To provide a cost-effective oil-analysis option when a complete oil analysis isn’t required, Oil Analyzers INC. offers its Oil Analyzers Value Kit that focuses on the most critical used-oil analysis tests. While it provides less information than traditional kits, it focuses on the most important areas and effectively reveals whether the oil is suitable for continued use.
The Value Kit provides information on…
- Oil viscosity (or thickness)
- Corrosive wear potential
- Wear metals
- Remaining oil-additive components
Oil Analyzers INC. chose these four indicators because they correlate with the causes of almost all lubricant-related failures, including…
- Lack of oil (not the lubricant’s fault, but it is a leading cause of failure)
- Oil that’s too thin to effectively lubricate
- Oil that’s too thick to effectively lubricate
- Excessive acid accumulation, leading to corrosive wear
Oil viscosity is a vital oil-analysis measurement
The most important function of lubricants is to separate metal surfaces and prevent them from wearing against each other. If oil becomes excessively thin (usually from fuel dilution), it can’t keep surfaces separated adequately, resulting in increased wear or catastrophic damage.
On the other hand, if oil becomes too thick (usually from water or soot contamination), the engine can’t pump it to critical areas fast enough, resulting in failure due to lack of oil.
TBN and TAN are also important
Acid development is the second area of focus in the Value Kit.
Combustion gases create a constant stream of acids. Antacids (detergents) are added to the engine oil to neutralize acids, but they deplete over time.
When acid-neutralizing additives are depleted, acids accumulate and attack metal surfaces, resulting in corroded surfaces that can break-up quickly when stressed.
Total base number (TBN) measures the acid-fighting capability left in the oil. The higher the number, the more you have left. Total acid number (TAN) is used primarily with lubricants like hydraulic fluid or compressor oil that contain less detergents.
Oil analysis also measures the types and amounts of elemental materials in the oil.
Some of these materials are beneficial components of the oil-additive package and others are contaminants or wear metals from the engine.
The lab needs to know which oil you are testing to know the expected amounts of beneficial oil additives for comparison. These materials (e.g. calcium, zinc) need to stay in the oil so it continues to provide good protection.
On the other hand, even during normal operation, some level of engine wear will occur, so you always see some wear metals (e.g. iron, aluminum) on an oil-analysis report. Normal wear metals that show in a report are microscopic particles; the oil filter will trap larger particles. It is important to watch the rate at which these accumulate in the oil so you can identify potential problems and correct them before the engine fails.
Complete oil analysis sometimes needed
Despite the Value Kit’s benefits, you sometimes need the added information a full-service oil analysis kit provides.
If the vehicle tested does not have an existing oil-analysis history (ideally three or more samples) or if there is a suspected problem with the equipment or lubricant, use a full-service oil analysis kit.
The additional testing provided in a full-service kit includes…
- Fuel dilution
- Soot level
- Water contamination
- Nitration levels
These test results are needed for troubleshooting lubrication problems and also for setting extended drain intervals.