5 Reasons You Need to be Testing Your Coolant

40 to 50 percent of preventable premature engine failures can be traced back to problems in the cooling system

The majority of those failures are due to issues in the cooling system that can be identified early with coolant sampling

The Importance of Adding Coolant Testing into Your Program

Have you lost an engine and wish you could have caught the problem before the point of no return? Or better yet, what if you could determine the root cause all together? Adding coolant testing to your existing program can do exactly that.

Only monitoring the lubricant provides a limited view of a much bigger picture.

Research has found that when physicians take a whole body approach, their patients heal faster, have a higher success rate, and have a more favorable response to a prescribed medication or therapy. In thinking about our equipment, we should take a similar approach. If you are not testing your coolant, you are ignoring half the patient and half the problems.

As engine metallurgy and design have become more advanced and the demand for increased fuel efficiency and emission’s, engine operating temperatures have increased more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 50 years. This puts a greater emphasis on maintaining the thermal loads placed on the modern cooling systems.

Some common issues that can be detected and addressed with coolant testing include:

1. Identifying incorrect glycol concentration

There are many causes for the glycol concentration to not be at the proper ratio. Some of the common causes include system top offs with water or coolant concentrate, loss of water due to boil off from a defective pressure cap, and/or flush water left in the system. When glycol concentration is not at the proper ratio per OEM specification problems occur including coolant and engine block freezing, seal damage, and/or overheating. This reduces the life of the lubricant and may cause premature engine failure.

2. Are your pH levels out of specification?

Monitoring the coolant pH levels will indicate early concerns within the cooling system. An engine coolant’s acceptable pH level varies depending upon the coolant formulation. Issues that may arise when pH is out of specification include corrosion of iron components and other metals which often results in pitting of engine liners. Also, corrosives will attack the EGR coolers, or any other cooler in the system. The problem is exacerbated when corrosion protection inhibitors drop out of solution which causes plugging and inadequate coolant flow. When coolant cannot properly circulate, heat cannot be removed efficiently from the engine and the lubricant degrades more quickly resulting in shorter drain intervals.

3. Inadequate corrosion protection inhibitors

The purpose of corrosion protection inhibitors are to maintain pH, prevent foaming and prevent internal metal surfaces from corroding. When corrosion exists in the cooling system heat will not be efficiently removed. Additionally, a corrosive environment will attack most solder joints causing holes and leaks in the system. These leaks will in themselves cause secondary issues including internal coolant boiling, contamination, and adverse chemical reactions.

4. Find sources of contamination

There are many possible sources of contamination which cause damage to the cooling system and ultimately the engine. For our purposes, we will focus on the most preventable source: water, which is used to dilute coolant concentrate or top-off the system. Using water that does not meet ASTM and/or OEM manufacturer’s specifications will increase scale formation and corrosion potential within the cooling system. Even ‘clean’ tap water may contain magnesium, calcium, sulfate or chloride in levels that are harmful for the equipment. Scale forms where the greatest amount of heat transfer is needed and acts as an insulator resulting in overheating and engine damage.

If you want to learn more about adding water to your cooling system, check out our video here.

5. Detect early failure

Coolant testing can indicate combustion gas leaks, air leaks, glycol degradation, electrical issues and contaminants. Each issue will cause chemical reactions within the cooling system, resulting in failure. With early detection, scheduled down time for repairs can be made. Correcting the issue will help prevent complete engine failure or unexpected downtime.

Corrosion occurs at a slower rate than engine wear. This is why engine failures occur more frequently but are often traced back to issues within the cooling system. The cooling system must be able to circulate coolant, remove heat from the system and dissipate the heat in order to function correctly. When the cooling system is not able to circulate or remove the heat effectively, we will see reduced life of the lubricant, increased engine wear, and/or issues with system components, which often result in premature engine failure.

Test all fluids in your equipment!

Testing all fluids within the equipment by utilizing an effective fluid analysis program will help reduce unexpected down times and/or equipment replacements – resulting in an increase return of investment (ROI).

