A Simple Guide About Oil Analysis to Boost Engine Health

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One of the best effective techniques for auto upkeep is oil analysis. It gives you a look into your motor to assess the state of the lubricants and other components without lifting a screw or cutting your fingers. It is also easy and cheap.

An oil analysis tool is used to ensure that a greased machine is performing as expected. When a strange situation or variable is discovered by oil analysis, quick intervention can be made to address the underlying issue or stop a breakdown from progressing. Here is how to carry out oil analysis.

Oil Analysis – What Is It?

Let’s clarify our concepts first.

Oil analysis is the technique of chemically examining a sample of oil (usually used as engine oil) to ascertain the health of the lubricant and of the motor or part.

A specimen of the oil is taken, and it is sent to an accredited lab. Experts examine the lubricant to ascertain its total base number (TBN), degradation, percentage of wearing elements, and other factors. You receive a report from the lab that details the state of the lube, provides a short analysis and makes suggestions for ongoing maintenance.

A Simple Guide About Oil Analysis to Boost Engine Health - Vira Petroleum Company

Advantages of Oil Analysis

There are several advantages to checking the oil in your motor, all of which spare you time, cash, and trouble in the long run.

The Length of Oil Drainage Cycles

You may maximize drainage periods by keeping an eye on the oil’s quality to make the most of the fluid’s operational lifetime. Fewer oil replacements mean lower service expenses and more availability for companies that rely on regular cars. Additionally, it significantly minimizes the quantity of used oil you must transport to the recycling production facility, benefiting the ecology.

Boost Machine Longevity

You may drastically save maintenance expenses and extend the life of your systems and motors by keeping an eye on equipment health and purification effectiveness.

Avoid Significant Issues

Cleanliness, wear debris, fuel dispersion, coolant, and other impurities that might limit machine lifetime or induce severe breakdown are identified through oil analysis. By educating yourself with this knowledge, you may effectively address issues before they become worse.

Boost Investment Dependability

Testing and evaluation ensure that the machinery is up, operating, and earning money for companies that look after fleet vehicles rather than sitting in repair.

A Higher Resale Potential

The recording of significant sample data that comes from oil analysis might support more incredible device resale prices.

Why Conduct an Oil Analysis

Understanding the state of the oil is a clear benefit of oil analysis, but it also aims to shed insight into the state of the equipment from which the lubricant specimen was collected. Oil analysis can be divided into three primary classifications: fluid characteristics, contaminants, and abrasive wear.

These three aspects of information can be extracted from oil analysis:

Fluid Characteristics: The evaluation of the oil state indicates if the machine lubricant is in good health and suitable for continuous use or if it needs to be changed.

Contaminants: Increasing environmental impurities, including debris, moisture, and chemical pollution, are the main reason for equipment deterioration and malfunction. Intervention must be taken to preserve the oil and eliminate excessive equipment damage when impurity levels rise.

Device Wearing: The amount of wear particles produced by unclean machinery increases exponentially. Making important service choices is made easier with the help of pollutant identification and monitoring. It is possible to prevent equipment breakdown due to worn-out parts. It is critical to keep in mind that fresh, clean oil minimizes equipment damage.

A Simple Guide About Oil Analysis to Boost Engine Health - Vira Petroleum Company

Reading an Oil Analysis Report: What to Check for

For reliability, review and double-check the equipment model and oil sort information.

Check that development information is shown at an understandable rate and that data collected is displayed for changing oil circumstances (preferably consistent).

  • Verify the viscosity that was reported.
  • Validate the data on chemical wear and match it to references and trends. To connect pieces to their likely sources, use a wear particles atlas.
  • Examine the essential additive information and contrast it with the historical and trended data. To correlate pieces to their likely sources, use a wear particles atlas.
  • Particle numbers should be verified, and they should be compared to references and trended data. To relate pieces to their likely sources, use a wear particles atlas.
  • Examine the hydration concentrations and match them to historical data and trends.
  • Check the primary and acidic numbers, then match them to the standard and trended data.
  • Verify additional examined data, including analytical ferrography, flash point, demulsibility, FTIR oxidation levels, etc.
  • Explanations should be founded on any data groupings heading toward inappropriate values.
  • Check documented findings and suggestions against oil and equipment knowledge, such as current alterations in functional or ecological circumstances or oil updates.
  • Evaluate alert levels and make changes in light of the new data.
  • An oil analysis report generally includes a prepared overview that explains the findings and suggestions in simple words.

