What is oil analysis?
Oil analysis is a diagnostic, predictive maintenance tool for monitoring and evaluating lubricant and equipment conditions. It allows you to see what’s happening in your equipment to prevent catastrophic failures and increase your equipment reliability.
Why should I do oil analysis?
Oil analysis allows you to maximize asset performance and reliability by identifying minor problems before they become major failures. It can safely extend oil drain intervals and, ultimately, the life of your equipment — saving you time and money.
How do I take a sample of my oil?
For step-by-step instructions on sampling, see our guide on How to Take an Oil Sample.
How often should I sample my oil?
Although the original equipment manufacturer’s recommendations provide a good starting point for developing predictive maintenance practices, sampling intervals can easily vary. How critical a piece of equipment is to the company’s production is a major consideration on determining appropriate sampling frequency, as are environmental factors such as hot, dirty operating conditions, short trips with heavy loads and excessive idle times.
Can oil analysis predict equipment failure?
Yes. Oil analysis provides vital information as to the condition of both the oil and the unit being tested. It can detect wear and contamination problems that, if left unchecked, can severely affect equipment performance and reliability or cause major failure.
What are the most common
oil analysis tests?
Elemental Analysis by ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectrometry)
Inductively Coupled Plasma, detects wear, contamination and additive metals.
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 air-to-fuel ratio, irregular ring seating, engine timing issues or the fuel pump is turned up too high.
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. When too much soot is generated and additives can no longer keep it suspended, deposits will form on the rings weakening the seal between the pistons and cylinder liners. By identifying soot % in your oil, you can take action on the repairs needed before they lead to failure.
Water by Crackle
This test provides rough estimate of water in a sample determined by pipetting a portion of sample onto a temperature-controlled hot surface and observing how the sample reacts.
Viscosity is a measurement of an oil’s resistance to flow at temperature. In other words, viscosity is the film strength or thickness of the oil. A change in viscosity can be an indication of many problems such as viscosity, oxidation, nitration, water contamination, soot contamination (engines), shearing (when molecules are split), coolant contamination or mixing lubes with different viscosities.
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 140° 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.
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.
Acid Number measures the amount of acid present, with values higher than that of the new lubricant being an indication of oxidation or contamination.
Base Number measures a lubricant’s alkaline reserve, or ability to neutralize acids from the normal combustion process.
Utilizing automatic laser optical counters, particle count measures the size and counts the number of particles present in a fluid using optical particle counting technology.
Particle Quantifier (PQ) provides a ferrous index number by passing a sample through a magnetic field. Comparing PQ to the iron results from ICP gives more information regarding the size of the iron particles being generated as PQ does not have a particle size detection limit.
Debris from a fluid analysis sample is examined under a microscope to identify the size and wear mechanism of particles being generated, which provides more information for pin-pointing the cause of a failure mode.
Water by Karl Fischer
A titration method that tests for water content. This method is more precise than hot plate and should be requested for any system in which water would be severely detrimental.
What is coolant analysis?
Coolant testing and analysis provides a comprehensive chemical evaluation of the coolant to determine cooling system and fluid health. Testing will identify problems within the cooling system that can impact the engine performance or lead to premature engine failure, such as combustion gas leaks, electrical ground problems, localized overheating issues and air leaks. Results and recommendations will take the guess work out of how to properly maintain the cooling system and help identify maintenance concerns.
Why should I test my coolant?
40% – 50% of preventable engine failures can be attributed to cooling system problems. Up to 80% of concerns that lead to preventable engine failures are due to, contamination from hard water salts and not maintaining corrosion inhibitors, pH, % antifreeze, freeze or boil point at the proper levels. Corrosion and damage to the equipment will occur.
How often should I test my coolant?
Engine coolants should be tested at least twice a year, once before winter sets in and again right before summer. POLARIS Laboratories® recommends every 500 hours or 3 months for basic analysis and every 1000 hours or 6 months for advance analysis. Recommendations may indicate an earlier resample of the equipments cooling system if concerns are present. For more information on coolant samples, view our How to Take a Coolant Sample Technical Bulletin.
