FAQ's (Oil Analysis)

Q1. Which oil is the best to use?
A1. All oil companies produce both cheap and expensive oils, none of them produce bad oil, you simply get what you pay for. Often the only differences are the price and service level. If a customer uses a specific supplier then a specific product can be recommended from that supplier's product range. We cannot comment on oil formulations or blending as this is the domain of the oil companies.

Q2. Which make of equipment is the best?
A2. We cannot recommend one make of equipment over another, but would suggest that the application, environment, cost and service level be considered when making the choice of equipment.

Q3. Can WearCheck do failure analysis?
A3. WearCheck does not do failure analysis. WearCheck carries out condition monitoring of equipment relying on trend analysis and regular sampling. The objective of oil analysis is, in fact, to prevent the need for failure analysis from ever occurring. Samples taken at failure, by definition, cannot be representative and it would be unwise and possibly totally wrong to make assumptions based on a failure sample.

Q4. Can WearCheck provide information on other customers' results?
A4. Irrespective of who owns the machine, who supplied the oil, who maintains the equipment, or who the OEM is, the results belong to the person who paid for the sample bottle and these results will not be divulged to a third party without the written permission from the owner.

Q5. How quickly can I get my results?
A5. WearCheck endeavours to process all samples within 24 working hours of receipt of the sample at the Pinetown laboratory. Due to operational difficulties it is not possible to guarantee that this will happen 100% of the time. However, at least 90% of all samples are processed within 24 hours and at least 99% are processed with 48 hours.

Samples with missing information, or samples whose origin cannot be clearly identified, may take a bit longer as the data processing department may need to query certain details. Also, samples that appear to have severe problems may be sent back to the laboratory so that extra tests can be carried out.  These are usually the samples that do not make the 24 hour turnaround.

Although WearCheck runs an oil testing laboratory, the actual analysis is carried out in a process that resembles a production line. This takes place in order to ensure a quick turnaround time for the large number of tests that are performed on each sample. However, it does mean that samples received later in the day may not enter the process stream until the next morning.

In the event of an emergency, every effort will be made to process a sample as timeously as possible within the working constraints of the many departments involved.

Q6. How should I take a correct sample?
A6. All samples should be taken at operating temperature (hot) and the oil should be well mixed.

Q7. Why are so many tests performed on the oil? Are they all necessary?
A7. We believe that all tests are a necessity, and not a luxury. Some oil analysis companies offer a reduced service at a reduced cost, offering customers a choice of the level of service desired. Even if only three per cent of all engines analysed show a dangerous level of water contamination, it is not worth bypassing this test and risking equipment worth hundreds of thousands of Rands to save a few Rand on oil analysis.  It is this philosophy that enables WearCheck to offer customers true peace of mind.

Q8. What is PQ?
A8. The PQ (Particle Quantifier) gives a bulk iron reading irrespective of the particle size. It is able to detect particles that are too large for the spectrometer to pick up. The higher the PQ index, the more serious the problem.  A high PQ would automatically indicate that a microscopic particle examination must be carried out as an in-depth test to evaluate the severity of the wear problem

Q9. What is normal?
A9. The definition of normal varies from machine to machine depending on its workload and the environment in which it operates. Oil analysis interpretations are based on trends rather than specific limits.

Q10. Why not use wear limits?
A10. Again, because the same components behave differently under varying conditions. For example, a truck engine that operates on long hauls between major cities will have a different wear profile from the same engine which is being overloaded in a stop-start off-road operation like a quarry.  Trend analysis is a far more effective measure of abnormalities than wear limits.

Q11. Why aren't wear rates used?
A11. There are too many variables to be able to determine wear rates accurately. For example, precise oil consumption figures would have to be on hand to be able to apply the relevant mathematical formulae and these are seldom available.

Q12. Why is it necessary to supply feedback to the oil analysis company?
A12. A diagnostician is only as good as the information supplied to him or her. The better the quality of information the diagnostician has with which to work, the more accurate the diagnosis will be. Feedback on one sample is essential for the diagnoses of the next sample.

