Thursday, July 25, 2013

How Oil Analysis Pinpoints Engine Performance Issues

Oil is a vital component of your truck’s engine as it affects reliability, fuel consumption, efficiency, and your

bottom line. Owner-operators can optimize engine performance and overall truck drivability by identifying

performance problems in progress. Oil analysis can monitor both the engine and the fluid for wear and

contamination and should be part of every owner-operator’s Preventative Maintenance (PM) routine.

As engine oil is pumped throughout different parts of the engine, it picks up vital trace elements of engine

component wear and contamination. Oil analysis can monitor your diesel engine’s oil viscosity or thickness,

its ability to neutralize acids, and its ability to disperse and suspend soot particles. The test results can reveal

deficiencies before they become catastrophic.

There are two fuel conditions that could be found from the analysis:

A “rich” condition. A rich condition is when there is too much

fuel, usually caused by a faulty injector or fuel pressure

regulator and improper air-to-fuel ratios. Testing the engine

oil for fuel dilution can help in identifying this condition. Fuel

contamination thins the oil and dilutes the oil’s additives

reducing the oil’s film thickness and increasing the risk of

metal-to-metal contact.

A “lean” condition. A lean condition is evidence of a much

higher concentration of air-to-fuel in the combustion chamber.

Oil analysis will show increase in nitration (NOx). A change

in the air intake system, Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR)

operation and cooling system failures can influence this


Here are heat issues that could be found from the analysis:

• Heat expansion and the amount of heat rejection required of the Charge Air Coolers (CACs) in today’s

EGR engines causes significant levels of stress on an air cooler’s aluminum components. Good

connections between the turbo charger, CAC, and engine are critical for proper engine performance

and fuel economy. A cracked CAC or leaking hose connection can result in a “rich” condition leading to

excessive fuel consumption and/or loss of power.

• Engine temperature in excess of proper operating range will increase oxidation and nitration and deplete

the engine oil’s Total Base Number (TBN). Using oil analysis, these changes in oil condition can be

identified in their earliest stages.

If you would like to have an engine oil analysis performed, there are a number of laboratories to choose

from. The ATBS Maintenance Management Service (MMS) uses Polaris Laboratories® for coolant, engine

oil, transmission oil, and drive axle oil analysis. They provide excellent analysis reports in a very timely

manner. You can contact them directly at 1-877-808-3750.

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