Should I test the source water that I use to mix with my antifreeze?
Yes, water in all parts of the country is different and may contain harmful levels to the equipment of chloride, sulfate, calcium, and/or magnesium. The reaction of water to heat in an engine will be determined by the contaminants that the Antifreeze and Supplemental Coolant Additives can correct in the source water. Up to 1/3 of flush water can be left in the system. The water type used is one of the most preventable failures – scale and corrosion are concerns when the water does not meet OEM and/or ASTM limits. Scale will cause a restriction of coolant flow and loss of heat transfer abilities leading to overheating within the engine.
Why spend the money on coolant analysis if I change my coolant every couple of years anyway?
Simply changing your coolant may not solve and rarely identifies the cause of a cooling system problem. If not properly identified and corrected, many cooling system problems can escalate, causing even more damage to other components. A quality coolant analysis program can identify electrical ground problems, combustion gas leaks, air leaks, localized overheating, etc. which could cost thousands of dollars in repairs, equipment downtime and replacements. Coolant analysis is more than just testing the coolant. It monitors the system’s overall health and allows users to take action before further damage or engine failure occurs. Testing all fluids within the engine is recommended for a full fluid analysis program – seeing the complete picture of your equipment will help provide the most detailed information of overall system health.
Can coolant analysis determine if coolant formulations have been mixed?
Yes, if the laboratory knows what the original product is supposed to be. Organic acid coolants don’t have the typical inhibitors found in conventional products, such as silicates, phosphates and borates. However, hybrids – or conversion coolants – do. This makes it difficult to determine when mixing has occurred unless the original product is known. Submitting a baseline of new coolant to compare to the in service fluid will provide further details of concerns of mixing coolant formulations. Proper testing is critical and should include testing for all corrosion inhibitors the laboratory can test for.
What are conversion coolants?
Testing the coolant before conversion is recommended so that the condition of both the coolant and the cooling system is known. pH alone is not going to identify all problems. If analysis does not identify any problems, conversion can be done safely. The new formulation becomes a hybrid until fully converted to the new formulation.
Communication is key to assist the data analyst when viewing samples during a conversion to another coolant formulation. Working together will assist on properly providing recommendations during the conversion.
What are the most common
coolant analysis tests?
Antifreeze percent is the concentration of glycol present in the antifreeze. Most applications will indicate a 50/50 premix. For those applications the levels should range between 45% and 62% to ensure proper freeze protection and boil point control. High glycol concentration can result in loss of heat transfer. Low concentrations can result in internal boiling and/or freezing. Internal boiling can cause severe metal corrosion and degradation acid formation. Freezing can result in a cracked block.
Boil Point is calculated from antifreeze percent and indicates at what temperature a coolant will boil at sea level. Boil Point is dependent upon the concentration of antifreeze in an engine coolant. Internal boiling can cause severe metal corrosion and degradation acid formation.
Freeze Point is the temperature at which a coolant solidifies. Freeze point is dependent upon the concentration of antifreeze in an engine coolant. Coolant freezing can result in system damage as severe as a cracked engine block.
Elemental Analysis by ICP
Inductively Coupled Plasma will detect 15 metals for water based fluids. Elemental analysis is an important part of the analysis of the coolant fluid to detect system concerns. The results can help gauge system health and potentially identify corrosion concerns of the radiator, heat exchanger, oil cooler, charged air cooler, thermostat, water pump and other parts in the system.
High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
HPLC should be utilized on fluids containing orgranic carboxylic acid inhibitors and on any unknown fluid formulation. Testing will determine if the fluid contains organic corrosion inhibitors and/or azoles in the coolant formulation for corrosion protection. Maintaining adquate levels of inhibitor is key to overall protection of the system metals. Testing will detect Benzotriazole, Tolytriazole, Mercaptobenzothiazole, Benzoic Acid, Sebacic Acid, 2-Ethlyhexanoic Acid, Octanoic Acid, P-Toluic Acid, Adipic Acid, and 4-Tert-Butylbenzoic Acid.
