Oil Analysis Important w/ New Diesel Engines, New Oil Web source: http://www.ttnews.com/lmt/July06/07checkup.asp 2007 Engine Checkup Used oil analysis can help fleet managers determine how the 2007 emissions standards affect engine performance. By Stephen Bennett Fleet managers will need to closely monitor the effects new 2007 emissions standards have on engine oils, and used oil analysis can help, industry experts said. Used oil analysis "is kind of like getting a blood test from the doctor," said Gary Chojecki, supervisor of auto and repairs in the Department of Engineering and Public Works in Schenectady, N.Y. "You find out what's going on inside." Diesel engines designed to meet 2007 emissions standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency will feature increased use of exhaust gas recirculation, are expected to run hotter and will use a new oil classification, known as CJ-4. "We're going to be watching to see how [all] that affects the oils," Chojecki said. "The oils involved with the 2007 engines are going to be a little bit different formulation," said Mark Minges, chief operating officer of Polaris Laboratories, Indianapolis, which performs fluid analysis. "They have less ash content and also a slightly lower [total base number] value," Minges said of the CJ-4 oils. The TBN indicates the oil's alkaline level and thus its capacity to neutralize the damaging sulfuric acid generated when diesel fuel is burned. The 2007 engines also will feature diesel particulate filters, Minges noted. For that reason, he said, "I think it's likely that we could see higher soot loads, which could affect the drain intervals of these engines. I think some of these engines, quite possibly, could be needing an oil change a little bit sooner." However, that is something that remains to be determined, and will be demonstrated over time as the engines are put into service, he said. "It's probably going to be a good six months [after they enter service] before we start seeing the data from those engines." Oil analysis of engines that incorporated EGR to meet the 2002 EPA emissions requirements showed increased soot levels, said Shawn Ewing, technical coordinator for Kendall Motor Oil at ConocoPhillips Lubricants, Ponca City, Okla. The 2007 engines are likely to exacerbate such changes, he said. "Two things are going to happen: People are going to have to start watching soot, which they should do already ... and they're also going to have to start watching acid [levels]." ULSD's Role Also, the advent of ultra-low-sulfur diesel is likely to change analysis results, maintenance experts and testing service operators said. By mid-October, 85% of the nation's retail outlets should be selling diesel with a maximum sulfur content of about 15 parts per million. By comparison, the older diesel has upwards of 500 ppm sulfur content. "We hope, and theory says, ULSD should help because the less sulfur there is in the diesel, the less sulfuric acid is going to build up," Ewing said. "So in the long term it should be a good thing for both the engine and the oil life." Chojecki isn't troubled by the introduction of ULSD. "We've been putting an additive into our diesel fuel for years, ever since we went to low sulfur about seven, eight years ago," he said. The additive helps counter the loss of lubricity that occurs with the reduction of sulfur, and it helps maintain a higher pouring point for the fuel during cold winters with average snowfall of 65 inches. "Wintertimes get pretty miserable around here," Chojecki said, and that is a factor to consider in equipment maintenance. Fleet vehicles are housed in a garage heated to 60 degrees so the fluids and hydraulic oils remain fluid. "When we get a storm, the guys can jump in the trucks and they're out the door without having trouble starting or having to warm up," he said. A drawback is that once the trucks get out into the cold weather, condensation can build up in the system, Chojecki said. "So we constantly monitor, through oil analysis, for water in the oil - residue from the condensation. To date we have not had a problem with that." The most important benefit to be derived from oil analysis is being able to see problems that are occurring before they cause failures, said Steve Waggoner, quality management system and technical manager for D-A Lubricant Co., an Indianapolis testing firm. For example, increased wear can be signaled by test results that show the presence of contaminants, such as antifreeze, water or dirt. Another major benefit of oil analysis is that drain intervals can be extended - once vehicles are out of warranty. Once extended intervals are being observed, some fleets perform midinterval sampling as a precaution, Waggoner said. "Such practices can result in savings on lubricants," and it could extend the service life of the vehicle, he said. "It's difficult to predict exactly what any one fleet can accomplish, because a good portion of what they're able to do depends on their maintenance practices as well. If they have really good maintenance - a clean shop - and they pay attention to drain intervals and filter service and that sort of thing, they have a much better chance of achieving extended equipment life than somebody whose shop you wouldn't want to walk through without a hazmat suit on," Waggoner said. Preventive Maintenance "Oil sample analysis is basically a proactive approach to preventive maintenance," Chojecki said. It is part of the program carried out by a foreman and mechanics to maintain some 600 vehicles in the Schenectady city and county fleet, which includes 25 International 7500 models, plus garbage trucks and fire and police department vehicles. For nearly four years, the fleet has been performing engine oil changes at 7,500-mile intervals. The fleet uses Kendall oils supplied by its local distributor, Farrell Oil Co; its samples are sent to Polaris, which conducts the testing by arrangement with Kendall. Chojecki can access test results through the Kendall Lubricant Analysis System Web site, KLAS.net. Some fleets that do not use oil analysis keep their vehicles only as long as the warranty lasts, obviating the need for oil testing, Polaris' Minges speculated. There is some misunderstanding about what oil analysis can and cannot do, Minges added. "People have a tendency to get scared of numbers. Unless they understand the numbers, people really don't know quite what to do with them. We encourage people to call in if they get a report with something they don't understand." Cost per test is between $10 and approximately $20 per oil sample, according to the testing services and laboratories, with some recommending quarterly or monthly testing on each piece of equipment. A number of the service providers post results to a Web site customers can access. E-mail and faxes are also used to transmit results, which are typically flagged if results show a problem. Blackstone Laboratories, Fort Wayne, Ind., offers a discount for users who purchase sample kits in volume, in advance, Kristin Huff, vice president, said. "The standard cost is $20 a sample, but we have a discount program in place where . . . a fleet owner . . . can buy a big batch up front and that brings the cost down," she said. For example, customers who buy at least at least 100 pay $15 per test. Blackstone's customers include fleets of city transit buses, local school buses and trucks used by government agencies. Blackstone sends analysis results by e-mail, fax and mail. This year, it is planning to launch a Web site on which customers can enter a user name and password to access test results, Huff said. Stephen Bennett, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, has extensive experience writing about technology and operational issues.