From the Expert: Effects of Varnish

Varnish is a gel-like substance that adheres to metal surfaces and can cause hot spots, increase in machine temperature and can result in filter plugging, micro-dieseling and can cause catastrophic failure. It’s important to test for varnish on turbines, compressors, hydraulics and large circulation and lube systems. We’ve turned to our expert, CLS and OMA I certified Data Analyst, Elaine Hepley, to explore varnish and the Membrane Patch Colorimetry (MPC) test conducted to detect it as well as two other tests that can help identify varnish formation potential.

  • Membrane Patch Colorimetry (MPC) ASTM D7843
    • MPC is a test designed to capture any presence of varnish that is soluble with the oil. This test is performed by heating the sample to 60 to 65 degrees Celsius for 23 to 25 hours. The sample is then placed in the dark away from UV light for 68 to 76 hours. After the incubation period, the sample is mixed with Petroleum Ether and stirred for 30 seconds to allow a complete mixture and then filtered onto a 47mm, 0.45-micron-size membrane patch.
    • The patch is placed in a location free of dust and heat and air-dried for about 3 hours. Once the patch has been dried, a colorimeter is used to detect the color of the patch and the CIE Lab ΔΕ and L*a*b* calculations are used to report the color of the patch. The color and severity scale is as follows:
      • 0-14.99: Severity 0 – Very low potential for varnish formation
      • 15-19.99: Severity 1 – Minor potential for varnish formation
      • 20-29.99: Severity 2 – Moderate potential for varnish formation
      • 30-39.99: Severity 3 – Significant potential for varnish formation. Preventative measures should be taken to stop the continuous formation of varnish
      • >40: Severity 4 – Severe and evident formation of varnish in system, and action must be taken to remove varnish.
    • The lighter (whiter) the color of the patch, the lower the MPC value and the darker (amber) color of the patch, the higher the MPC value.
    • PLEASE NOTE: Gray discoloration of the patch can be attributed to micro-dieseling or static discharge in the filters.
    • MPC testing can be performed on turbines and other unit types such as compressors, hydraulics, large circulation and lube systems.
  • Linear Sweep Voltammetry (LSV) ASTM D6971
    • LSV uses a voltage reading to detect the presence of anti-oxidants amines and phenols. The test is performed using an alcohol/acetone based solution (yellow or green) to help draw out the anti-oxidants from the oil. An electrical current is introduced to the sample and reveals the presence of amines and phenols in a matter of seconds. The results of the used oil are compared to a standard (new lubricant levels) and the differences/changes in the anti-oxidants in percentage are reported.
    • Some formulations are composed of amine, phenols or both. Phenols are considered to be the “sacrificial anti-oxidant” when formulated in conjunction with amines. The role that the phenols have is to be the first to deplete. This leaves behind amines to stabilize and keep the potential for varnish at bay.
    • That is not to say that phenols are a weak anti-oxidant. In a phenol-only formulation, the phenol is formulated to hold its presence and not deplete as rapidly when formulated with an amine. The same rule would apply to an amine-only formulation. These anti-oxidants help keep the free radical oxides from taking over the system and creating “varnish”. Anti-oxidants help sustain a healthy operational life for the equipment.
    • It has been discovered that as these anti-oxidants deplete, the potential for varnish is eminent and action should be taken to help remove the varnish from the system entirely.
  • Rotating Pressure Vessel Oxidation Test (RPVOT) ASTM D2272
    • RPVOT was designed to measure the oxidation stability of a turbine oil in minutes. The lubricant is placed in a vessel containing a polished copper coil. The vessel is charged with oxygen and then placed in a bath heated to a constant temperature of 150 °C. The vessel rotates while submerged in the bath and will stop once a drop of 25.4 psi is reached from maximum pressure.
    • When the test is complete, the RPVOT results are divided by the starting value RPVOT of the new lube to calculate the overall percentage of remaining useful life.
    • Calculation %=RVOT test result ÷ RPVOT new lube
      • Values of >55% are within the acceptable limits for the method and no action is needed.
      • Values of 55-45% are approximately half of the products starting life and sweetening is recommended.
      • Values of 44–26% indicate low oxidative stability. The possibility for sludge formation and discoloration is likely, and sweetening the sump is recommended.
      • Values of <25% is an indication the oxidative stability is extremely low and change of lubricant is advisable.
    • RPVOT testing is essential to for turbine oils this test helps determine when to schedule downtime and maintenance actions.

