Dirty Dozen: 12 Types of Contamination


The life of components in automotive, industrial and other equipment is reduced when contaminants circulate through their systems. Water, solid particles, varnish and even air can lead to a decrease in drain intervals and an increase in foaming, oxidation, sludge and varnish formation—potentially causing serious damage and catastrophic failure.

What’s causing damage? Below are the four main categories of contamination:
  1. Air Contamination
    • Air causes foam to form and it may be a sign that the antifoam additive may be depleted and the oil needs to be changed out. Air causes the oil to look cloudy – often mistaking it for water contamination.
    • An easy way to visually tell the difference between air and water contamination: take a small oil sample in a clear container and allow it to sit undisturbed for 24 hours – air will rise to the top while water will settle to the bottom.
  2. Water Contamination
    • Water can get into your system through vapor in the air – but it can also come form rain, splashing, leaking fittings or power washing the equipment.
    • Measuring the current moisture level in your equipment’s oil, and then finding ways to reduce the moisture level, can significantly extend your machine’s life.
  3. Particle Contamination
    • Particle contamination can be caused by particles entering the system via air movement or oil degradation.
    • Here are some powerful facts for you:
      • Greater than 80 percent of machine wear is caused by particle contamination.
      • The industry spends upwards of $200 billion annually filtering fluids to prevent mechanical problems caused by hard particles.
  4. Varnish Contamination
    • Varnish buildup, whether it be hard or soft, can occur in reservoirs and throughout lube and hydraulic systems on components and filter elements. Once varnish formation begins, the equipment becomes unreliable and potentially unsafe.

Discover all 12 types of oil contamination, by reading my featured article in Lubes ‘N’ Greases’ October 2018 edition: Dirty Dozen: 12 Types of Oil Contamination by clicking below.


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Published November 27, 2018