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Summer Troubles: Testing Your Coolant

summer-troubles
Do you have problems with your equipment’s coolant? While addressing coolant issues may seem as easy as changing your coolant, it’s actually a bit more complicated than that.

Even if you change your coolant frequently, issues with your equipment can and will persist without any visible indicators. If your equipment has inconsistent levels of fluid properties, you’re not addressing the root cause of the issue by changing the fluid. Only routine fluid analysis can direct you to the real cause of the problem.

When it comes to improving your equipment health, it’s essential you have all the information. Not convinced? The following consequences may be enough to change your mind.

Antifreeze/Glycol %:
Too high or low of a percent can cause issues, including: boiling coolant or the block may freeze, cavitation and corrosion, loss of heat transfer, pitted liners, and seals may fail.

pH:
If your coolant becomes acidic, it could cause corrosion on iron components, electrolysis pitting through liners, corrosive attack on engine block and possible corrosion protection chemicals precipitate out of solution.

Specific Conductance:
When this level is in excess, your coolant may lose the ability to resist carrying an electrical current between the dissimilar metals of an engine’s cooling system.

Total Metals:
Abnormal levels of metals is a sign of metal corrosion, liner pitting, and corrosion or erosion of any metal components.

By using fluid analysis to find the root cause of the problem, you can directly address your equipment issues. Learn more about how diagnosing coolant issues through fluid testing can help you protect your equipment by downloading this technical bulletin.

If you’re interested in adding coolant testing to your fluid analysis program, contact your account manager or speak with our customer service team.

emily-featherston

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

Setting Limits on Fluid Properties


Earlier this month, I talked about how we set limits for wear metals and contaminants. There is one final group of results Data Analysts examine to determine the health of oil, fuels, and coolants: fluid properties.

Fluid properties are the physical and chemical features that allow the fluid to perform as it was designed. Viscosity, Acid Number, Base Number, Oxidation, Nitration and Additives are the main fluid properties examined by fluid analysis.

These properties don’t have much in common. Different tests are used to determine if the fluid still has the ability to protect equipment. Viscosity needs to be run at different temperatures to match the operating conditions of the equipment, ICP is used to quantify the metals found in common additives, oxidation and nitration are measured using FTIR, and acid number and base number need to be run using different titration methods to get the measurement we desire.

Just like wear metals and contaminants, the actual flagging limits depend on what the fluid is, the equipment the fluid is being used in, and what application the equipment is doing. These factors all can change the maintenance recommendations from the Data Analysts, which is why it is important to provide as much information about the sample as possible.

To learn more about the challenges facing each fluid property and how we set our flagging limits, please download this technical bulletin.

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

Oil, Coolant and Fuel Contamination


It doesn’t matter if it came from outside the equipment, was generated inside the equipment or if it worked its way into the oil from another system in the machine, contamination is any substance that isn’t supposed to be in the fluid being tested.

Most people think of contamination as something working its way into the equipment from the outside. Water and many types of particles, like dirt, sneak in through cracks, broken seals or unprotected ports, but in equipment with physical and chemical reaction occurring inside of it, foreign substances are only part of what we consider “contamination”.

Some contaminates are created during equipment operations. Soot is a natural byproduct of diesel combustion and commonly works its way into the engine oil, which is why the oil is formulated with additives to deal with soot. Lubricant additives are designed to protect components and prolong oil life; however they can become contaminants when heat, pressure or a chemical reaction causes them to fall out of suspension.

Fluids from other systems can be contaminants, such as coolant and fuel mixing with engine oil. All three systems need to operate in conjunction with the others, and leaks happen. Small holes and cracks between the oil and cooling systems could leak fluid one-way, so testing both fluids is recommended to catch leaks early. Over-fueling or worn cylinder rings can lead to fuel entering crankcase oil. Either way, cross-contamination from other systems is a sign of a mechanical problem that needs to be fixed before it escalates into a breakdown.

The type of equipment and application will determine what contamination could affect it and what tests to perform. The Contamination Flagging Limits technical bulletin has more information on how POLARIS Laboratories® determines the severity of contamination.

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

Setting Wear Metal Flagging Limits


Our customers have a wide range of knowledge about fluid analysis. Many are new to the process and others have decades of experience. Some have even earned tribology certifications or degrees. Our Data Analysts end up talking to all of them, so we receive a wide variety of questions every day.

Occasionally, our experienced customers compare our test results to the wear metals flagging limits set by the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and we often get calls asking why we don’t follow the OEM’s recommended levels. Fortunately, this is an opportunity for us to explain the value of analysis from POLARIS Laboratories®.

We have analyzed millions of oil samples on most types of equipment, meaning we have a huge pool of data and customer feedback. We use that information to make sure our flagging limits won’t have customers perform maintenance too early or too late. Giving precise recommendations saves customers time, money, and effort, but we want to make sure that equipment is protected, too.