Ion Chromatography (IC)
IC detects anions from contamination (Chloride and Sulfate), inhibitors (Nitrite and Nitrate), and degradation acids (Glycolate, Acetate, Formate, Oxalate). A portion of the sample is diluted and is then pumped through the column and suppressor into a conductivity detector. The suppressor aids in increasing the sensitivity of the response by converting the eluent and the analytes in the sample to the corresponding hydrogen form of the acids. The anions are separated in the column based on the affinity and interaction with the column’s resin and the eluent used to carry the sample. These anion forms are quantitated by integration and compared to a calibration curve. Testing will help indicate concerns of the glycol degrading due to a concern in the cooling system or age of fluid. Advanced testing should be included in your program as an option and utilized for a baseline of the sample.
Nitrite is an inorganic corrosion inhibitor used for cast iron, steel and liner cavitation protection. Nitrite content requirement is based on coolant formulation used and can be detected with Ion Chromatography (IC) or by a Strip Method.
Nitrate is an inorganic corrosion inhibitor used for aluminum and solder protection. Nitrate content requirement is based on coolant formulation used and can be detected with Ion Chromatography (IC).
pH is a measure of aqueous solutions acidity or alkalinity levels. Pure water is neutral, around pH 7, being neither an acid nor base. The lower the pH number is would indicate how acidic the fluid is. The higher the pH number is would indicate a more alkaline based fluid. Coolant pH range is dependent on the coolant formulation and type of coolant inhibitors present.
SCA Number (Supplement Coolant Additive) represents the level of coolant additive required for adequate protection against corrosion and scaling. In some cases SCA also helps with pH balance in a diesel engine conventional coolant. SCA can be in the complete coolant formulation, a liquid inhibitor package or a pre-charged coolant filter. SCA Number is calculated from Molybdate and Nitrite concentrations.
Specific Conductance determines if the coolant can resist carrying an electrical current between the dissimilar metals of an engine’s cooling system.
This tests the coolant for clarity, color, oil contamination, fuel contamination, foaming, magnetic precipitate, non-magnetic precipitate and odor under a true color light. Testing is subjective but will assist with determination of fluid concerns within the system. Contamination may be reported as other as the type of contamination for oil cannot be determined.
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
TDS will determine the amount of dissolved solids present in the sample and will be calculated using the result reported for specific conductance.
This test is a calculation from ICP testing and will determine if contaminates are present that can cause scale formation.
What is diesel fuel analysis?
Diesel fuel analysis identifies causes for fuel filter plugging, smoking, loss of power, poor injector performance, malfunctioning throttle position sensors and sticking valves.
Why should I do diesel fuel analysis?
Periodic fuel analysis can identify fuel conditions detrimental to engine performance which are typically easily fixed with treatment.
When should I test my fuel?
- If there is an engine performance problem, take a sample of the engine fuel and have it tested for performance properties.
- If you have bulk delivery shipments to your terminals, each shipment should be tested for basic properties.
- Possible contamination is cause for testing.
- Large bulk reservoirs should be tested at least twice a year for basic properties – Water & Sediment and Bacteria, Fungi & Mold.
- If you are blending #1 & #2 Diesel Fuel for winter applications, Cloud Point, Pour Point will tell you if you have reached the desired level of protection.
- If you are blending anti-gel additives with bulk fuel, testing may be necessary.
What are the most common
diesel fuel analysis tests?
A measure of the fuel’s density. This test is required to calculate the cetane index.
Bacteria, Fungi Mold
A dip slide is incubated for a set period of time, providing ideal conditions for any biological growth. Treatment with a biocide is recommended for any positive growth.
A measure of the combustion quality of diesel fuel.
The temperature at which wax crystals are first observed as fuel is cooled. This is an indication of the potential for cold temperature fuel filter plugging.
The lowest temperatures at which fuel emits a flash when exposed to flame. The minimum requirement for #1 diesel is 38°C, where the minimum for #2 is 52°C.
Measures the ability of the fuel to prevent friction and wear. Lubricity became a critical property to monitor with the introduction of ultra-low sulfur fuels. Lubricity additives replaced the sulfur in ULSD and this is now the only way to ascertain that they are still present in the formulation.
