Oil Analysis Blog-

Oil Analysis Blog

The Basics of Lubrication


Lube oil analysis is used extensively to help companies maintain their equipment. In order to take full advantage of the test data from oil samples, it is important to understand the basic properties of a lubricant.  Equally important is the understanding of how these properties affect the ability of the lubricant to function. Lastly, knowledge of the common test techniques and instrumentation used to analyze oil can aid in data interpretation and lead to more productive corrective action.

To effectively monitor how well a lubricant is working, the functions of the lubricant must be understood. The primary function of a lubricant is quite obviously to lubricate (that is, to reduce friction). By reducing friction, wear is reduced, as is the amount of energy required to perform the work.

When the proper lubricant is used, and the proper load is applied, the asperities are not in contact and in theory no wear will occur. When inadequate lubrication is present, or the load is increased, the oil film will not be thick enough to fully separate the asperities. Mixed lubrication, a cross between boundary and hydrodynamic lubrication, occurs when the oil film thickness is equal to the average asperity height. The largest asperities will come in contact, resulting in increased wear.

Many oils are fortified with anti‐wear additives to combat wear under these circumstances. As load continues to increase, or lubrication degrades, boundary lubrication occurs and the oil film thickness cannot separate the friction surfaces. This can result in metal‐to‐metal contact. At this point, asperities are adhering to one another, causing severe machine wear. This can also manifest itself during periods of shock loading, startup or shutdown. Extreme pressure additives are used in oils that frequently encounter these types of situations.

Lubricants also control the temperature of the equipment. Oil absorbs heat generated at the friction surface and carries it away to be dispersed. Many systems incorporate heat exchangers or radiators to aid in removing heat from the system. Along with heat, lubricants transport dirt and other debris away from the friction surface.

Particulate contamination leads to increased wear through abrasion and reduced oil flow. Some oil additive packages contain agents that break up contaminants and hold them in suspension to be filtered out. This prevents harmful deposits and varnish from forming within the equipment. Alkaline additives also protect the components by neutralizing acid and preventing corrosion.

Hydraulic oils have the added function of transmitting power. To function properly, hydraulic oil must be clean and free of contaminants. Many contaminants will cause oil to foam and entrain air or water. Entrained air causes the oil to compress under pressure, resulting in a loss of power. Particulate contaminants can cause the control valves to malfunction and restrict the oil flow.

To learn more about lubrication, check our TestOil’s webinar calendar for dates offering “The Basics of Lubrication.”

Best Practices For Proper Lubrication Storage and Handling


Having lubrication storage and handling systems in place is extremely important. Lubrication products are expensive, so they need to be handled in a fashion that maximizes your return on investment.

Make sure your storage and handling areas are clean, well organized, and climate controlled. You are responsible for ensuring the new oil and grease placed in your equipment is clean and dry, and has not been exposed to extreme temperature variations.

If you have oil storage racks, consider separate pumps and filters for each different lubricant. Furthermore, make sure your transfer containers are clean and be sure not to expose lubricants to contamination in route to the equipment.

Test all your oil for acceptance before placing it into your system for use. Doing so is especially valuable with bulk shipments, because you never know what was in the tanker before your load of oil.

Reasons for using proper lubrication handling and storage:

  • Protect lube products from environment
  • Protect from plant dirt/moisture/sunlight
  • Filter new lubes or lubes as you use them
  • Keep lubes separate from other plant chemical/products

Maximize Your Efforts with Oil Analysis Skills Training


One aspect of a reputable, self‐sufficient oil analysis program that is often overlooked is training. Trained technicians that understand how important quality lubrication procedures are will be key in maintaining a program.

Staffing of a lubrication program is extremely important. You may consider hiring someone with a proven track record of success, however do not overlook the talent you already have in your plant. There are likely several people already in your organization that would be good fits.

Once your staff is in place you can look at outside resources to assist with training. There are several companies that offer excellent training in lubrication fundamentals and practices and most will be willing to come to your site if you have enough people to fill a class. Do not forget to include supervisors and managers. They need to be onboard and be aware of what is required and the benefits that can be achieved by implementing an oil analysis program.

Oil analysis is an ever‐changing technology and to reap its benefits, one must continually receive quality training.

Training options may include:

  • Classes and/or certifications
  • Trade shows and conferences are another way to help personnel stay on top of recent advances in their field.
  • Department budget should reflect these educational opportunities from year to year.

TestOil offers several types of oil analysis training options including monthly webinars and regional training classes.

How to Select Oil Analysis Test Packages


Oil analysis test packages should be carefully considered. Different equipment have different test profile requirements. When determining what test packages to choose, the actual equipment and the surrounding environment should dictate what tests are appropriate.

Keep in mind that with oil analysis your goal is to increase machine reliability through improved fluid condition and early detection that otherwise would not be obvious unless it causes machine failures. Having an idea about what the various tests are, what they can accomplish, and taking into account the maintenance philosophy being practiced, test packages can easily be drawn up to accomplish the desired results. For example, you may know that some equipment can be run to failure much less expensively than the cost of performing a regular oil analysis. On the other hand, on machines with smaller reservoirs when oil quality is all that would be monitored, it may be best to continue with regular or even increased frequency of oil changes.

When determining what test packages you need, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is being monitored, the machine, the lubricant, or both? These three items require a different set of tests. Each type of machine should have a test package tailored to its needs. You should also begin a dialogue with an oil analysis lab to help you determine what test packages will help you reach your goals.
  2. How often will samples be taken from each machine? Depending on the criticality and type of testing, frequency of sampling could range from once a week to annually.

Trying to determine the correct test slate for an oil-lubricated piece of machinery can be daunting.  If you are not sure what tests are right for your equipment, contact TestOil.  This article published in Machinery Lubrication may also be helpful.