How to use an oil analysis program to your advantage

Today's truck and heavy-duty equipment operators demand the most from their vehicles, so having a well “oiled” machine that experiences little downtime is imperative. Implementing an oil analysis system can help to accomplish this by maximizing equipment efficiency as well as engine durability.

But what is an effective oil analysis program and how does it help extend equipment engine life and reduce maintenance costs?

Extending intervals

A proper oil analysis program allows owners/operators to make more informed maintenance decisions. The timely equipment condition information provided through oil analysis results can help users decrease maintenance expenses through component life extension, extended oil drains, and breakdown avoidance.

Programs offered through the ConocoPhillips family of brands are examples of proper programs, according to Joe Nixon, services coordinator for the company. The MaintenanceGuy oil analysis program — available through Conoco, Phillips 66, and 76 Lubricants brands — acts as an end-to-end system for equipment condition monitoring that produces data on performance of lubricants in equipment or engines. Its Web-based condition monitoring software allows users to capture customized variables like hours of operation and miles of service. This creates a secure central database that houses equipment condition histories and generates intuitive graphs to help visually identify at-risk equipment and make cost-effective maintenance decisions.

Different sites on one database

Interactive Web-based software of this nature can combine equipment from different sites into one database so that authorized users can compare and benchmark equipment throughout the company or the world. This means users can collaborate with other maintenance experts via the Internet to better diagnose problems. As a result of less data handling, an elimination of paperwork, and easier interpretation of data, maintenance personnel can put more of a focus on maintenance and not software.

Another example of a proactive oil analysis program is the ConocoPhillips' Kendall Lubricants Analysis System (KLAS). Through KLAS, Bill Burgess, fleet maintenance supervisor for a school district bus fleet, extended drain intervals by 10,000 miles. During his seven years of using the KLAS program, Burgess said he has never had a vehicle suffer an oil-related engine failure.

“Some of our buses have over 200,000 miles on them and have never had an overhaul,” said Burgess. “We've never had a problem since we enlisted the KLAS system, which has resulted in the elimination of inconvenient, costly downtime.”

Andy Gilland of Pemberton Trucking has had a similar experience by taking advantage of Kendall's KLAS program. He said the KLAS program has increased Pemberton's oil drain intervals by about 10,000 miles.

Private detective

By monitoring component wear and contamination levels, an oil analysis system also assists with detecting engine trouble in its earliest stages, so minor problems may be repaired before they become major ones. Early detection of coolant leaks, fuel dilution of the oil, or metal wear is critical to extending engine life. Through an operative oil analysis program, a truck can be taken out of service and repaired while a problem is still small, and unexpected on-the-road breakdowns can be minimized or avoided.

Greg Fraser of Listowel Truck Centre in Ontario, Canada, has also been using the KLAS system since it was first created, and said it does detect potential problems inside the engine.

Life support

Another benefit of an oil analysis program is extending the life of equipment components. Full equipment failures are expensive; however, they can be sidestepped with an oil analysis system. Guided by such a system in conjunction with regular maintenance, owner/operators may be able to keep existing parts running smoothly and effectively.

An example of how this approach can add value is through Pemberton's five-year trade-in program. Trucks are turned in with about 600,000 miles on each, and Gilland said they have been trading in equipment minus any internal repairs and also have low equipment turnover.

History 101

Through oil analysis and regular upkeep, owner/operators are able to see the life history of parts on paper. Such a history will not only save time, but also will allow the mechanic to fix the problem instead of troubleshooting. However, when problems do occur, more informed maintenance decisions are easier to make based upon the equipment history. In effect, this will not only help save money, but also prevent expensive repair time. When it comes time to sell or trade, a complete and accurate analysis history of the vehicle may increase the value of the equipment.

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