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Old 11-04-2012, 08:47 PM   #1
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Oil sampling recommendations, please

I've been using SOS labs owned by Caterpillar for annual sampling of the engine oil. I asked SOS for a guide on the typical ranges for different elements and values on their reports and was told that this information was 'proprietary' and all I could get was whether any action was required. Do any of you all have an oil sampling company that you use that provides the values from the test, as well as an interpretation guide that helps understand what is going on?

For example, on my last SOS report Molybdenum was high. Well, that is because this element is now used as an additive in CJ-4 spec oil and it would be nice to have an interpretation guide that indicates that rather than leave you scratching your head as to why this particular element is elevated. The idea that an interpretation guide is 'proprietary' information makes no sense to me, so I'm asking if anyone has a better company to recommend.
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Old 11-04-2012, 09:43 PM   #2
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That seems a bit odd.

I use Agat Laboratories in Alberta: http://www.agatlabs.com/transportati...logy/index.cfm They don't have an interpretation guide as such but they do note ranges and possible sources of abnormal results.

Even with that I've still had to use Google and talk to experienced fleet mechanics to track down some of the less obvious stuff.
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Old 11-04-2012, 10:27 PM   #3
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The analysis itself is not proprietary, it is the wear data that is relevant to the metallurgy of your engine that is proprietary. That is the value-added aspect that only CAT can offer for a CAT engine. I used to use an independent lab (Fluid Life) for the major stationary equipment I was responsible for, but the mill used SOS via Finning for our CAT mobile equipment.

I'd likely stick with the CAT oil analysis lab and just educate yourself on wear particles, TAN, and TBN, so you can understand their reports. There is lots of info out on the net.

I believe I have some Noria training publications and maybe some from Fluid-Life that I could share with you when I get back home. Noria also has a decent magazine "Machinery Lubrication" you can get for free electronically, or maybe search the archives.

PS: Moly is typically an anti-wear additive (as you wrote).

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Old 11-04-2012, 10:54 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern Spy View Post
The analysis itself is not proprietary, it is the wear data that is relevant to the metallurgy of your engine that is proprietary. That is the value-added aspect that only CAT can offer for a CAT engine. I used to use an independent lab (Fluid Life) for the major stationary equipment I was responsible for, but the mill used SOS via Finning for our CAT mobile equipment.

I'd likely stick with the CAT oil analysis lab and just educate yourself on wear particles, TAN, and TBN, so you can understand their reports. There is lots of info out on the net.

I believe I have some Noria training publications and maybe some from Fluid-Life that I could share with you when I get back home. Noria also has a decent magazine "Machinery Lubrication" you can get for free electronically, or maybe search the archives.

PS: Moly is typically an anti-wear additive (as you wrote).

Cheers.
Thanks, that is helpful and your explanation on why to stick with SOS makes sense. I would appreciate the information you mentioned if you can PM it to me. By the way, is that the engine room on your Nordic in the picture? I had no idea they were so roomy....
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Old 11-05-2012, 01:30 AM   #5
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Good points NS. Interpretation of oil analysis is not a simple science. SOS is one of the most dependable labs, but their interpretation will be most accurate on a CAT engine and also when using Cat lubricant.
With any oil analysis, the trends are extremely important. Changing brands of oil, fuel, or even coolant can blur the interpretation of any trend.
I was operations manager for a company that ran a fleet of over 1000 Cat 3516's. We used to take oil samples on each batch of new oil (which occasionally varied); then every hundred hours plotting out all the parameters. This made it easy to work out the optimum oil change and rebuild intervals, fuel problems, cooling system leaks etc.
A single oil sample will give limited information. If a sample is taken at the same interval of the oil change cycle regularly, (eg - just before the oil change at the same hourly interval) it is much more useful to compare to prior samples.
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Old 11-05-2012, 08:05 AM   #6
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Oil-Analysis Data Evaluation - MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY

As stated, you want to watch the trend over time. And to evaluate properly you need a baseline which means testing clean oil from the container and using the same brand oil each time. Personally, I've never sprung for the extra $$ to do that. You also want to collect the oil for sampling mid-stream, not from the bottom of the pan.
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Old 11-05-2012, 09:01 AM   #7
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When I was working I had a good bit of exposure to oil analysis for Ag. and construction equipment customers. I have done it once in a while on my boats with diesel engines. It is interesting, but I'm not sure it is really practical for the majority of pleasure boat owners.
Just my opinion others will vary,
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Old 11-05-2012, 09:28 AM   #8
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I use Blackstone Labs.