Q13. Do I need oil analysis if my equipment is still covered under warranty?
A13. Yes, because a problem could develop towards the end of the warranty period which could cause a failure outside the warranty. Oil analysis can provide solid evidence for warranty claims. Many major manufacturers such as Caterpillar and Komatsu realise the value of oil analysis and insist that it is conducted during the warranty period.

Q14. Can analysis be used to evaluate a second-hand vehicle?
A14. Yes, although trend analysis cannot be applied if this is a one-off test, oil analysis will detect excessive wear and major contaminants such as fuel dilution and dust entry.

Q15. If vibration analysis is carried out on industrial gearboxes, does analysis still need to be carried out?
A15. Yes, the two forms of analysis complement each other. Oil analysis will detect contamination before vibration monitoring detects contamination-related wear, and analytical ferrography can detect abnormal bearing and gear wear in the very early stages.

Q16. What is the importance of in-depth testing, for example filter or ferrography analysis?
A16. Ferrography accurately pinpoints problems that have been highlighted by oil analysis. Because it is an in-depth examination of particles generated from the problem area, it enables diagnosticians to identify the wear mechanism and its severity and make the decision whether to dismantle or not. Oil filter analysis can also highlight any abnormal wear.

Q17. If I do field tests on diesel engine oils, do I still need to send the sample for analysis?
A17. Yes, ideally, field screening tests that indicate the presence of fuel dilution or sludging should be done on all samples. The samples still need to be sent for complete analysis to measure the levels of other contaminants and wear metals.

Q18. Can one oil cater for all the different engines manufactured?
A18. No, engine manufacturers in Europe, Japan and the USA design engines for specific purposes. They are all high powered and they all need different types of lubricants.

Q19. Do high-price synthetic oils work?
A19. Yes. However, because of their high cost, the benefits of using them should be balanced against the expense, taking into account the cost of the lubricated component, the application and the working environment. Synthetic oils generally protect components from high temperature operation but cannot protect them against contamination like dirt and water.

Q20. Does additional filtration affect the oil analysis result?
A20. Yes, Good bypass filters do remove more debris than standard full flow filtration. This can result in lower wear metal readings and emphasises the need for trend analysis.

Q21. Do filters need to be analysed every time they are discarded?
A21. Yes. All filters should be examined before they are thrown away. If the indications are unclear, the filter should be sent for analysis.

Q22. I've been studying wear metal for years, I can tell if there is abnormal wear by cutting the filter. Why do I need to measure the metal in oil?
A22. Oil analysis can predict abnormalities before they become a major problem. Metal that can be seen and felt is the result of progressive damage in the well-advanced stages. Considering that human hair is about 40 microns thick, it is clear that if the wear particle is visible to the naked eye, substantial damage has already been caused.

Q23. How do I get the oil sample out of my equipment?
A23. The best and easiest way to retrieve a sample from your equipment is to use a sampling valve. A sampling pump can also be used. Pumps and valves can be supplied by WearCheck.

Q24. How can I be proactive in my maintenance practices?
A24. Do you know that oil tells a story and provides a working history of your engine? With oil analysis, you can get a look inside your engine and get the story without taking the engine apart. Be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to protecting your investment.

Q25. I am using extended drain interval oil. How do I know if it is really time to change the oil?
A25. Oil analysis enables you to take the guesswork out of when to change your oil.

Q26. What can I do to save money for my business and reduce downtime?

  • Early detection of abnormal wear
  • Early detection of oil degradation
  • Early detection of contamination
  • Early detection of impending failuresVerify oil in use
  • Optimise oil change intervals
  • Avoid unnecessary overhaulsAvoid loss in production
  • And save time and money!

Q27. How can Oil Analysis help the environment?
A27. Extending oil drain intervals translates into less environmental pollution and less dependency on foreign oil.

Q28. As a return customer, do I need to completely fill in the information form?
A28. The report you receive from us is only as good as the information you provide. The information form should be filled out as completely as possible every time.

Q29. My sample has a high copper number. Where is it coming from?
A29. If only the copper is high, but no other metals such as lead, tin, or aluminium are elevated, it is mostly an oxide of copper from the oil cooler. As the oil cooler is exposed to the heat from the engine oil, it can sometimes oxidize the copper, which will show up in the analysis report. This is considered a normal condition and no corrective action is required. This process usually will taper off or stop occurring over time.

