What is Involved in an Oil Analysis?

8 September 2020

AUTHORED BY: Reliability360

An oil analysis reduces the chances of unplanned outages. Aside from determining when you should change your oil, it serves as an early-warning system for abnormal wear of internal parts. Catching a misalignment issue or a failing component before it causes major damage can save thousands of dollars and extend the usable life of your machinery.

Traditional oil analyses require turning off equipment to collect an oil sample. It is then packaged and sent to a lab, where technicians analyze it through microscopes and perform chemical tests to learn what particulates are in the oil.

New systems like R360 Mobile Lab allow you to do an oil analysis on site, without the need for a lab technician. It’s also possible to go even further with R360 Equipment Cloud to completely automate the process. It watches oil readings in real-time and you only need to take action when it sends you a text.

In this post, we’ll walk you through the process of how oil analyses are collected, what you should be studying in the results, and how to respond to some common scenarios.


How Oil Analyses are Collected

As mentioned above, there are a few different ways to collect oil for analysis. Most industrial facility operators find the traditional way to be inconvenient, because any machine that needs its oil analyzed must be shut down to get samples. Just this one step alone is a time-consuming process.

Afterward, the oil samples are sent to a lab and it normally takes weeks to get the results back. If you’re not in a hurry, that may not be a problem. But if you’re concerned about vital equipment that doesn’t seem to be running properly, such a long delay could be the difference between an inexpensive repair and an extended outage.

To make matters worse, most labs send reports that require a PhD to understand. Few provide an explanation of what numbers are problematic or what you should do to get them in an acceptable range. That means you also need to wait for a tech to visit your site, interpret the analysis results, then make any necessary repairs.

R360 Mobile Lab removes the confusion from the equation. The entire device fits in a ruggedized suitcase and connects directly to your machinery. You only need to connect two hoses: One for the oil to flow in, and the other to return it to your equipment. Then all you need to do is press start to read your oil analysis on the built-in screen. Everything is color coded with detailed explanations and recommendations, so you don’t need to guess about what to do in any situation.

R360 Equipment Cloud makes it even easier to get an analysis. It’s built on NERC/CIP compliant wireless technologies that are always connected to the machinery you want to monitor. You can access real-time oil analyses through any web browser whenever you want, or you can just wait for it to detect issues and send you a text. R360 Equipment Cloud stays connected to your machinery, so you never need to shut them off for an oil analysis.


What to Look for in Oil Analysis Results

When you read an oil analysis, there are a few items you always need to closely watch: water contamination, oil life and particulates. Water contamination causes oil to not coat components correctly, which means they wear faster. It also causes internal parts to corrode, which will reduce the life of your equipment.

Most oil analyses will also provide an estimate of how much life your oil has left before it needs changed. Following this estimate means you only change oil when it’s needed instead of just doing it on a schedule. Oil can look dark but still work perfectly well, so you can realize considerable cost savings by using this method to decide when to change oil.

Particulates can be large or small and what they’re made of can easily be determined by an oil analysis. You don’t want a lot of large particles flowing through your system because they cause excessive wear. You also don’t want your system to be full of dirt. Knowing the types, amounts and sizes of particulates in your oil shows if you have any problems that need to be addressed, such as a bad seal or a part failure.


Common Actions to Take Based on Oil Analyses

When you use R360 Mobile Lab or R360 Equipment Cloud, you get clear recommendations for what to check if your oil analysis shows a problem. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing the oil, other times you may just need to use an additive to remove varnish. And depending on the types of particulates found in your oil, you may need to change a part.

By following the recommendations from your oil analyses, you’ll find that your equipment runs more smoothly and you don’t have surprise outages. When everything is running properly, your oil analyses will be coded all green with no maintenance necessary. Those are always good days.


Contact Us to Learn More About Oil Analysis

Let the Reliability 360 lubrication specialists show you how easy oil analysis and interpretation can be.