MRO Magazine

How to Spot the Signs of Mechanical Failure

By the time mechanical failures or maintenance issues are spotted, they’re often already too serious or expensive to repair. Meaning that operators and asset managers have to put a piece of equipment out of order until it can be replaced or fixed, which has a direct negative impact on the business’ bottom line.


Industry

October 12, 2020
By Darryl Purificati

Industries

Photo: Petro-Canada Lubricants.

When incorporated into a proactive maintenance program, used oil analysis can help with early detection of atypical operations, such as mechanical issues, and the prediction of future maintenance needs. This not only allows for maintenance requirements to be effectively planned for and managed, but also improves the reliability and efficiency of the equipment. Used oil analysis can be easily incorporated into proactive maintenance programs to monitor the condition of heavy-duty engine oil, and the condition of other fluids such as coolant, transmissions, axle, and hydraulic fluids.

Monitoring engine oil
A heavy-duty engine oil keeps the internal hardware of the engine protected, and helps it operate with maximum efficiency. Engine oil is vital to the operation of the engine and is its lifeblood. Used oil analysis can provide detail into the condition of the oil, giving valuable insight into the overall health of the engine, and help with early identification of potential issues, similar to how a blood test can confirm wellness, or highlight underlying conditions.

Used oil analysis is a simple three step process to produce a report, which can inform future maintenance requirements and identify potential anomalies that can impact the overall health of the engine. The first step is to take a representative sample of the engine oil. Next, the sample should be sent to a qualified laboratory for analysis. The final stage is to interpret and act on the findings of the report. This can improve the reliability and performance of the equipment while highlighting the potential to safely extend oil drain intervals (extending drain intervals should always be undertaken in conjunction with an oil analysis program) to reduce scheduled maintenance costs.

Report reading tips
Acting on the results of the used oil analysis report is essential, and means that its insight isn’t left unused and filed away if no immediate warning signs stand out.

Lubricant experts can also share their experience to identify common anomalies and early warning signs to look out for. For example, if coolant or glycol is present in the oil sample, it could be the first signs of a failing exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler seal. If this is a potential concern, levels of silicon, potassium, and sodium should be watched closely as a failing EGR cooler seal needs immediate attention.

Also, some forward-thinking lubricant experts have developed digital tools to support equipment and maintenance managers to extract the full value of their oil analysis program. These digital tools can allow samples and data results to be accessed from desktops and mobile devices, allowing on-site access to the latest insight. Intuitive dashboard graphs and customized reporting can also help prioritize critical results and detect abnormal conditions before they cause costly repairs, and track maintenance events to forecast extended drain intervals and equipment performance.

The latest generation of used oil analysis data tools can help fleets reduce their maintenance costs, and prevent disruptive unplanned downtime. Ultimately adding to the bottom line of the business, used oil analysis is an essential part of any fleet’s proactive maintenance program. MRO
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Darryl Purificati is the OEM Technical Liaison for Petro-Canada Lubricants.


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