Q30. Is there a way of knowing what is high or low wear metals for my car?
A30. Download our Technical Bulletins TB15, TB16 & TB48 for a more thorough explanation of test parameters and limits.
Click here to view our Technical Bulletins database.

Q31. How long does the laboratory keep an oil sample before disposing of it?
A31. The laboratory will keep the oil sample for six weeks.

Q32. Will I understand my report?
A32. Reports are easy to read and understand. Customer and unit information identify the equipment for which testing was performed. Technical oil data appears in a quick-read chart with multiple entry capacity for trending. Easy-to-understand recommendations are included so you know exactly what you should do with your oil or component to provide the best care for your equipment. The report shows a detailed explanation of tests and results.

Q33. Are used oil samples considered a Hazardous Waste Shipment?
A33. No. New or used lubricating oils are not hazardous, flammable or toxic according to the Regulation for Hazardous Material (DMM 601.10.6) which indicates that liquids with a flash point above 200 degrees F are free of restrictions when shipped by air or surface transportation.

The average flashpoint of used engine oil is 380 degrees F and the average flash point of used transmission or hydraulic fluids is 340 degrees F. If the minimum flash point of 200 degrees F is met, the collection and shipping containment provided in OAI test kits is sufficient for shipment by air or ground transportation.

Postal Regulations require that the sample collection containment have a lined, screw-on lid to prevent leakage. OAI's oil analysis test kits provide a plastic sample collection jar, a lid with a liner and a plastic return mailer for secondary containment.

Q34. Do all oils offer the same level of protection?
A34. No, just as engines and technology have advanced over the years, oil research and development have also progressed. Oil formulations can differ depending on the type and amount of additives used and the way in which the base oil was refined.

Q35. What is synthetic oil?
A35. Previously, synthetic oil was defined as an oil base stock that was formulated in a laboratory rather than crude oil from the ground that has been refined. However, these days the term 'synthetic' is purely a marketing term that denotes an oil of very high quality. Synthetic base stocks can either be synthesized in a laboratory or produced from very highly refined and processed mineral oils. Both 'mineral' and 'synthetic' oils contain additives.

Q36. Why does the engine oil have to be changed?
A36. This is the same as asking why you should use fresh water and detergent when washing a new load of dishes. Like water, the base oil part of a lubricating oil does not wear out, but it also contains additives that help clean up contaminants, prevent rust, reduce friction, minimise foaming and so on. In fact, diesel engine oils also contain detergents and dispersants that clean the internal engine surfaces, neutralise acids and keep contaminants (such as carbon particles or soot) in suspension so that they don't form deposits on the mechanical components. In doing their jobs, additives are used up, and need to be replaced. So, just as you would change the dishwashing water in order to renew the detergent and remove the dirt and scraps that have accumulated, you also need to change the engine oil.

Q37. When should I change the oil?
A37. The oil should be changed before the additives are used up. The vehicle manufacturer will provide guidelines for changing oil, based on either mileage or time period, in the operating manual of the vehicle. A bakkie, for example, might have a 12 month/15000 km oil-change interval.

Q38. When I change the oil, I notice that the colour of the old oil is black. Does this mean that the oil has failed?
A38. No. Black oil is a good sign that the oil is cleaning away the black deposits and contaminants that can form during the combustion process and get down into the engine oil. If the oil is still relatively light in colour when you change it, this means that it has little detergency and is not doing its job.

Q39. Should I change the filters when I drain the oil?
A39. Yes. Although the filter may seem in excellent condition on the outside, it will have collected deposits and metallic pieces that can increase the rate at which a new oil degrades, which reduces the life of the oil, as well as causing wear on the engine surfaces.

Q40. Can oil analysis predict engine failure?
A40. Yes. Oil analysis provides vital information as to the condition of both the oil and the engine being tested. It can detect wear and contamination problems that, if left unchecked, can severely effect engine performance or cause failure.

Q41. How will I know if my engine has a problem, and what action should I take?
A41. A detailed analysis report is sent to you every time you send us a sample. Recommendation and analysis are included in our report. If you require more information you can contact us and we will be happy to help.

