FAQ – Testing Results

What is data analysis?

Data analysis is the process of interpreting fluid analysis laboratory test results and providing maintenance recommendations.

What equipment can I test?

The equipment you can test through fluid analysis is ever-changing but here are some pieces of equipment you should test:

  • Engines
  • Transmissions
  • Gear Systems
  • Hydraulics
  • Compressors
  • Turbines
  • Bearings

What testing options do you provide?

We conduct a wide variety of testing, see our test list for a complete listing for a comprehensive list.

How fast will I get my test results?

From receiving your sample, to conducting testing, to analyzing the results, to sending the results and recommendations back to you, we make a commitment to do this in less than two business days. Most of the samples we process daily are returned to the customer the next day with detailed analysis and recommendations.

What is Oxidation?

Everything that is exposed to oxygen will eventually oxidize. Oil is exposed to extreme heat as well as oxygen. As temperatures increase, so does the rate of oxidation. For every 18° F above 160° F, the oxidation rate of the oil doubles. Oxidation produces acids that cause the oil to thicken and in the process also cause corrosive wear.

What is Nitration?

Nitration is usually the result of an imbalance in the engine’s air to fuel ratio. When the engine runs too lean, meaning there’s too much air and not enough fuel, nitration occurs. Nitrous Oxide (NOx) becomes entrained in the oil which can form nitric acid that will eventually will lead to corrosive wear. Although nitration is more common in natural gas engines, it has become a more evident problem in diesel engines since 2002.

What other tests would be affected by Oxidation or Nitration?

In both oxidation and nitration, acid formation occurs, so AN (Acid Number) will increase. Acid formation increases viscosity and also depletes BN (Base Number) because the oil must work harder to neutralize these acids.

What test identifies dirt contamination?

The primary test for the detection of dirt is Elemental Analysis by ICP (Inductively Coupled Plasma). Most dirt consists of Alumina/Silica or Silicon and Aluminum. POLARIS Laboratories® reports 24 metals by ICP.

How can I confirm that the Silicon results on my report represent dirt and not a silicone sealant?

There is a direct relationship between dirt (Silicon) and Iron. If Silicon goes up and Iron goes up with it at relatively the same rate, the silicon is dirt. If Iron does not go up when silicon goes up then it is most likely from a silicone sealant or possibly from a silicone-based anti-foam agent.

What is Fuel Dilution and what causes it?

Fuel Dilution is raw, unburned fuel that gets past the rings and ends up in the crankcase. It is caused by over-fueling, excessive idling, damaged injector tips, a high fuel to air ratio, irregular ring seating, engine timing issues or the fuel pump is turned up too high.

How much fuel dilution is too much?

Generally speaking, >5.0% is too much and the cause should be investigated. At 5.0% or higher, the viscosity of the oil has thinned out dramatically meaning reduced oil film strength. At this point, the engine will experience more wear from metal to metal contact. POLARIS Laboratories® severity levels for diesel fuel dilution are:

  • Severity 0 — Normal = <2.0%
  • Severity 1 — Green Flag = 2.0 — 3.4%
  • Severity 2 — Yellow Flag = 3.5 — 4.9%
  • Severity 3 — Orange Flag = 5.0 — 6.9%
  • Severity 4 — Red Flag = 7.0% and higher

How will high fuel dilution affect other test results?

Because fuel is much thinner than oil, viscosity will drop significantly meaning the oil becomes thinner. Metallic additives in the oil such as Boron, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Zinc, will also become diluted which reduces film strength and increases wear if not corrected with proper maintenance.

What is soot and what causes it?

Soot is a by-product of the combustion process in a diesel engine — a carbon residue formed from fuel air and moisture in the combustion chamber after ignition. Soot particles are held in suspension by dispersant additives in the oil preventing the soot particles from agglomerating (sticking together) and attaching to the rings, pistons and liners. These suspended particles are what turn diesel engine oil black. When too much soot is generated and the additives can no longer keep it suspended, deposits will form on the rings weakening the seal between the pistons and cylinder liners. Upper end wear to rings, liners and pistons begins and if not corrected, will eventually cause severe lower end wear to the main and rod bearings, crankshaft, camshaft, cam bushing and turbo bearing.

How much soot is too much?

POLARIS Laboratories® has set its initial flagging point for soot in a diesel engine at 2.0% because it is at this level that wear metals such as Iron, Chrome, Nickel and Aluminum from rings, liners and pistons begin to increase. POLARIS Laboratories® severity levels for soot are:

  • Severity 0 — Normal 0.1 — 1.9%
  • Severity 1 — Green Flag = 2.0 — 3.4%
  • Severity 2 — Yellow Flag = 3.5 — 4.9%
  • Severity 3 — Orange Flag = 5.0 — 6.9%
  • Severity 4 — Red Flag = >7.0%

Does soot affect other test results?

If too high, soot can affect all wear metals at some point. Once soot begins to exceed 3 — 4%, viscosity will increase because soot thickens the oil. Excessive soot will also cause the oil’s BN (Base Number) to drop faster than normal because soot increases the formation of acids which must be neutralized to prevent wear from occurring.