However, since the laboratory has never seen your machine or knows its complete history, these recommendations cannot be tailored to your specific situation. In light of all knowledge about the device, the environment, and recent lubrication tasks, the plant personnel who receive the lab report must take the appropriate action.

A Simple Guide About Oil Analysis to Boost Engine Health - Vira Petroleum Company

Tests for Oil Analysis

The test sheet for a typical machinery component might include “regular” testing for an oil analysis that is typically advised. These courses would be deemed “exception” tests if more examination is required to provide answers to complex questions.

Standard tests may differ depending on the generating part and the surrounding situation. Still, they should involve assessments of viscosity, chemical (spectrometric) analyses, moisture content, particle numbers, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, and acidity value. Analytical ferrography, ferrous density, demulsibility, and base number testing are further assays depending on the original apparatus.


Viscosity is measured using various techniques and expressed as kinematic or absolute viscosity. Although most industrial lubricants categorize viscosity using ISO-standardized viscosity grades (ISO 3448), this does not mean that all oils with an ISO VG of, say, 320 are precisely 320 centistokes (cSt). Each oil belongs to a specific viscosity grade by the ISO standard if it is within 10% of the viscosity midpoint.

According to a recent survey, 32% of lubrication specialists could not evaluate an oil analysis result from a professional laboratory.

The top quality of a lubricant is its viscosity. It is crucial to monitor the oil’s viscosity because variations might trigger various other issues, like degradation, glycol ingression, or heat stresses.

The existence of the wrong oil, structural shear of the oil and the viscosity index improver, oil aging, coolant pollution, or an effect from fuel, refrigerant, or chemical pollutants can all cause too high or too low viscosity measurements.

Depending on the category of lubricating oil being studied, there are restrictions for adjustments in viscosity. Still, they typically have a peripheral limitation of about 10% and a necessary condition of about 20% higher or lower than the intentional viscosity.

A Simple Guide About Oil Analysis to Boost Engine Health - Vira Petroleum Company

Base Level / Acid Number

Although the comparable, acid number and base number tests are used to analyze various lubricant and contaminant-related queries. The base number in an oil analysis test represents the oil’s store of alkalinity, whereas the acid number represents the oil’s acid percentage. The findings are presented as the milligrams of potassium hydroxide needed to neutralize one gram of oil’s acids. While base number testing is used for over-based engine oils, acid level testing is used for non-crankcase oils.

Using an inappropriate lubricant, chemical deficiency, or oil degradation may contribute to an acid level that is either too high or too low. A base value that is too low may signify high levels of motor fuel, dust, etc., improper oil, interior seep pollution (glycol), or oil degradation due to prolonged oil drainage periods and extremely hot temperatures.

Chemical Control

Chemical control increases lubricant durability. To retain an application’s optimal performance and restore lubricants beyond OEM standards, it is crucial in turbine systems to remove the disintegrated molecules that build up and create structural issues in hydraulic devices and lubricating oil uses.

The unique ICBTM Ion-exchange Filters remove varnished particles and restore lubricant solubility by focusing on the flow composition. Like everything else, this constructed workhorse eventually runs out of fuel. Time-based replacement periods for ICB filters are critical to ensure an application’s optimal performance and recover oils outside OEM standards.


Oil characteristics include pollution from gasoline, water, glycol, and dust, oil breakdown products like oxides, nitrates, and sulfates, and additives like zinc dialkyl dithiophosphate (ZDDP) phenols, which may all be quickly and accurately determined using FTIR.

The FTIR device detects each trait by keeping track of the change in infrared absorbency at a particular wavelength range or a spectrum of the wavelength range. Since many of the measured variables may not be definitive, these findings are frequently combined with those from other testing and regarded more as supplementary data. 

Chemical Analysis

Atomic emission spectroscopy (AES), often known as wear debris evaluation, is used in chemical analysis. With the help of this technology, the oil can be examined for the presence of wear particles, impurities, or additives. Rotating disc electrodes (RDE) and inductively coupled plasma (ICP) spectroscopy are the two most popular kinds of atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP).

The analysis of atoms smaller than 8 to 10 microns can only be done using RDE, while atoms less than 3 microns can only be analyzed using ICP. They help present trend data, though.