Q42. How will I know when my results are ready?
A42. We will notify you by email as soon as your results are ready.

Q43. Why do I need to get oil analysed?
A43. Oil analysis is a quick and easy way of finding out how healthy your equipment is. Oil is analysed for many different reasons, but the most important is for keeping your equipment healthy and finding out exactly what is happening inside your equipment.

Q44. Can I add additive in oil?
A44. The components of oils have been proportioned to reach an optimum result. Adding an additive may create unnecessary blends and even be harmful. Certain manufacturers even forbid incorporation of an additive in the oil.

Q45. Can I mix two different types of oil?
A45. Lubricants are always optimised to meet the requirements of international classifications. However, there are many ways of formulating a specific type of lubricant. Mixing two oils that have equivalent properties will not pose a problem, but final performance cannot be guaranteed. All market oils of the same base stock are mixable, however, a blending of two oil qualities, may lower the overall quality.

Q46. What causes oil pressure to drop?
A46. During normal vehicle operation, oil is vital to ensure leak tightness between the combustion chamber and the crankcase. The oil pressure indicator shows how well this is being done. An unusual drop in oil pressure can result from either lower engine oil viscosity due to dilution by fuel (injector problem or use at low load); too little oil in the lubrication system (due to an oil leak, excess oil consumption or failure of the oil circulation pump); or even mechanical wear.

Q47. Does the oil have to be topped up?
A47. The engine oil level should be checked regularly to prevent incidents. A small amount of the oil that circulates in the engine is always burnt (an engine in good condition consumes between 0.2 and 0.5 litres of oil every 1 000 kilometres), but successive top-ups are no substitute for an oil change.

Accordingly, it is natural that an engine consumes a small amount of oil, which can be offset by top-ups between oil changes, however, excessive need for top-ups can be an indication of mechanical problems (wear, leaks, etc.)

Q48. What are the advantages of a good quality oil?
A48. A good quality oil provides motorists with a number of benefits:

  • easier cold start and reduced wear (up to 20% of engine wear occurs between start-up and the time the engine reaches operating temperature)
  • longer engine life
  • fuel saving as a result of reduced friction of moving parts and better engine performance.

Q49. What is the advantage of keeping up with technologies?
A49. In the area of technology, engine lubricants must consistently evolve toward higher performance levels, linked to engine advances, use, manufacturer requirements and requirements of users and law-makers.

  • More stringent environmental requirements
  • on-going rise in engine power
  • lower oil crankcase capacitiesl
  • onger periods between oil changes

Q50. Why change the oil?
A50. The oil change is an essential operation in maintaining a vehicle in top condition

  • because lubricants collect particles of internal and external pollution (carbon matter, particles of worn metal)
  • because an oil's efficacy diminishes due to dilution by water and fuel, oxidation, the consumption of additives, shearing, etc.

Q51. What is oil analysis and why should I do it?
A51. Oil analysis is a diagnostic preventive maintenance tool for monitoring and evaluating lubricant and equipment conditions. It allows you to maximise asset performance and reliability by identifying minor problems before they become major failures. It can safely extend oil drain intervals and ultimately the life of your equipment – saving you time and money.

Q52. How often should I sample my equipment?
A52. Although the original equipment manufacturer's recommendations provide a good starting point for developing preventive maintenance practices, sampling intervals can easily vary. How critical a piece of equipment is to production is a major consideration for determining sampling frequency, as are environmental factors such as hot, dirty operating conditions, short trips with heavy loads and excessive idle times.

Q53. Can oil analysis predict equipment failure?
A53. Yes. Oil analysis provides vital information as to the condition of both the oil and the unit being tested. It can detect wear and contamination problems that, if left unchecked can severely effect equipment performance or cause failure.

Q54. What is multi-grade oil?
A54. Engine oil that meets the requirements of more than one / SAE viscosity grade classification meaning that the oil's viscosity is more stable over a wider range of temperatures.

Q55. What is the main purpose of the lubricants?
A55. To lubricate moving parts of the vehicles to reduce friction and wear and tear by providing smooth and trouble-free performance, remove contaminants and act as a coolant.

