To get the longest possible life out of your lube oil without risking damage to your equipment

5 Important Indicators for Action


To get the longest possible life out of your lube oil without risking damage to your equipment, it is necessary to conduct regular analysis and testing. If you know what to look for and what tests to ask for, Lab Reports can identify problems and save your critical rotational equipment.

Your Lab Report shows you the current condition of the lubricant, while also presenting trends that tell the story.
That means it is not an analysis of oil degradation, instead it gives you a picture of the quality of your oil and how it is changing over time. Plus you get recommendations on the actions that you can take to ensure the lubricant does not fall below a certain standard.

So, when you receive your Lab Report with the analysis of the lubricant, what should you look out for?

Here are five of the most important things to check:

1. Is it the Right Report?

The first thing to check sounds obvious, but it is very important. You should check that the report is your report, and that it is for the specific machine you are assessing. This is particularly important if you are responsible for the operation of multiple machines, or multiple sites.

The information that is typically included on a Lab Report includes:
Unit ID
Unit make
Unit model
Unit serial number
Site or location of the unit
Compartment name, ID, make, model, serial number
Lubricant manufacturer
Lubricant type
Lubricant grade
The report will also give details of when the sample was taken, as well as when it was received in the lab and reported on. All of this information will help you confirm that the report is the one that you should be assessing.

Tip – If the lab didn’t get it right, your samples may have been poorly labelled.

2. Review the Current Data – Physical Properties

The next step is to look at the data produced by the physical tests for the most recent sample that was taken. Water levels, or moisture, will probably be high on this list. This is typically reported in parts per million or percentage saturation. What you are looking for in the report is how close the moisture levels are getting to saturation point. There is no benchmark threshold as oils differ widely so check your OEM recommendations for oil and machine acceptable levels.

Warning – As soon as you see high moisture levels, take action. This will destroy the additives and drag your lube oil out of spec with disastrous results.

As well as moisture there are other physical properties that might have been tested for, so will be included on the report:
ISO 4406 rating see below
TAN Total Acid Number, to track additive depletion and subsequent oxidation
TBN Total Base Number, relevant to combustion environments
Viscosity look for consistent non varying results
PQ Index – measure of total ferrous metal
Viscosity index
Colour indicates a chemical change has occurred, or possibly a blend of oils
Oxidation a trend indicator of oil degradation
ISO 4406 ratings require a bit more explanation. They are a standard measurement and are expressed in three numbers – for example, 18/15/10.

Each of the three numbers represents the quantity of particles, in 3 particle size ranges, with the first number being the smallest, and the last number being the largest.
The chart below shows how ISO 4406 indicates how many particles per millilitre are in the oil. So, in the example above of 18/15/10, there are between 1,300 and 2,500 particles/4µm. There are between 160 and 320 particles/6µm. And there are between five and 10 particles/14µm.


Here is the chart with the ISO 4406 range codes which you can use to reference your result. The first number is a range code (the number you will see on your report), and the second is a range in parts per millilitre:
24 – Between 80,000 and 160,000 particles
23 – Between 40,000 and 80,000 particles
22 – Between 20,000 and 40,000 particles
21 – Between 10,000 and 20,000 particles
20 – Between 5,000 and 10,000 particles
19 – Between 2,500 and 5,000 particles
18 – Between 1,300 and 2,500 particles
17 – Between 640 and 1,300 particles
16 – Between 320 and 640 particles
15 – Between 160 and 320 particles
14 – Between 80 and 160 particles
13 – Between 40 and 80 particles
12 – Between 20 and 40 particles
11 – Between 10 and 20 particles
10 – Between 5 and 10 particles
9 – Between 2.5 and 5 particles
8 – Between 1.3 and 2.5 particles
7 – Between 0.64 and 1.3 particles
6 – Between 0.32 and 0.64 particles

9ddb7f56-e81e-444d-ac2d-2936a8869594 Digital Particle counter on a VDOPS reading 11/10/7. Very clean oil.

3. Review the Current Data – Metals and Contaminants

You should then check the results of the elemental spectroscopy tests which look for the presence of metals and contaminants. The results of these tests are often measured in parts per million, or PPM, but they can be reported in other ways.
Most reports should break down the results of the metal and particle counts to individual elements. This allows you to isolate particular elemental trends that indicate component wear debris such as iron, chromium, aluminium, copper, lead, tin, nickel, antimony, silver, titanium, and manganese.

BioKem Oil Services Patch Test at 100x Mag showing severe chromium wear debris

BioKem Oil Services Patch Test at 100x Mag showing severe chromium wear debris

BioKem Oil Services Patch Test at 100x Mag showing severe chromium wear debris

4. Compare the Trends

This step is one of the most important. The report you get will include the results of previous samples so that you can see how the lubricant is changing over time. This gives you a more accurate picture of how your lube oil is performing, but it also allows you to more easily predict when lubricant restoration work might be required.

5. Summary and Comments

Finally, read the summary notes or comments on the report. These are written by the lab technicians who conduct the lube oil tests. They give an analysis of the current report and state of the lubricant, and should confirm your own readings of the results. Often these notes also include recommended further action, such as the date of the next test, or whether maintenance of the lubricant is required.
And finally, on every report, make sure that the report trends make sense and that levels of moisture, particles, and elements are within range so that you can catch a problem early.36485ead-62b0-46e4-818e-9f5d4481716b Cost Benefit Analysis

Typically a testing regime will cost around $1,200 per annum per machine test site. This allows for the CM operator to conduct a monthly test, consumables, lab test and reporting. Each machine may require more than one testing point or more regular testing.

We guarantee that the cost of testing and predictive maintenance will be less than the cost of failure and subsequent repairs and downtime every time!
Next Article – The hidden costs of blending your mineral and synthetic oils


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