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Published April 16, 2019

Improving Reliability with Oil Analysis

One of the greatest benefits of effective reliability practices is the impact on the total cost of ownership for equipment. There are many obvious savings, such as increased production, uptime and lower maintenance costs. Unfortunately, once a piece of equipment is out of the design phase, there is a fixed upper limit to the level of reliability that can be achieved without modifying components of the equipment. That doesn’t mean that once you’ve made the investment, you are powerless to do anything to improve reliability. Oil analysis can give you information that may be used to influence OEM designs and your future purchases.

Oil analysis can provide insights to influence decisions

A customer participating in oil analysis has a mixed fleet of on-highway trucks and used the HORIZON® Problem Summary Report to compare their different engine manufacturers. They found that an OEM was showing a high percentage of samples with coolant contamination issues. They reviewed their various models of engines from the OEM and found that one specific model was the biggest culprit, with 15 percent of all samples showing at least the beginning signs of coolant ingression.

The customer provided the engine OEM with the findings from the maintenance observations recorded in their CMMS as well as the data from the problem summary report. The OEM reviewed the data, realized that they had an issue and began investigating the EGR cooler design. The OEM redesigned the EGR cooler which reduced coolant ingression issues to less than 5 percent.

In this example, in addition to oil analysis reducing downtime for the customer, reliability was improved for all users of that engine. Warranty costs for the OEM were reduced and the communication with the customer and subsequent research will also improve future engine design.

Would you rather be in a cycle of warranty claims and repairs or do you change your mindset regarding reliability?

Accepting failures and predictive maintenance as a part of normal operation and having maintenance personnel focused on repairs rather than upkeep will keep you from having a truly reliable operation.

Talk to our experts at POLARIS Laboratories® today to find out how we can help you harness the full potential of your data.

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Published April 2, 2019

Stay Up-To-Date on HORIZON® Features

What’s New

At POLARIS Laboratories®, we strive to continue to provide our customers with advancements and improvements to our data management platforms – to make it easier to manage data. In the past few months, we’ve released a number of updates to the HORIZON® data management website, mobile application and our DataConnect integration feature.

HORIZON Updates

  • Users are now able to transfer components from different accounts in the HORIZON mobile app
  • Starting on April 1, there will be a minimum version requirement for the mobile app
    • To avoid difficulties with using the app, please update to the latest version

DataConnect Updates

To further integrate automation with asset management and maintenance systems, an update to our our DataConnect service will soon include the ability to add, update, and transfer your equipment data. This update is currently in testing and expected to be released soon. If you are interested in learning more about this feature, please contact us.

 

Download or update your HORIZON app below:

     

 

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Published March 26, 2019

Protect Your Investment, Protect Your Grease

Grease: a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

Most lubrication fundamentals are fairly well understood in this day and age. There are plenty of websites with documentation on topics ranging through a variety of lubricating systems and analysis. There are even a lot of manufacturers, laboratories and literature on the key points and fundamentals of the variety of other fluids used today, such as fuels, solvents and even coolants.

However, one area that is still shrouded in mystery to most: Grease.

Grease: A History

A semi-solid lubricant, grease generally it consists of a soap, emulsified with an oil, (though clays are used in place of the soap in some extreme temperature applications). Some of the first recorded applications were used by the Egyptians and the Romans, thousands of years ago, though modern greases really came about during World War II.

Manufacturing Complications

In the recent years, the manufacture of greases has been described as an art. The processes is very complicated and requires:

  • High temperatures and pressures
  • Oil charges added at specific times and flow
  • Accurate application – if not, the grease will fail and turn into slop

The tests designed to qualify the greases from the production environment were designed many decades ago and mainly designed to ensure quality during manufacturing. They were not designed to qualify greases, in the most part, for use in the field.