Q56. How will I know if the unit has a problem and what action should I take?
A56. A detailed analysis report is sent to you every time you send us a sample. Recommendations and previous oil data (history), if any, is included in the report. If you require more information our diagnostician will be happy to help you.

Q57. Can I ask for technical advice in interpreting the results received?
A57. If there are any results you do not understand, you are welcome to contact our technical staff, who will be happy to assist you.

Q58. Why should I do oil analysis instead of just changing my oil?
A58. Oil analysis is a proven technology that measures wear rates, contamination levels and oil serviceability. Regularly scheduled oil samples taken from operating equipment will warn of impending problems often eons before secondary damage is done. The oil sample results will also let you know if your oil change was needed or overdue.

Q59. How do you dispose of my oil after testing?
A59. WearCheck is an ISO 14001 registered company and all unused samples are disposed of in an environmentally-friendly manner according to the ISO requirements.

Q60. What are the main reasons for incorrect diagnosis?
A60. A badly-taken sample and insufficient information supplied to WearCheck with the sample.

Q61. How should I react to the WearCheck report?
A61. Read the diagnosis carefully and phone the WearCheck diagnostician if:

  • you are in any doubt about what action to take, or
  • if you find abnormalities after carrying out the recommended action and are not sure what to do next.
  • Never dismantle a component without first consulting a WearCheck diagnostician.

Q62. I don't have time to figure out all the numbers on the WearCheck report. I'm a professional in maintenance not chemistry.
A62. We know that most of our customers don't want to interpret their own data.  These customers need only read the interpretation of the chemical and physical results provided in the diagnosis. The readings are included on the reverse of the report for those customers who are interested in seeing them.

Q63. What services does WearCheck offer?
A63. WearCheck offers a wide range of products and services – analysis of automotive oils, fuel (petrol & diesel), aircraft oils, marine oils, coolants, gas engine oils, turbine oils, wind turbine oils, transformer oils, filters & greases. Reliability Solutions – vibration monitoring, thermal imaging, laser alignment, balancing and many more.

Q64. How soon after taking a sample should I get it to the lab?
A64. Forward samples immediately to the lab after sampling. Quickly analysing the sample ensures the highest quality and timely decisions. If a severe problem is indicated, a quick response may prevent an imminent failure.

Q65. Where do I find the sample number on my report?
A65. The sample number is found on the front of the report under current sample diagnosis or on the left hand side below the severity box.

Q66. How long do you keep the submission forms?
A66. WearCheck only keeps the submission forms for 3 months (the current month plus 2 previous months) before they are sent for recycling.

Q67. What is the difference between the severities?

  • Normal - no action required, wear levels, contamination levels and lubricant health are all within acceptable limits.
  • Borderline - problems are indicated when there appears to be a deviation in trend or when a defined parameter has just been exceeded. In effect, the report is saying, the readings are not following their normal pattern but there is no firm evidence that a problem exists. The recommended action will be quick and simple to carry out and its primary function will be to determine if any further action needs to take place. No drastic steps need to be taken. Borderline samples can be attended to at the next regular service. In these situations, doing nothing more than taking a check sample may be a perfectly acceptable reaction to a borderline report.
  • Urgent - samples indicate that there is a very strong likelihood that a problem exists. Again, the report will only recommend some confirmatory check to be carried. With urgent samples these checks will usually be greater in number and may require more time and effort to carry them out in order to supply more information about the condition of the component. Urgent samples should be attended to as soon as it is convenient to do so.
  • Critical - samples definitely indicate that a problem exists and that it is quite severe in nature. These problems, ideally, should be attended to immediately. It is important to note, that even at this point, it would be extremely unusual for a strip-down to be recommended. The first action that should take place following the receipt of a critical report is to read what the diagnosis says.

The important things to remember are that oil analysis is not an exact science and the vast majority of reports are either normal or precautionary (borderline); in fact, less than 10% of all samples are urgent or critical. The other things to remember are: read the report and do not over-react.

Q68. Does WearCheck make recommendations on what oil to use?
A68. WearCheck is an independent lab, so we don't make recommendations.  All major oil companies produce very expensive and cheaper ranges of oil. You get what you pay for. Lubricant choice should be based on component type, environment, application and cost/benefit considerations.