Finding out what is anticipated in the oil is the first step in monitoring this information. Any levels of additive substances can be easily recognized from those of pollutants thanks to the data source that an efficient oil analysis report will supply for the fresh oil. Furthermore, rather than concentrating on any test of chemical analysis data, it is preferable to study trends, given that many different categories of chemicals should be anticipated to some degree (even pollutants in some situations).

Detecting particles

The dimension and number of particles in the lubricant are measured using particle tracking. This information is evaluated using a variety of methodologies. It is focused on ISO 4406:99. This standard provides a ranging value corresponding to the particle densities of atoms more prominent than 4, 6, and 14 microns by designating three parameters followed by a forward slash. 

Water Analysis

The Karl Fischer titration technique is frequently used to determine the amount of water in oil test samples. Although data is typically presented as percentages, these testing reports findings in parts per million (ppm). It can locate moisture in all three states, including pure, dissolved, and emulsified. Before applying the Karl Fischer technique, non-instrument water content measurements like the hotplate and crackling tests are employed for testing. An excessively high or low water level could be caused by moisture infiltration from unprotected vents or ventilators, interior moisture brought on by temperature changes or sealing failures.

A Simple Guide About Oil Analysis to Boost Engine Health - Vira Petroleum Company

What Do the Findings of the Oil Analysis Report Look Like?

Each particle, pollutant, and additive listed above will have a total number in an oil analysis report. A lab will produce a result that ranks the amount of danger from acceptable to critical using the categories of monitoring, unusual, and usual. For example, a turbine lubricant’s most important function is to remove heat from the air side. The air is pressurized, which causes it to produce a lot of heat. The bearings, seals, and gears will all quickly break if this heat is not dissipated soon. Poor heat dissipation can be related to polluted lubrication or using the wrong lubricant.

A Simple Guide About Oil Analysis to Boost Engine Health - Vira Petroleum Company

Which Substances Listed in an Oil Analysis Report Are Regarded as Dispersants?

None would be the response on your typical routine oil analysis report. An additive, typically nonmetals (“ashless”) that maintains microscopic particles of insoluble elements in a uniform solution is known as a dispersion in oil. As a result, it is forbidden for molecules to separate and build up. Polyisobutylene succinimide is the dispersion chemical that is used most frequently.

Dispersants are natural molecules like antioxidants, viscosity-index enhancers, and some antifoam chemicals. Among the molecules that make up organic compounds are carbon, hydrogen, and possibly oxygen, nitrogen, or sulfur. None of these elements are ordinarily picked up by chemical element spectroscopy.

The following metallic additions are frequently examined using chemical analysis:

Additives to reduce wear: zinc and phosphorus (ZDDP)

High pressure: phosphorous under very high pressure

Cleansers: Calcium, magnesium, and barium 

However, chemical spectroscopy has two significant drawbacks that prevent it from monitoring additions. First, the method measures the specific components or atoms within the chemical molecule rather than the compounds themselves. Even though this statement may seem self-evident, it has significant ramifications when discussing the additive-depleting trend.

To comprehend the possible issue, examine the outcome of one of the most used additions, zinc dialkyl dithiophosphate (ZDDP), an anti-wear and antioxidant compound. A typical anti-wear hydraulic lubricant may include between 100 and 500 ppm of ZDDP, based on the formula, as determined by the chemical amounts of zinc and phosphorus. Because of hydrolysis, a chemical process between the ZDDP molecule and oxygen, an oil with ZDDP will likely experience considerable additive loss when exposed to high heat and higher humidity levels. Under these conditions, the final results of the hydrolysis process will probably be zinc ions and phosphates, which may still be in the solution in the oil even if they are no longer chemically ZDDP.

The distinction between “good” zinc and phosphorus in the form of ZDDP and “bad” zinc and phosphorus from chemical byproducts will therefore be nearly impossible to distinguish when merely considering zinc and phosphorus levels.

Perhaps even more important is the second constraint of chemical spectroscopy for detecting additive reduction. Numerous common additives, including dispersants, VI improvers, antioxidants, and some anti-foam additives, are made of organic compounds. An organic chemical molecule is made up of carbon, hydrogen, and maybe oxygen, nitrogen, or sulfur. Rotating disk electrodes (RDE) or inductively coupled plasma (ICP) spectroscopy, which do not typically identify any of these components, are of limited or no utility in assessing the quality of organic additives.

Fourier transforms infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy is a more accurate method of quantifying the additive loss. It will be possible to verify dispersants by analyzing the FTIR spectrum.

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