In addition to evaluating individual wear metals, the combinations of wear metals are also significant. Combinations of wear metals are significant because they may indicate a particular alloy, which is vital to understanding if a specific part is wearing – for example, elevated copper and tin would indicate a bronze part is wearing.

Many OEMs publish wear metal guidelines. These general guidelines may be a place to start to understanding fluid analysis reports, however they are not designed to be used as absolute values. To maximize the value of fluid analysis, a customer should expect a credible laboratory to have a comprehensive database, utilize statistical analysis to refine flagging limits, and have qualified Data Analysts to make appropriate maintenance and reliability recommendations.

For more information about how and why POLARIS Laboratories® adjusts flagging limits, download our new technical bulletin.

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

Published September 11, 2014

Testing Extended Life Coolants

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard coolant marketers, OEMs and customers alike say, “There’s no need to test the coolant. We use an ELC.” Extended life coolants, or ELCs, are designed to be more stable, require no supplemental coolant inhibitors and last longer than conventional coolants. However, that doesn’t eliminate the need for coolant testing.

Fluid design won’t prevent or correct many of the problems affecting cooling systems. Mechanical issues, such as combustion gas leaks, air leaks, localized overheating and hotspots or stray electrical grounding, can chemically affect or destroy the coolant and its inhibitors. Once the chemical change occurs, the coolant can attack the metals and components in the system, causing premature failure. Mechanical problems affect conventional and extended life coolants equally, and neither fluid formulation will fix the root cause of the problem.

Coolant contamination is the result of poor maintenance practices and air leaks. Depending on how they affect the pH, contaminants are either going to form acids or alkaline scale in coolants. The acid will corrode or pit cooling system components, degrade hoses and seals and deplete inhibitors and/or additives. Scale affects the oil side of an engine by decreasing the efficiency of heat transfer, which can lead to cracked heads, ring/cylinder wear or bearing wear. Coolants are affected by these problems whether they are conventional or an ELC, and the fluid cannot fix the root cause.

Coolant mixing is another reason why regular fluid analysis is needed for ELCs. With all of the different coolant formulations available today, coolant mixing is a huge issue in the industry. If an incompatible formula makes up more than 25 percent of the total coolant, the inhibitors from both formulas will be too diluted to protect the system, and serious corrosion can occur. Different OEMs use different coolants, so it is easy for fleets with several different brands to mix incompatible formulas together. Even if a fleet maintenance manager stocks the appropriate coolant formulas in the shop, this makes it even easier for maintenance personnel to add the incorrect coolant to a system. This can result in huge maintenance costs from corrosion issues, and this time, the problem is made worse by adding ELC formulas to the spectrum of coolants in stock.

The bottom line is no matter what coolant formula is used, mechanical issues, contaminants and coolant mixing will reduce the life of your fluid and can harm the cooling system and engine. Only regular laboratory coolant analysis can identify issues before damage has occurred. Our ELC test packages will evaluate the life remaining in these specialized formulas, identify if a problem has reduced the life of the coolant and provide maintenance recommendations to help you address the root cause of the problem.

Interested in adding coolant analysis to your maintenance program? Contact us today and we will be in touch with you shortly!

emily-featherston

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

Published June 4, 2014

Fluid Analysis Is Greener than You Think


We should all be aware of the impact we as humans have on the environment and want to protect our vital resources for future generations. The world population continues to grow, and for growth to be sustainable we must use less virgin products and capture more what we use for reuse. This is one of the reasons why I’m proud of the impact POLARIS Laboratories® has on the environment.

The fluid analysis industry helps our customers conserve natural resources. We provide customers with information about the remaining useful life of the fluids so they can use their lubricants and antifreeze to the fullest. These extended drain intervals allow the customers to go much farther than the manufactures’ recommendations in some cases. This saves the energy, raw materials and pollutants needed to produce new fluids and reduces millions of gallons of used oil and coolant needed to be disposed of.

In addition, the testing extends the life of the equipment itself. By taking action on the recommendations made by our data analysts, our customers prevent wear and reduce the chances of catastrophic breakdown. They get more miles traveled, hours of productivity and tons moved from their equipment than without our maintenance recommendations. Simply put, engines, transmissions and hydraulic systems last longer. The amount of steel and other metals no longer needed to make replacement equipment is staggering.

While POLARIS Laboratories® helps the environment through our customers; we also do our best to reduce the environmental impact of the testing we perform. We use solvents, plastic, glass and cardboard during the fluid analysis process, as well as the fluids sent in for testing. These items can harm the environment if not handled properly, so we have set up procedures to handle and dispose of these products responsibly. Nearly everything we use can be recycled.

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