Grease Formulations

To make matters more complicated, most literature from OEM’s specify a NLGI grade, a soap type and if you are really lucky, a base oil viscosity requirement. Grease manufacturers have made a huge number of formulations and in many cases, these three parameters may be identical, yet the actual formulations could be significantly different and in fact incompatible with each other. Not all greases are compatible. Even greases of the same soap composition may be incompatible with each other, resulting in a complete loss of lubrication in the component.

Grease Sampling

The next issue is related to sampling. The process of lubrication utilized in a greased system is different compared to a similar oil-lubricated system. Grease is designed to release the lubricating oil charge with the soap holding it into the area where the lubrication is required. As a result, the grease in the compartment will most likely be extremely non-homogeneous. If the grease is sampled from the outer surface or from the corners of the system may not been representative of the grease next to the area being lubricated. Taking a representative sample that will provide a valuable maintenance recommendation is a really challenging activity. There are some excellent resources available to combat this issue, I suggest reading the ASTM D7718 Practice for Obtaining In-Service Samples of Lubricating Grease.

Grease Testing

The final step of conventional condition monitoring and equipment maintenance is normally testing of the fluid. As noted above, a number of conventional grease tests, are designed to qualify grease manufacture. These tests, such as penetration and dropping point, may not give any significant information for reliability purposes. This may seem of great concern to most, but in-service grease testing is an area where most current research is focuses on.

Why Test Your Grease?

Grease is rather complicated compared to conventional lubricating system’s condition monitoring systems. You might ask, why bother? Really, it comes down to cost. Grease is generally more expensive than the equivalent lubricant, sometimes by a factor of 10 or more. In addition, a large number of grease systems are designed to last a much longer periods between re-greasing compared to some conventional oil lubrication systems. As a result there is a real financial gain to be found from obtaining effective maintenance reliability recommendations.

POLARIS Laboratories® will be adding grease to our fluid analysis capabilities in the coming months. Stay tuned!

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Published March 21, 2019

Harsh Environments Halting Production?

Harsh operating conditions, extreme load variations and the high-dollar costs involved in downtime and equipment replacement make fluid analysis a necessary part of doing business in the mining industry. Routine testing identifies small problems before they become major failures allowing you to meet the high demands of your customers on time and on budget.

The heavy-duty equipment required by mining applications is often exposed to extreme, uncontrollable environmental factors for long periods of time, yet is still expected to maintain maximum performance levels. Contamination and wear are imminent and when left unchecked, can halt production in a heartbeat.

Condition Monitoring

Monitoring the condition of both the fluid and the unit through analysis identifies wear-causing contaminants and their effect on component performance. Monitoring the condition of coolant along with engine oil creates a clearer picture of what’s occurring in the engine. Sampling frequency should be based on the unit’s criticality to production, as well as the costs involved in replacement or repair.

  • Is Your Diesel Engine Protected?
    • Routinely monitoring a diesel engine oil’s viscosity, as well as its ability to neutralize acids and disperse and suspend soot particles produced during combustion, can indicate if anti-wear additive and dispersant/detergent levels are providing sufficient engine protection.
  • What’s Wearing on Your Gear Systems/Wheel Motors?
    • Although contamination by dirt and water should be closely monitored in manual/auto transmissions, electric wheel motor bearings, differentials, final drives and planetaries, the biggest concern for these systems is the type of wear occurring.
  • Is Your Hydraulic System Adequate?
    • Hydraulic systems, including automatic powershift transmissions, require the fluid’s viscosity to be low enough to minimize friction loss, yet high enough to prevent fluid leakage and provide satisfactory protection against wear. It should have good oxidation stability to prevent sludge from forming, sufficient water separability and air release properties and resistance to foaming.

Learn how you can reduce the risks of unexpected failure by better protecting your equipment:

Maximize asset reliability and regain control of your production schedules with an effective fluid analysis program and partnership with POLARIS Laboratories®.

It costs so little to protect so much.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
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Published March 12, 2019

Keeping the Coast Clear from Safety Issues

Nothing derails your equipment reliability more than a critical failure or accident whilst in operation. Performing maintenance is a perilous activity, and lack of inadequate processes can also lead to dangerous situations for engineers to work in. Adding maintenance to an already high-risk operation can lead to serious safety issues for your team.