The lowest temperature at which fuel will still flow.
Measures the amount of sulfur in fuel in ppm.
Measures the tendency for fuel to produce asphaltenes at high temperatures, which are a common cause of fuel filter plugging.
Viscosity is a measurement of a fluid’s resistance to flow at temperature. In other words, viscosity is the film strength or thickness of the fuel. A change in viscosity can be an indication of mixing fuel types or contamination.
Water & Sediment
The percent of water and/or sediment observed when a measured volume of fuel is placed under centrifuge.
Why should I do grease testing?
To stay on top of mission-critical grease conditions, degradation trends and wear rates to minimize unplanned repairs, decrease downtime, extend machine life and increase equipment reliability.
When should I test my grease?
Grease sampling intervals vary greatly based on equipment type. Including grease testing with your normal lubrication testing can help you achieve an effective condition monitoring program. Don’t wait until you suspect contamination or a component fails to test your grease. It’s important to add grease testing to your program so you can see the whole picture at one time, allowing you to monitor your equipment condition and identify issues before catastrophic failure occurs.
How do I take a grease sample?
Stay on top of mission-critical grease conditions, degradation trends and wear rates to minimize unplanned repairs, decrease downtime, extend machine life and increase equipment reliability.
Each grease analysis kit comes with a grease sampler, syringe and other items necessary to collect your grease sample from your equipment. The type of sample kit used will depend on the application and component. Available kit options include:
• Basic Grease Testing
• Ferrous Wear Identification
• Advanced Grease Testing
Do I need to submit a baseline reference sample?
For proper analysis, one baseline reference sample of new grease is required for every type of grease sent to the laboratory for analysis. This will allow us to compare the results of the new grease to the used grease, to provide a more accurate analysis and an improved reliability and maintenance recommendation.
What are the most common
Grease analysis tests?
To measure the grease’s consistency, we compare the resistance pressure to a load cell as the grease is extruded through a die, then compared to an overlay of the new grease baseline sample.
To find contaminants and oxidation levels, the used grease is compared to an overlay of the new grease baseline sample.
Changes in appearance can result from overheating, aging and contamination
Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES)
The ICP test is used to evaluate the grease for wear metals, additive elements and possible contaminants.
Linear Sweep Voltammetry
This test measures antioxidant content which can give an indication of the remaining useful life left on the grease as well as assist in determining proper relubrication cycles
Determines the amount of wear-causing ferromagnetic material that is present in the sample.
What is fluid analysis?
Fluid analysis is a diagnostic, predictive maintenance tool for monitoring and evaluating fluid and equipment conditions. It allows you to see what’s happening in your equipment to prevent catastrophic failures and increase your equipment reliability.
Why should I do fluid analysis?
Fluid analysis allows you to maximize asset performance and reliability by identifying minor problems before they become major failures. It can identify root causes of contamination, monitor conditions and safely extend drain intervals and, ultimately, the life of your equipment — saving you time and money.
How can I purchase test kits and supplies?
An account must be set up in advance to purchase any test kits or sampling supplies. The test packages we offer are customizable for your maintenance needs, so our customer service team will set up your profile accordingly prior to ordering test kits and supplies. See our complete testing list.
How do I submit a sample?
Submitting a sample is easy with HORIZON®! The data management app offers a convenient desktop and mobile app. Simply collect your sample, submit the sample information online and ship the sample to the laboratory. It’s that easy! See our how-to video for how to submit a sample online via the desktop application or mobile app.
Can I send oil, coolant and diesel fuel through the mail?
Oil and Coolant
There are no restrictions for shipping new or used oil or coolant in the United States and most countries. These fluids are considered non-hazardous, non-toxic and non-flammable, so it operates under the same shipping considerations as water.
A fluid’s flash point is the main consideration for flammable liquids. Shipping carriers are concerned about materials with a flash point under 200°F (148°C), and typical automotive or diesel engine oil is between 425°F (218°C) and 460°F (237°C), hydraulic fluid is between 300 (148°C) and 600°F (315°C), and transmission fluid is between 300 (148°C) and 380°F (193°C).
