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Fleets

Overview

Over-the-road trucking fleets depend on their vehicles for their business and revenue. Vehicle availability is critical and unexpected breakdowns can be costly – not only due to the cost of the repair but towing charges of a large truck and the lost revenue can add up to an expensive event.

Some fleets, especially municipal fleets, have their own maintenance facilities while others rely on fleet service providers. Oil analysis can provide the fleet maintainers key information about the health of the oil as well as the vehicles. The goal is to get the vehicles serviced and back out on the road as quickly as possible. Those operations that have incorporated an oil analysis program into their maintenance operations have been able to optimize their workflow by improving the diagnostic capability of mechanical issues. Fleets can also achieve savings in reducing the number of unnecessary oil changes by monitoring the oil condition rather than changing oil on a time or mileage basis.

Challenges

Oil drains are expensive for large vehicles

By monitoring oil condition with on-site analysis, the maintenance staff can determine if the oil drain interval can be extended safely. Reducing the number of oil drains required per vehicle by even just one time per year can provide significant savings across a fleet of vehicles.

Repair costs can be high

Oil analysis can help identify potential problems early – before they become catastrophic and costly repairs. On-site analysis provides the service technicians the information about the vehicle while it is still in the garage so repairs can be made immediately before it goes back out on the road. Early identification could mean the difference between a $2,500 EGR cooler repair and a $30,000 engine rebuild.

Downtime of vehicles impacts service and revenue

When a vehicle is unavailable due to mechanical problems it means it is not available to provide necessary service like in the case of a city transit bus or if it is part of the public works fleet for things like snow removal. For companies like freight haulers or mining equipment it means it will impact the revenue generating service it provides. Oil analysis can help fleet managers to ensure their vehicles will be up and running when they are needed.

Managing maintenance workflow can be difficult

A busy service garage, especially one that maintains a large fleet of vehicles, needs to optimize the flow of their vehicles to get them in, serviced and back on the road in a timely manner. Many fleet customers will bring a vehicle in and immediately pull an oil sample for test. While it is running, they can conduct other necessary service checks. Oil drains are expensive for large vehicles.

Typical Tests – Wear

Particle Count

A high particle count or a rapid increase in particles can foreshadow an imminent failure.

Particle Composition

It is often important to understand the elemental composition of particles in order to find out where they came from. Optical Emission Spectroscopy gives the user elemental information for up to 32 elements, from Li to Ce (varies with application).

Chemistry

Total Acid Number (TAN)

TAN is measured to determine the corrosive potential of lubrication oils. If the TAN gets too high the oil can induce corrosion of machine parts and should be changed.

Viscosity

The main function of lubrication oil is to create and maintain a lubrication film between two moving metal surfaces. Insuring the viscosity is within recommended ranges is one of the most important tests one can run on lube oil.

Oxidation, Nitration, Sulfation

Lubricating oil at elevated temperatures can react with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere, as well as sulfur in fuel, to form undesirable by-products that can affect the oil’s viscosity and lead to corrosion or damage of equipment.

Contamination

Fuel Dilution

Fuel dilution in oil is a condition caused by excess, unburned fuel mixing with engine oil in an engine crankcase. Hydrocarbon-based fuel, usually with a lower vapor pressure than the lubricant, has a thinning effect, lowering the oil viscosity. Oil film strength is reduced, increasing the cylinder liner and bearing wear.

Glycol

Glycol is found in engine coolant. If glycol is found in engine oil it typically indicates there is a leak in the engine that can cause catastrophic damage to the cylinder or cylinder wall.

Soot

Soot is a product of combustion and has always been found in engine oils. Soot can use up an oil’s additives and deposit on vital engine surfaces.

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