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Oil Sample Analysis

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ENGINE OIL ANALYSIS
Written by Captain Stanley G. Konz, A.M.S.
 

Potential Problems

Identify potential problems by having your oil analyzed! Analysis is the easiest and cheapest way to regularly monitor the condition of your vessels engines, drives, generators and transmissions. As part of a regular maintenance program, oil analysis allows you (or your mechanic) to identify potential engine problems before the components actually fail.

Engines seldom break down at convenient times, but with ample warning that a component is failing, you may schedule repairs or replacement before an emergency occurs.

Because the repairs can be done at your choice of time and location, they will certainly be less expensive. Also, by repairing the component before it fails, you prevent damage and more costly repairs to other parts of the engine.

Maritime Vessel Surveying, Inc. is equipped to take engine and gearbox oil samples for laboratory analysis. Samples are drawn hot from load testing during sea trial. Engine and gear box condition can be evaluated by oil sample spectrometric analysis.

We deliver samples to a laboratory in Tampa, Florida, and receive a report by phone immediately if a severe condition exists and normally receive the results by fax in within two working days.

EXPLANATION OF OIL ANALYSIS

The theory behind oil analysis is that, as an engine is operated, the metal parts of the engine wear and microscopic particles will remain in suspension in the hot oil, this is measured for both quantity and type by the lab, which uses complex testing and analysis.

All the major engine manufacturers, such as Cat, Cummins and Detroit, offer oil analysis programs through their dealers.

Oil analysis is also useful as part of our marine survey, and we recommend that engines, transmissions and generators be tested as part of the pre-purchase survey.

Though oil analysis is intended as part of an ongoing sampling and maintenance program, a single test can still tell a great deal about the health of an engine.

Lubricating oil reduces friction and wear between moving parts, assists in cooling the engine and removes contaminants. The wear of these parts generate minute metal shavings, decomposition of gasket material, ingestion of sand and dust with combustion air, accumulation of soot and sulfur from combustion and acids formed when condensation combines with the sulfur and other chemicals in the oil.

The analysis is based, when known, on the hours of the engine and the hours on the oil. This is a good reference to relate the parts per million to the actual use.

The values are also important indicators of existing severe conditions. The annual analysis reporting is intended to predict mechanical wear and failure of the equipment or a component part. The values for wear metals and silicon are reported in parts per million. The results are evaluated in relation to hours and or miles on the oil and component, operating conditions, and any other variable that could affect wear element concentrations.

A successful oil analysis program involves the necessary coordination between the laboratory and the user to utilize the program to its maximum benefit.

The lab keeps a record of each sample and, after a few tests, can offer an annual analysis that takes the observed trends into account.

When picking a lab, make sure that they have a good background in your type of equipment, and you might want to check with your local engine distributor for his recommendation.

Each lab varies in the tests they perform, but there are certain basic tests that should be included. The first is physical data: viscosity of the lubricant and the presence of water, fuel, dirt and other solids in the oil. A lubricant diluted by water or antifreeze solution indicates that coolant is leaking into the oil, usually from a blown head gasket or cracked head.

To insure the maximum benefits the user should:

1. Ensure sample labels are accurate and complete.

2. Sample regularly as part of your preventive maintenance program.

3. Practice proper sampling techniques, remember your oil analysis results are only as good as the samples that are taken. The tests include over 20 wear contamination elements (see below)

TEST RESULTS

The test results will indicate whether the oil is contaminated as described below. If the oil is found without contaminants, this report will serve as a baseline for future testing.

At Maritime Vessel Surveying, Inc. we recommend conducting an oil analysis at the conclusion of each boating season or on an annual basis. If oil testing is accomplished in this manner, any lubricating deficiency will be detected early and this could save the vessel's owner thousands of dollars in repair costs.

Test Results, continued

Implementation of an oil analysis program with annual relative reports may actually increase the value of the vessel, since machinery is expensive and it can be shown the lubricating oil was tested at regular intervals by an independent laboratory.

