Oil Filter Analysis for Critical Insight
Lubrication is an exact science. The oil you put into a machine must be suitable for its application and rated for heat, viscosity, and a dozen other characteristics for ensuring optimal performance.
Just as important as choosing the right lubricant is assessing its performance over time. To do that, you need to look at the oil filter. Filter analysis provides crucial insight into how effectively you’re lubricating equipment — and how your choice of lubricant is holding up to a machine’s working conditions.
A closer look at lubrication
Lubrication is the lifeblood of machinery. If there are moving parts, lubrication is a critical component for keeping them moving without friction, preventing breakdowns, and avoiding costly downtime. That said, lubrication is a precision process.
There are an infinite number of lubricants to consider for keeping components protected and functional. To further complicate matters, the right lubricant can change depending on the operating parameters of the equipment. Effective lubrication is akin to aiming at a moving target. It’s all technicians can do to lubricate in good faith and regularly verify the efficacy of their efforts.
What goes in must come out
While it’s important to understand the properties of specific lubricants, it’s equally essential to analyze your oil filters. Filters can tell you a lot about lubricant performance and provide data about other variables affecting the proper lubrication and protection of critical moving parts.
Oil filter analysis is used to identify and understand the effects of three primary variables:
- Large debris caused by wear and tear.
- Ingress particles causing contamination.
- Solids and semisolids created by improper lubrication.
The presence of any of these three problems in an oil filter means a change is required in the machine’s lubrication protocol. Semisolid particles may indicate use of the wrong lubricant. Debris caused by wear indicates an issue with viscosity. Further analysis of the oil filter should inform changes at the point of lubrication.
Effective filter analysis
As with any root cause analysis, there are levels of oil filter assessment. Visual inspection can point technicians in the right direction and help identify the macro symptoms of a problem. Lab analysis is useful for understanding the origin and composition of matter present in the filter.
Regardless of the intensity of an oil filter inspection, keep two important objectives in mind. First, follow ASTM D7919-14 guidelines for filter debris analysis, and second, look for actionable insight to inform improved lubrication standards.
Applying insights from an oil filter analysis will slow the moving target that is precision lubrication — and give service technicians enhanced understanding of equipment needs. While it’s always best to follow OEM lubrication guidelines, acting on analysis data is critical for adapting lubrication standards to the changing operational needs of your factory equipment.