What Is An Oil Analysis And How Is It Performed?

Companies that work with fleets of vehicles, loading machinery, or industrial machines must be aware that their success and productivity depend on the good condition of each piece of equipment.

Preventive maintenance is essential to excellent operation, and oil analysis should be part of this concept to save on changes and determine how effective the lubricant currently being used is.

If you have never heard of oil analysis, keep reading because today we will tell you what it is, how it is done, and the benefits of doing it. Let’s get started!

What is oil analysis?

It is a study that has the objective of maintaining the health of the lubricant, avoiding its contamination, and measuring metallic wear, always within the condemnatory limits of each equipment manufacturer (stationary and mobile).

These oils are analyzed by experts in order to determine their condition and predict the behavior of the engine or industrial equipment, since through their study the presence of wear materials released by the engine or industrial mechanism (pumps, valves, actuators, etc.) as it is used, and which are collected by the lubricant.

Thanks to various oil analysis methods, it is possible to determine the useful life that the lubricant still has, to know the state of the engine or mechanisms of industrial equipment to schedule the corresponding maintenance so that the vehicle continues to function effectively, making it an ideal activity to prevent the damage caused by wear, or at least minimize it since it is possible to know at an early stage the parts of the engine or industrial mechanism, where the deterioration particles come from.

How is the analysis done?

The process begins with the collection of oil samples in glass bottles or syringes to avoid cross-contamination, which must be labeled in the most precise way to know the origin of the oil and the corresponding machine. When the sample is taken by syringe, the most common is to fill the syringe and discard the first oil collected, then fill it again and leave it to stand for five minutes so that air bubbles can concentrate. The tap on the syringe is then opened to let the air out. When the sample is taken with a bottle, the sampling valve must be cleaned and the oil drained a little to obtain the one found in the middle.

Once the sample is obtained, it is taken to the laboratory where it can be analyzed using different techniques.

Sampling by means of a suction pump

We must ensure that the tubes used with the pumps are correct and new for each sample. Using a used tube will give wrong results to the samples. Avoid scraping the side of the tank or inlet tube when inserting the vacuum pump tube.


To take the sample

  • Measure and cut the new tube to the same length as the dipstick. This should reach the center of the reservoir.
  • Insert the tube through the vacuum pump head and tighten the retaining nut. The tube should go through the head and end about 3 mm more.
  • Screw a new bottle onto the pump and pass the tube into the oil, without allowing it to hit the bottom of the crankcase.
  • Activate the pump sleeve to create a vacuum, keeping it in a horizontal position to prevent oil from contaminating the pump. If oil does contaminate the pump, it must be disassembled and cleaned before taking the next sample.
  • Fill the bottle 80%.
  • Remove tubing from the compartment and pump for disposal.
  • Screw on the bottle cap to ensure the integrity of the seal.
  • Fill in the bottle label or check the data if it has already been recorded.

A sampling of the drain or plug

Sampling the oil by draining is the least reliable method. If the sample is taken at the beginning of the drain, it may show a dirtier oil and/or worse conditions than reality. To do it correctly, make sure that the oil is very hot and the equipment has just stopped, to avoid extraordinary contamination that could have settled next to the plug.

Types of oil analysis

  • Physiochemical. Evaluates the conditions of the lubricant periodically or at predetermined times.
  • Based on contamination. It is performed to identify the presence of substances that can contaminate the system due to wear or chemical reactions of the oil.
  • Spectrometry. It is a method that allows identifying the chemical elements found in the lubricant when it goes through the combustion process. It is done by disintegrating an oil sample down to the atomic level to obtain accurate information on wear and identify the additives present and their role.
  • Ferrograph. It is the most used since it allows analyzing the metal particles present in the oil to identify the degree of wear of a certain part of the equipment or machine.

Benefits of oil analysis

Thanks to oil analysis, an intervention, maintenance, or replacement of parts can be scheduled even before they begin to fail. The analysis should be included in any physical asset management software. This undoubtedly reduces maintenance costs and machinery stops, which means that it is not necessary to stop the operation of the machines since the process can be carried out in a period in which they are not used. By avoiding unnecessary stops, the availability and optimal functioning of the machinery are guaranteed.

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