You might want to check with your   local engine distributor for their recommendation. There are dozens of independent oil analysis companies, which can be found in your telephone directory under "Laboratories, Testing". 

When pre-purchase surveying a vessel we recommend a sample of lube oil  (HOT) from each propulsion engine, transmission and auxiliary generator     be sent to a qualified independent laboratory for analysis. There is a charge for this service which  may be in addition to the survey fee.

20+ Wear Contamination Elements Tested

The following elements are typically tested in an oil analysis:
ALUMINUM
Shows wear on spacers, shims, washers, pistons on reciprocating engines, cases. On accessories, bearing cages, crankcases, housings, bushings, and some bearing surfaces.

BORON
Seals, dust, water and coolant leaks.
BARIUM
Oil additive, grease and water leaks.
CALCIUM
Oil additives, grease and some bearings.
CHROMIUM
Plating metal, replacing silver in many newer engines, shows wear on piston rings, seals, cylinder walls and liners, bearing cages and coolant leaks due to chromatic corrosion inhibitors.
COPPER
Present, in the form of an alloy, either bronze or brass therefore usually detected in tin for bronze alloy and zinc for brass. Shows wear on main, rod and thrust bearings, wrist pin bushings, thrust washers, oil coolers, gears, valves, turbo charger bushings, clutches disc plates and coolant leaks in copper heat exchangers. Copper levels can vary widely and should be ignored unless accompanied by elevated readings for any other metal on the presence of antifreeze. Copper is also used as an additive in some oil.
GLYCOL
Shows a coolant problem
IRON
Shows wear on shafts, valve train components, cylinders, gears, liners, bearings and an indicator of rust present.
LEAD
Overlay on main and rod bearings, turbocharger bearings, camshaft bearings and some bushings, is also a friction reducing agent in some oils.
MAGNESIUM
Cases for accessories, component housings, also an oil additive.
MOLYBDENUM
Piston ring metals, Found in antifreeze formulas, also a friction reducing additive in some oils
MANGANESE
Valves, blowers and exhaust leaks.
OXIDATION
Chemical reaction between oil and oxygen causing oil to thicken and lose its lubricating properties. Caused mainly by high temperature operation and/or extended oil changes.
POTASSIUM
Shows a coolant problem.
PHOSPHORUS
Oil additives and coolant leaks.
SILICON
Shows the presence of contamination by dirt or gasket material. Silicon is an oil antifoam agent, also found in grease, gaskets, and antifreeze.
SODIUM
Shows a coolant problem, possible salt water intrusion.
SULPHUR
Present in all fuels. Excess creates acidic conditions causing corrosive wear to engine
TIN
Shows wear on pistons, bearings and bushings.
VANADIUM
High speed steel alloy, contaminant metal in residual fuel.

WATER
Shows a coolant problem or could be condensate. Positive test indicates the presence of at least 0.5%contamination. This may lead to reduced oil lubrication ability and an increase in rust formation
ZINC
Brass components, neoprene seals, grease, coolant leaks and oil additives.
FUEL DILUTION
Shows injector problems or internal diesel leakage. Positive test indicates the presence of at least 4% dilution of oil. This may lead to a reduction in oil viscosity and Lubrication.
ANTIFREEZE
Positive test for glycol indicates
the presence of at least .1% contamination. Any amount is undesirable and can lead to
accelerated bearing wear.
SOOT
Indicates incorrect air mixture, residue of partially burned fuel that can thicken oil, deplete oil additives and eventually plug filters. Found only in engine samples.
VISCOSITY
SAE number of the oil.
TOTAL BASE NUMBER
Is the number that indicates the ability of the oil to fight acid formation.
PARTICLE COUNT
Detects both metallic and non-metallic particle contamination larger than 7 to 10 microns in size.
 
Please contact our office if we may be of service to you:
 
Captain Stanley G. Konz, A.M.S.
Maritime Vessel Surveying, Inc.
1-800-576-9116
 
If you require immediate support on  your vessel, please fill out the Auto-Responder located on the Contact Us page and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
 
For permission to use this article, please email: Maritime Vessel Surveying