Marine Operational Safety

Failure or unplanned maintenance in the marine industry puts the vessel and crew members at a greater risk. Quickly addressing unplanned problems usually means tasks being rushed and compliant procedures not being followed, in order to complete the task as soon as possible – and to get back on track. One of the largest causes of maintenance-related accidents in the marine industry is unidentified equipment failures – and the required maintenance to fix the issue. So, how can you keep the coast clear from safety issues for your team and identify these failures before they happen? Using lubrication analysis as a reliability tool and taking action on the maintenance recommendations provided on the report can:

  • Resolve unplanned, rushed maintenance
  • Improve equipment reliability
  • Provide a safer operating environment

Go Beyond Your Report

We see many companies utilize oil analysis as part of their condition monitoring program, but not efficiently act on the results and recommendations we provide on the report. Simply reacting to sample reports that show critical results does not improve reliability – because the problem has already occurred.

Vessel operators and fleet managers should look beyond the standard sample report and utilize all of the Data Management Reports and Statistical KPI’s available in HORIZON®. Using the management reports provides an overview of all of the sample data and recommendations provided by the laboratory to be analyzed, allowing operators to plan accordingly, perform maintenance at a safe, suitable time, improved vessel performance and reliability, and ultimately, reduce risk of accidents.

Want to learn more about our solutions for the marine industry? Download our solution sheet:

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Published March 5, 2019

One-Stop Shop for Maintenance Management

Fluid analysis data is a key component to a successful asset reliability and maintenance tracking program. Do you and your maintenance team feel the frustration of accessing multiple systems just to manage your fluid analysis data and equipment information? Is utilizing multiple systems for program management starting to cause inefficiencies resulting in lost production time for your team? Looking for a one-stop shop for accessing and managing your equipment maintenance that will save you time and money?

The solution: DataConnect

This advanced solution allows all of your HORIZON® sample data to be automatically imported into your internal maintenance tracking program. By doing this, frustration, inconveniences and inefficient practices are eliminated. Organize your equipment data, submit samples and evaluate the testing results – all within one system.

  • Increase visibility
  • React quickly to high severity results
  • Cut maintenance costs
  • Prove the value of fluid analysis to leadership

Contact us for more information on how to set up DataConnect for your fluid analysis program!

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you. 

Published February 26, 2019

Cooling System Do’s and Don’ts

40% of engine failures can be attributed to issues within the cooling system. Knowing the do’s and don’ts for maintaining your cooling system will help protect your equipment, increase reliability and avoid failure. Here’s few things to do and a few things not to do.

Do:

  • Use a water that meets specifications
    • This includes water being used for top offs, mixing a concentrate and if you are unable to remove the majority of the flush water.
    • Water that meets specifications will not add contaminates to cooling system and will help maintain fluid properties.
  • Use the same coolant formulation for maintenance adjustments
    • If you are unable to use the same coolant in the cooling system (this is recommended), then select a coolant that has similar corrosion protection inhibitors (this will maintain the inhibitor levels for adequate corrosion protection)
  • Test your engine coolant and observe fluid at every PM
    • Every engine sample should have at least one coolant sample tested by the laboratory to ensure equipment health and fluid properties are adequate
    • Catching issues early will stop further corrosion or potential for corrosion by proactively correcting the issues found before catastrophic failure occurs
  • Ensure the correct coolant testing is included in your test package
    • Testing all inhibitors in the formulation will help determine if the corrosion protection levels are adequate or not
    • Advanced testing will help determine if degradation acids are present, identify mechanical issues and determine if the system was contaminated with sulfate and/or chloride
    • Using the right test package will provide the best recommendations and protection for your equipment

Do not:

