’t get the attention they deserve when taking an oil sample analysis.

  • Provide an oil sample to the lab.
  • Provide all necessary information needed by the lab.  
  • Send the sample in immediately; don’t let it sit on the shop workbench for a month.

If you take your sample as the oil is drained, it’s important to wait five seconds and catch it midstream. That way, you won’t collect heavy metals or other deposits from the pan’s bottom.

Withdrawing oil through the dip-stick opening is another good way to take the sample. This can reduce the chance of outside dirt or contaminants getting into the sample and keep the oil from splattering when you place the bottle into the oil stream. However you take the sample, do it in the same manner each time to help keep your results consistent.

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