It is believed that as the antioxidants deplete, there is an increased potential for varnish formation. LSV Ruler testing is recommended to help monitor the antioxidant properties as well as the presence of varnish formation via MPC. As these antioxidants deplete, the presence of varnish forming can be captured on the MPC. These two tests can be used to help correlate any decreases or increases in antioxidants and monitor any changes/improvements with the presence of varnish. The same correlation can be used with RPVOT as the values decrease or are <44% the potential for varnish formation.

Click here for a complete list of testing performed by POLARIS Laboratories®

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Published May 1, 2018

POLARIS Laboratories® + Reliable Plant 2018

POLARIS Laboratories® experienced succesful networking and visibility at the NORIA Reliable Plant Conference and Exhibition April 17-19. The conference welcomed hundreds of lubrication, oil analysis and maintenance professionals to Indianapolis. POLARIS Laboratories® was proud to be a premier sponsor of the event and provided many opportunities for attendees to network and learn about proven fluid analysis services.

The pre-conference workshop, Identifying the Causes of Contamination and the Actions That Mitigate Them, presented by POLARIS Laboratories® technical business consultants, Randy Clark and Henry Neicamp, proved to be a great success.  The workshop dived deeply into what causes fluid contamination and the actions to take to reduce equipment maintenance costs.

Contamination control also was the focus of four POLARIS Laboratories®-sponsored learning sessions during the conference taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday of the conference. Each of these learning sessions sparked interest in many of the conference attendees and resulted in a high attendance rate.

The POLARIS Laboratories® facility tour brought more than 60 Reliable Plant attendees to our Indianapolis laboratory location to tour our state-of-the-art, accredited laboratory, participate in a discussion panel and engage in timely networking. Reliable Plant attendees arrived at the POLARIS Laboratories® facility Wednesday evening and were guided, by our Chief Executive Officer, Bryan Debshaw, through our laboratory facility and office space. Attendees learned the ins and outs of how our laboratory and support operations help our customers achieve greater maintenance success and save more of their equipment.

We would like to thank all the Reliable Plant attendees who participated in one of our sponsored conference opportunities! If you’re interested in learning more about how our fluid analysis services can reduce maintenance costs and generate proven results contact us!

Fluid Analysis 101: 5 Tips to Collect the Best Sample

Obtaining a truly representative fluid sample from your equipment or machine is the most critical part of a successful fluid analysis program. Without a true, accurate representation of what is going on inside your equipment, the analysis conducted may prove to be of little value in determining the condition of the machine at the time of sampling.

The particles and elements of wear, corrosion, fluid degradation and contamination provide the necessary diagnostic information concerning both the fluid and the machine. These particles can settle or separate out from the fluid, causing an uneven distribution throughout the system. So, choosing the right sampling point is very critical. Below are five tips to follow to ensure you collect the best sample possible.

  1. Take the sample from a point that provides plenty of turbulence in the fluid to ensure the particles are well mixed. 
  2. If you’re sampling from a filtering device, samples should be taken upstream.
  3. For trending, it is best to take the sample from the same location, depth etc. on the equipment – every time.
  4. Where possible, take the sample while the equipment is in operation or within 30 minutes of shut-down.
  5. The best sample points to collect the fluid are different depending on the type of equipment. The chart below outlines some of the best sample points:

To achieve a successful, effective fluid analysis program, the sample has to be truly representative of the equipment or fluid condition. This can only be accomplished if samples are taken from the same proper sampling points each time – this also helps to establish maintenance trends. To ensure you get the most value from your fluid analysis program – and to experience increased uptime and cost savings – follow these easy sampling tips.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
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Published April 3, 2018

Elevate Your Fluid Analysis Program and Save More Equipment

Four years ago, several of my colleagues presented a proposal that could simply be billed “if you build it, they will come”. This proposal involved building a groundbreaking, customer-focused event hosted by an independent fluid analysis laboratory. What started as a cautious experiment in 2015 to educate and train our customers on the strategic value of an effective fluid analysis program has grown into a mainstay that brings together more and more customers each and every year. It’s our Customer Summit.

In past years, we’ve focused on issues that matter most to maintenance professionals and fluid analysis leaders. Driving Action. Champion Impact. Connected Performance. Now in 2018, we bring you a summit that focuses on Elevate. Our fourth annual Customer Summit is set for November 5-7, 2018, at the Alexander Hotel in downtown Indianapolis.