  • Use any type of water to mix with antifreeze
    • This includes top offs, diluting a concentration or leaving excessive amounts of flush water in the system
    • Using hard water that does not meet specifications, will cause scaling of the system components resulting in loss of heat transfer abilities of the cooling system
  • Mix different coolant corrosion protection formulations
    • Be aware, if you mix an organic formulation with a conventional formulation, some OEMs or coolant manufacturers will state the coolant now must be treated as a conventional antifreeze
    • Some OEMs and coolant manufacturers may also only recommend to change out the coolant if mixed. It’s important to know what recommendations for mixing are for you equipment
    • Mixing formulations will hinder corrosion protection levels and could cause inhibitor drop out, leaving the system vulnerable for corrosion. Concerns of incompatibility between inhibitors can be concerning for the equipment health, too.
  • Put coolant in and forget about the cooling system
    • The most preventable engine failure is not maintaining the cooling system. The cooling system should circulate, absorb heat and dissipate heat from the engine. If issues within the cooling system hinder the removal of heat from the engine then equipment issues and eventually engine failure will occur
  • Simply choose to just test the cooling system
    • Not understanding the proper testing needed for the coolant formulation may not provide the whole picture of corrosion protection levels, equipment health and contamination that may be present in the cooling system
    • These can lead to premature engine failures if the cooling system is not being properly maintained

These simple do’s and don’ts are some of the ways to maintain your cooling system from premature engine failures. The cooling system is part of the overall health of your equipment and should not be ignored.

If you aren’t sure what coolant testing is best for your equipment, reach out to us for guidance and explanation. We’re here to answer your questions – and help you save your equipment!

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
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Published  February 19, 2019

Why Is Fuel Testing Important?

 

Cleanliness Standards

Today’s diesel engine fuel systems are designed with tighter clearances and operate under higher pressures than those of the past. Fuel cleanliness is critical in keeping your fuel system operating efficiently and preventing premature wear of vital components.

But, That’s Not All…

The cleanliness of the fuel is not the only thing that should be considered. The correct fuel test package can help identify the root cause of many issues, including:

  • Engine performance concerns
  • Fuel filter plugging
  • Excessive engine smoking
  • Lubricity concerns
  • Fuel quality concerns for both winter and summer operations
  • Bio fuel concerns
  • Growth of bacteria, fungi & mold
  • Sulphur content validation

At a minimum, routine fuel testing should consist of:

  • Fuel cleanliness
  • Fuel quality
  • Fuel contamination

When To Test Your Fuel

The recommended interval for fuel testing is dependent on the industry and the volume of fuel consumed. For industries with large consumptions, with resupply of fuel on a daily basis (tanker loads), you might consider checking fuel cleanliness on each delivery. For others, a fuel quality and contamination check may only be needed twice per year, at the start of the winter months when switching to winter grade fuels, and then again when switching back to the summer blend.

Based on the results of these tests, or if you suspect fuel-related issues, advanced fuel testing should be considered.

At POLARIS Laboratories®, we offer a wide range of fuel test packages. Please feel free to contact us and we will gladly assist you in customizing a fuel test package to meet your needs.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
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Published  February 12, 2019

How to Optimize Your Off-Highway Performance

Operating off-highway operations means exposing your expensive equipment to harsh conditions daily, including moisture, abrasives and temperature. Despite these harsh conditions, the equipment is still expected to perform at high levels and complete jobs on time. When it comes to off-highway equipment, there are four major issues to be aware of that could affect your equipment performance:

  1. CONDITIONS | operating in extreme environmental conditions can cause excessive wear and shorten the life of your equipment
  2. DIRT | dirt and silica can contaminate your oil, causing excessive wear on the engine
  3. WATER | water can wreak havoc on the operating performance and cause severe damage to the equipment
  4. OVERHEATING | operating under the above circumstances will result in overheating of the equipment- causing your equipment to fail

Breakdowns usually occur far from any mechanics shop, meaning repairs are slow, expensive and they put projects behind schedule. Be aware of these four issues to optimize the performance and preserve the life of your off-highway equipment – and be able to predict problems before they occur.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you. 

Published February 5, 2019