A few weeks ago, we discussed extended oil change intervals for standby generator sets. Many of the responses included the importance of performing scheduled oil analysis. So this led me the question, are all oil analysis programs the same?
As an owner or operator of a generator set, you have many choices for obtaining oil analysis services. Options include oil companies, independent oil labs and OEMs. Obviously, my bias will be toward the OEM but let’s walk through some of the Pros & Cons of each. Then I’d like your opinion.
OIL COMPANY Some oil companies will offer you oil analysis with the purchase of their products and have a very intense emphasis on analyzing their product – oil. For this reason, programs offered by oil companies invariably place heavy emphasis on such things as viscosity and additive levels – basically the same tests they perform at their blending plants. Blending oil is their particular expertise; however, oil companies are not experts in establishing oil specifications to achieve maximum component life; that is the concern of most engine manufacturers.
PROS: Analysis could be included with the purchase of the oil CONS: Heavy focus on oil, viscosity and additives – but lack true understanding of engine
INDEPENDENT OIL LAB Often, an independent oil lab will aggressively pursue you claiming that because they are "professional" labs, they somehow provide more accurate oil analysis than the OEM or oil manufacturer. However, independent oil laboratories lack the proprietary wear data and engine profiles that only your engine manufacturer can access. Because of this they can only give a standard interpretation based on generalized component information.
PROS: Unbiased, Technology-rich environment CONS: Capable of oil analysis but not condition of the internal wear parts
OEM Most original engine manufacturers can analyze the oil and the condition of the internal wear parts. They have comprehensive knowledge of all components and can interpret the data to provide the most meaningful recommendations concerning your engine. With synthetic materials being used more frequently, this becomes even more important. Here are some analysis types OEMS may offer above and beyond basic oil analysis:
Wear Metal Analysis (Copper, Iron, Chromium, Lead, Tin, Aluminum, Molybdenum, Silicon, and Sodium)
Oil Contamination Analysis (Fuel Dilution Detection, Water Detection, Glycol Detection)
Oil Cleanliness Analysis (ISO Code, Particle Count)
Data Analysis (Evaluation and Recommendation)
PROS: They designed the engine and know exactly what metallurgical specifications were designed into each part and each component CONS: While very familiar with their own engine design, they have only the same level of knowledge as independent labs or oil companies when it comes to other manufacturer’s equipment
Do you agree with the points above? Would you add anything to the Pros/Cons? When you selected a company to provide you with scheduled oil sample services and oil analysis, did you ask yourself, "What information from the used oil sample would best identify the current component condition?" Please post your feedback below.