Elevate will help our customers sharpen their focus and take their fluid analysis program to the next level. With a dynamic and diverse speaker lineup in the works, we are committed to helping you close the gap and build a fluid analysis strategy for the future.  We’ve structured this summit to be for maintenance professionals by maintenance professionals. We simply provide a platform for key players at companies like yours to learn through peer-to-peer conversations. In turn, our customers leave with a better understanding about what needs to be improved, accelerated and leveraged the most in their programs. You can’t afford not to engage in these conversations – so we encourage you to come experience it first-hand at the 2018 Customer Summit this November.Building on past feedback from nearly 200 customers across more than 90 companies, the 2018 summit will provide greater variety and depth in the content we share. This is a must-attend for new and returning customers. Specific content will include new insights on:

  • Expanding and maximizing your program
  • Securing greater executive support
  • Importance of proven impact, uptime and savings
  • Contamination control
  • Business impact initiatives to improve fluid analysis
  • Innovative technological solutions to maximize your program
  • Optional lab tours before and after the summit schedule

Mixing work with some memorable fun and networking is how we do it. What’s more, we do it in a way that is affordable for multiple members of your team to attend.

Are you ready to take the next step elevate your fluid analysis program? Then clear your calendar in November and join us in Indianapolis at the 2018 POLARIS Laboratories® Customer Summit. We’ll circulate more details when registration opens in late April! Click here to be notified when the 2018 summit registration process opens.

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

Published March 27, 2018

Take Five and Submit Your Sample

In the maintenance field, timing is everything. Often times, it can be the deciding factor whether or not equipment or machinery breaks down, causing jobs to be pushed back to later dates, effecting other business. What if you could eliminate fluid sample submission from being the cause of delays? POLARIS Laboratories® offers a convenient online sample submission option – which not only saves time, but results faster sample turnaround times, eliminates unnecessary timely delays and increases equipment uptime. So, why should you start submitting samples online?

Five Minutes

On average, it only takes five minutes to submit your fluid analysis sample online via HORIZON®. Rather than filling out the paperwork by hand and sending in the sample to one of our laboratories, online sample submission requires less fields – saving you time. Additionally, submitting your sample data via your HORIZON account – where all your data from previous samples is stored – allows for automatic calculations. All you have to do is scan a barcode, enter a few fields of sample information, click submit and it’s logged in our system. Then, ship the sample with the same barcode to our laboratory and the sample is processed and queued for testing, eliminating the need for our sample processing team to enter the sample information manually.

Reduce Errors

One of the most common causes of samples being placed on hold or tested inaccurately (resulting in a re-test) at our laboratory is paperwork issues. Whether it’s handwriting errors or oil spilled on the paperwork causing readability issues, filling out the sample submission form by hand can cause many issues. As a result, these can cause the sample information to be processed and input into our system incorrectly and result in assignment to the wrong component.

Faster Results

Submitting samples online not only saves you, the customer, time but it accelerates the internal process for our team as well. We’ll recieve your sample information instantly, which results in faster processing time, less samples on hold and less tests being re-run which all mean a faster turnaround time and reduced downtime for you.

Sample Submission on the Go

Online sample submission goes hand-in-hand with our mobile HORIZON application, available for both Apple and Android mobile devices. Download the HORIZON mobile app to your smart phone or tablet and submit your sample information online, as soon as the the sample is taken. Customize your push notifications and receive alerts when specific fluid type samples arrive at our laboratory and check in on the status of your sample. It’s one less task you have to do later, helping you stay on schedule.

For more information, click here to see our detailed step-by-step instructions for submitting samples online.

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

Published March 13, 2018

What You Need to Know about ASTM D975

What diesel fuel testing do you really need?

What is ASTM D975?

We’ve recently gotten a flood of inquiries regarding testing diesel fuel for ASTM D975, but there seems to be confusion on what ASTM D975 is and how it relates to monitoring the quality of diesel fuel. ASTM D975 is the Standard Specification for Diesel Fuel Oils. It is not one test, but rather, it is the specification that describes 13 tests and their acceptable limits, which a diesel fuel must meet at the time of delivery.

Does your fuel meet the requirements?

