The 12 fails of Christmas Machinery

On the run-up to Christmas, your machinery may be the last thing on your mind, but this is the time of year it really can’t afford to fail. Imagine a Christmas with no turkey (or vegan alternative!) because the electricity generators have failed, missing guests from the dinner table because of car breakdowns and no gifts under the tree because somebody mis-fuelled Santa’s reindeer’s with brussels sprouts rather than carrots! It makes COVID Christmas 2020 look jolly in comparison.

Make sure your machines stay on the nice list this year by checking you’re not seeing our top twelve signs of failure. If you do see any of these signs in or around your machinery, be sure to sample and get it tested.

  1. Dirty oil – Follow a condition-based schedule of oil changes and scheduled top-ups. Hopefully, you will already be routinely sending your oil to a laboratory for monitoring but be doubly sure to get it tested if you notice any dirt, sludge or metal when looking at your oil.
  2. Wet oil – When checking your oils, as well as looking out for dirt, also keep an eye out for signs of water contamination. These can include cloudiness, droplets, layers or emulsification of your oil. If in doubt, get it checked out; you can never be too careful on this with our Great British winter weather!
  3. Fuel dilution – If you’re having to top up your oil less regularly than usual, the level is rising without any top-ups or your fuel economy is decreasing, this could be a sign of fuel dilution. The protective additives in your oil will also be diluted leading to equipment damage and eventual failure. Your lab will routinely test for signs of fuel dilution in your diesel engine oil.
  4. Overuse – 95% of oil changes occur at the wrong time just using a time-based oil change. Schedule your oil changes correctly (a combination of lab analysis and OEM recommendations can assist with this) and stick to them as is practical to do so. If you don’t time it right and leave it too late you run the risk of developing varnish and sludge in your machinery which is a far more costly and time-consuming fix than an oil change. If you change it too early and you are just wasting money.
  5. Overheating – Increased oil temperatures, more oil top-ups than usual and (in very serious conditions) engine seizures are all signs that your equipment could be overheating. The root cause of the overheating could indicate further problems in your machinery e.g., failing cooling systems, poor lubrication or varnish contamination.
  6. Coolant leaks – Decreasing oil top-ups, overheating engines and emulsified oil around the oil or coolant filler caps could all indicate coolant is getting in the system. The coolant system is vital for regulating the temperature of your machinery, so leaks can comprise this leading to overheating and engine wear as coolant is a poor lubricant. A test of your oil can also reveal if the coolant has been leaking into and damaging the oil lubrication system and additives, whilst a coolant sample can help identify 80% of serious engine failures by confirming the condition of your coolant is serviceable.
  7. Poor maintenance – Ever heard the phrase “you get out what you put in”? This definitely applies when maintaining any equipment you are responsible for whether that be the family car or a farm of wind turbines powering thousands of homes. If you’re not following some of the basics such as regular testing, scheduled oil and filter changes, failure is bound to happen.
  8. Poor lubricant storage – Your oil barrels should be stored on their sides, with the bungholes in a horizontal position. This reduces the air space behind the bungs so that less breathing will occur, keeping contaminants out of your oil. Needless to say, it should also be stored in as clean and dry an environment as possible to stop water and dirt collecting around fill points. Don’t be surprised if your lubricant storage conditions are wet, free-breathing and dirty that your machinery lubricants also start to show signs of contamination too.
  9. Wrong oil or mixing oils – Always use oils approved by your OEMs and if you plan on changing the oil, make sure to fully drain and flush it before replacing it with the new oil, or get confirmation from your oil supplier the two lubricants are compatible. If you use an incorrect oil, you risk reducing the lubricating properties of your oil which leads to damaging wear. Mixing two different oils can upset the fine balance of your machinery additives leading to a degradation in performance and problems with properties such as viscosity if you use the wrong grade too.
  10. Poor filtration – An oil filter is designed to protect your machinery by removing as many harmful particulates and contaminants as possible e.g., dirt, metal (hopefully not too much of this) and water. Overusing filters and avoiding changing them at scheduled times can lead to bypasses allowing these contaminants to circulate around the system causing problems such as cutting wear. As well as testing oil, here at OAL we also offer a filter investigation service for any specific problems that may be occurring such as blockages and post-failure analysis.
  11. Mis-filling – Ever accidentally filled up your brand-new diesel car with petrol and had to make the cringe-inducing phone call to your breakdown? We see multiple samples a day in the lab that have fallen prey to this failure; water in fuel, AdBlue in fuel, mix-ups between coolant, AdBlue, and screen wash. Not only can this cause damage to your systems, but it is also costly to drain and replace the incorrect fluid.
  12. Not getting your oil and other machinery fluids tested – The only way to get the full insight into what is going inside your oil is to have it regularly tested by a laboratory. Backed up with proper maintenance practices, it allows you to see problems in your equipment well in advance of costly and disastrous failures, saving you money, time and resources. LubeWear analysis takes this further by giving you very early detection of abnormal harmful wear processes occurring in your machinery so you can head them off and not get called into work on Boxing Day. Remember, oil condition monitoring is for life not just for Christmas.

Why not relax this Christmas and get your oil tested now so you can have a hassle-free holiday not worrying about how your machine is going to fail. Contact us before Christmas using the button on the bottom right below.

Author: Katie @ Learn Oil Analysis . com foundation.