It’s not acceptable to send diesel fuel samples through airmail so we recommend shipping via ground mail.
For more information, review the resources listed below for helpful tips and more specific carrier requirements
How do I set up an account?
If you would like to set up a fluid analysis program with POLARIS Laboratories®, submit a contact form [link] and our customer service team will help set up your account and set up your test package profile within 1-2 business days. Both are required to be activated prior to accessing HORIZON® or purchasing supplies and test kits.
If you’re looking to submit only a few samples, once your account is activated, we offer a self-service online portal where you can order test kits and begin testing.
What certifications qualify POLARIS Laboratories® for testing and analysis?
Our laboratories are ISO 17025:2017 accredited by A2LA. Click here to see more information about our accreditations. We also perform testing in accordance with ASTM standards available in our complete test list.
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:
What testing options do you provide?
We conduct a wide variety of testing, see our test list for a comprehensive list. Commonly used test packages can be ordered online through our self-service store and custom test packages can be set up through your account manager.
How fast will I get my test results?
From receiving your sample at one of our seven worldwide laboratories, 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. See our daily turnaround time here.
How do I track my sample?
In terms of shipping, we recommend using a shipping service which provides a tracking number so you know exactly when the sample gets to the laboratory. Enter the bar code number in the “Track My Sample” field in HORIZON or the “Lab Number Lookup” tab at the top.
How can I change my emailed report frequency?
You can change your email subscription to a daily or weekly summary while still using he HORIZON app for individual sample reports. The app’s push notifications can be customized by fluid type and severity level or even muted in the mobile device’s settings. You can find more information about email report frequency in this HORIZON Technical Bulletin.
How can I update my account information?
In the My Settings tab of your HORIZON account, you can modify your contact name, username and password, language and other account information settings. If you need additional help, reach out to our customer service team for help.
What do I do if I haven’t received my results?
Using the Sample Report LookUp feature in HORIZON, you can track your sample and find your sample report. As soon as the analysis on your sample is complete, reports are released by our data analysts and delivered to your HORIZON account based on the settings in your HORIZON email notifications [reference “How can I change my emailed report frequency?” above for setting these up]. If multiple samples are received by our laboratories at once, it is possible that the results will arrive at different times, depending on tests being run, rerun or samples on hold.
HORIZON also has a designated area for unviewed or recent sample reports on the dashboard above the Sample Report Lookup section.
How do I run reports in HORIZON?
POLARIS Laboratories® makes it easy to manage your fluid analysis program with the data and information we collect from your samples. There are many management reports available on your HORIZON dashboard. These reports include:
– Severity Summary Report
– Sample Volume Report
– Sample Frequency Report
– Turnaround Time Report
– Problem Summary Report
– Program Condition Report
– Action Taken Summary Report
– Data Analysis Report
– Sample Submission Report
– Sample Hold Summary Report
What do I do if my sample is placed on hold?
You will be notified via email if your sample gets placed on hold at the laboratory. There are a few reasons a sample might be placed on hold at our laboratories. These reasons include incorrect account or component information, incorrect test package or the prepaid barcode was not included with the sample. In addition, on your HORIZON® Dashboard, you can click on the blue link by ‘samples on hold’ to submit a resolution to address the on-hold issue. We will review your resolution and contact you if we need additional information.
Can I import my equipment into HORIZON®?
It is simple and quick to add, update, or transfer equipment in HORIZON using the “Equipment Management” tab. To import large list of equipment, HORIZON provides an equipment list import template (Excel) where you can fill out the component ID, position, secondary ID, component type, manufacturer, model and more to make it easy to import all your equipment information into HORIZON.
Does it matter what laboratory I send my samples to?
We recommend sending samples to the laboratory closest to you, since this will result in the fastest turnaround time to receive your test results.
We have seven global laboratory locations, click here to find the laboratory closest to you.
POLARIS Laboratories® helps improve your equipment reliability through a full suite of fluid testing, certified analysis and data integration to get your maintenance on the right track.