As a diesel fuel purchaser, you can send a sample to your laboratory to confirm the fuel meets all of the ASTM D975 requirements, but that is unnecessary. Instead, ask your fuel supplier for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) and save yourself thousands of dollars. Just be aware, ASTM D975 does reference a handful of tests that are applicable to monitor in fuels post-delivery, because several fuel properties change over time.

Could storage tanks be impacting your fuel?

If your operation uses bulk fuel storage tanks or you have fuel being stored long-term in standby generators, then we do recommend testing your fuel at least annually – but not for the full suite of ASTM D975 tests. We’ve identified two concerns for long-term diesel fuel storage:

  1. Has the fuel become contaminated?
    • Controlling contamination is the biggest challenge for fuel storage. Water and debris can enter the tank, leading to a variety of issues, including biological growth and injector damage. It’s less likely, but diesel fuel may come in contact with another fluid including oil, coolant or gasoline. These contaminates could change fuel properties, such as flash point, impact ignition quality and cause tank corrosion.
  2. Has there been a change in the fuel’s properties to withstand temperature extremes?
    • You want to be aware of how well your fuel can withstand temperature changes. If you live in an area where ambient temperatures drop significantly in winter months, you need to monitor your fuel’s cloud point and pour point to ensure the fuel will stay fluid and not clog filters. A fuel’s thermal stability is also a critical property to monitor. A fuel with poor thermal stability will experience asphaltene fall out as it is exposed to high crank-case temperatures. This can also lead to plugged filters and abrasive fuel system wear.

As a diesel fuel purchaser dependent on diesel fuel to run your operation, it’s important to know what is included in ASTM D975 and how it effects your diesel fuel quality and cleanliness.

Click here to read more detailed information on diesel fuel testing recommendations.

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

Published February 27, 2018

A Closer Look at ISO Codes

As industry maintenance practices continue to evolve and maintenance professionals realize the substantial cost saving benefits of contamination control efforts and fluid cleanliness, we find ISO codes entering our daily conversations more often. Cleaner fluids translate to reduced wear and longer component life. ISO codes are simply a ‘shorthand’ method of quantifying fluid cleanliness.

Language of Cleanliness

Fluid analysis laboratories measure fluid cleanliness with specialized equipment that categorizes particles in the fluid by size and counts the number of particles per volume of the sample in each category or size range. The sample report shows the absolute number of particles equal to or larger than each of the following sizes: 4, 6, 10, 14, 21, 38, 70, and 100 microns.

That’s a total of 8 different numbers to describe fluid cleanliness, which makes it cumbersome to compare and discuss results.

Translating Codes: What Do They Mean?

The ISO 4406 standard simplifies that data by only looking at three size ranges (4, 6, and 14 microns). It further simplifies the data by assigning codes to correspond to a range of particle counts. For example, rather than saying there are 1,890 particles 4 microns or larger, the standard assigns a ‘code’ of 18 (which includes particles counts from 1300 to 2500). A similar code is assigned for the 6 and 14 micron size range. So now the fluid cleanliness is reduced to three numbers (or codes). For example, 18/15/13. That is a much easier way to include fluid cleanliness in our comparisons and discussions.

But, this also means that without a thorough understanding of what those codes mean, we can easily jump to poor conclusions. In a simple example, a change in ISO code from 18/15/13 to 19/15/13 might lead to the assumption that the number of particles between 4 and 6 microns has doubled (since each increase in ISO code doubles the upper and lower range of the previous code). Consider if the actual particle counts at 4 microns were 2485 initially and increased to 2510; the code assigned does indeed increase from 18 to 19, but the absolute particle count is nowhere close to doubling. Conversely, if the initial count was 1310 and the next sample increased to 2490, the number of particles has indeed nearly doubled, but the ISO code has remained at 18.

Understanding ISO Code Shorthand

ISO codes are a great way to simplify our comparisons and discussions on the important topic of fluid cleanliness. But having a thorough understanding of what that ‘shorthand’ notation means, can also save us from overlooking the more subtle picture of what is happening to our fluids.

Click here to read more information on ISO codes and fluid cleanliness.

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

Published February 20, 2018

Learn How to Start Tracking Your Maintenance

So you’ve gotten your sample program set up just the way you like it. Your locations are in the system, your equipment is loaded, your kits are in-hand, your oil, coolant or diesel fuel samples have been pulled and tested. All is well and good but, that’s only half of what it takes to leverage a healthy preventive maintenance program.