25.00 a sample. They give great feedback and good analysis.
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Old 11-05-2012, 10:19 AM   #9
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Thanks everyone. I do annual samples, so do have a baseline. My question was really more about whether labs other than SOS provided additional interpretive information, which I understand is going to be tough since the wear patterns of different engines with different oils is going to be, well, different. What I was looking for was whether, for example, 11 ppm FE is low, normal, slightly above normal, what? Since all I get is a "No Action Required" for the entire report that doesn't tell me much about each component of the test. CAT certainly has the data on how their engines wear, so not publishing it along with the report seemed a bit perverse.
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Old 11-05-2012, 10:29 AM   #10
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here is a link to a sample report from Lubriport Labs in Kenner Louisiana

Lubriport Labs, Inc. - Sample Analysis Report
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Old 11-05-2012, 11:19 AM   #11
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Actually, I'm not overly impressed with the sample report. Engine hrs/oil hrs/miles don't make alot of sense; (how long the oil has been run makes a big difference in analyzing whether the measured metals are acceptable or not). No TBN or TAN measured, (Total base number, Total acid number) This tells you whether you are running your oil too long and has gone acidic etc. Acceptable numbers vary depending on base oil, but generally when these numbers are equal, your oil is done.

Regarding acceptable Fe level, - again it depends on the number of hours on engine and oil, and the type of engine. Looking at a single sample, towards the end of the oil life, on a 5000 hour diesel, I'd say 11ppm is perfectly normal. With oil 20 hrs old, on a new engine, it may be a concern, but if you have the historical trend, it will tell you so much more.
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Old 11-06-2012, 08:12 AM   #12
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When you change the oil, take a sample.
'
KEEP THE RESULTS!!!

Whatever the cost of the lab , you will get 10X that back in time and effort when you sell the boat.
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Old 11-06-2012, 10:01 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Delfin View Post
Thanks everyone. I do annual samples, so do have a baseline.
How many hours and oil change intervals do you run in a year?
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Old 11-06-2012, 10:41 AM   #14
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When I was working for a living we had many pieces of 2000+ hour per year diesel equipment. Those gensets, trucks, shovels, loaders, dozers etc all were SOSed with warranties at stake. We had forklifts, pickups, crew haulers, blasting supply trucks and other support equipment that were replaced on a rotating 2 to 5 year basis where the warranties were not SOSed based, you guessed it we did no oil sampling. On a lower hour well maintained 100 - 200 hour per year trawler I question the need for oil sampling except for the "sales gimmick" aspect FF brings up. Some like Delfin use additives to prolong their oil life and in these cases sampling makes sense. But, and a very big but, numbers are generally meaningless unless you have a baseline and audit (on big fleets send every 5th sample to an different lab) on the oil samples.

Having said all this, oil sampling is not a big $$ and it can bring a sense of security. So, who of you has used oil sampling on your recreational (not charter or commercial) boat to determine when to rebuild your bottom end during the off season prior to it cratering?

All the rebuilds/tear outs in the recreational boat business I know about were based upon:
  • Old outdated engines
  • Fuel thirsty - ie DD 2 strokes
  • Overheat
  • Water in cylinders
  • Funny noises
  • Won't run
  • Lots of smoke due to oil burn
I must admit that oil samples can indeed confirm you cratered your engine due to neglect or abuse, by far the leading cause of engine tear outs.
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Old 11-06-2012, 11:13 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FF View Post
When you change the oil, take a sample.
'
KEEP THE RESULTS!!!

Whatever the cost of the lab , you will get 10X that back in time and effort when you sell the boat.
This is true. If for no other reason this is worth what the samples cost. The buyer is impressed by the fact that you were interested enough to get it done. The last boat I had upon sale the buyer was waffling and wanted an engine survey. His broker and the engine surveyor told him that with the oil reports for the last six oil changes there was no real need for an engine survey. Saved the deal as far as I was concerned. Well worth the $90 for the six oil samples.

I do believe that some items such as water in the oil, antifreeze in the oil and high or low numbers in other sections are indicators of possible future problems.
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