Is Your Program Complete?

The other half of a successful, impactful and preventive maintenance program is making sure the right action is being taken as a result of the recommendations you receive in your reports.

  • Is your recommended maintenance getting done?
  • Are repairs happening when necessary?
  • Who’s doing the repairs?
  • How do you know if the issue was addressed?

Track Your Trends

We’ve developed a report that will allow you to answer those questions, and make sure you’re maximizing your program. With Maintenance Tracking, available within HORIZON®, you are able to see trending data over time, the results of your maintenance actions after each sample and visually see the results of your fluid analysis program. Moreover, anyone who receives reports will have all of this information, without any need for action from you. The feature is available in the Equipment Management tab in HORIZON. If you do not see this option, please contact customer service to update your account’s permissions.

Start Using Maintenance Tracking:

  • Learn how to run the Maintenance Tracking report out of HORIZON | A set of instructions has been created and gives you a step-by-step walkthrough of where to go in HORIZON to activate the feature and run the report.
  • Contact customer service | Our customer service representatives are trained on all the the features available in HORIZON and are available by phone 877.808.3750 from 7:30 a.m – 7 p.m. ET all business days or by email,

It’s Never Too Late

It’s important to monitor all of your sample results, maintenance recommendations and to see if those recommendations are being carried out. It’s the best way to know if you are getting the most out of your investment and to ultimately save your equipment. And remember that it’s never too late to use this feature; whether you’ve just started your program, or have been testing with us for years, start taking advantage of this function today.

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

Published February 13, 2018

Fluid Analysis: A Safe Bet

Unexpected Equipment Repairs

Equipment failing unexpectedly results in downtime, repairs and unsafe work conditions can occur. With sudden downtime comes the need for rushed repairs in order to get the equipment back up and running. When machine or equipment operators or maintenance technicians perform unexpected equipment repairs quickly and often times, in an unsafe manner, the risk of a serious injury increases.

So, choose predictive maintenance over corrective maintenance. 

Fluid Analysis: A Safe Bet

When you can predict equipment failure through oil, coolant or diesel fuel analysis, the risk of your operators and maintenance technicians injuring themselves decreases significantly. Downtime can be scheduled in advance, eliminating the need to rush to repair the equipment.

Your maintenance team keeps your equipment up and running so you can stay on schedule and keep your business on the road to success. So, keep your operators, maintenance technicians and other team members safe by eliminating the need for rushed repairs and participating in a fluid analysis program.



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

Published February 6, 2018

Can Your Equipment “Weather” the Cold Temperatures?

Dropping Temperatures Equals a Drop in Health

Our winters in Canada, and those in other countries will agree, are often a time of increased health risks. As temperatures drop and winter sets in, so do a whole host of circulating bacteria and viruses. A virus or illness usually starts with a trip to the doctor to assess the symptoms and typically, the doctor uses both a physical exam and potential blood tests to determine how to restore our health and get us back on our feet.

Cure Your Suffering Equipment

Similar to the human body, another winter phenomenon involving cold temperatures is the health of the equipment you use to keep your business running. Mechanical problems or symptoms often arise during the cold temperatures and can cause your equipment to suffer. Similar to the steps the doctor takes, analyzing the critical fluid inside the machine allows you to understand the causes of the problems. Fluid analysis can also allow you to see what actions need to be taken in order for the equipment to get back on it’s feet and be able to “weather” future cold temperatures.

A Prescription for Coolant Analysis

Coolant analysis is one area that is often undervalued or overlooked. But, coolant analysis goes well beyond checking the freeze protection offered by the coolant in cold temperatures. In fact, more than 40% of engine failures are caused by issues that can be traced to the cooling system, the coolant itself holds clues that appear long before any imminent danger. Coolant analysis can shed light on developing problems caused by:

  • Cavitation corrosion
  • Leaking combustion gases
  • Breakdown of the coolant chemicals
  • Overheating
  • Electrical ground problems

A Clean Bill of Health

It’s easy to see that sampling coolant isn’t just a winter activity. But, just like that trip to the doctor when the sniffles set in, sometimes the best course of action is to look within and proactively, to understand what we’re experiencing with our machine health and to begin to save your equipment, before a failure happens.

Let us prove how POLARIS Laboratories® can provide these same benefits to your equipment health.


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

Published January 30, 2018