Oil Spectrum Analysis

Oil Spectrometer Analysis

Oil Spectrometer Analysis is performed on engines, generators, and gears to identify abnormal internal engine/gear metal wear, cooling system leaks, blown gaskets, failed seals/o-rings, cracked engine/gear components, carburetion/fuel injection problems, past overheating, faulty air induction systems, viscosity breakdown, etc.

All surveys are conducted in compliance with the Mandatory Safety Standards set forth by the United States Coast Guard (USCG), under the authority of Title 46 United States Code (USC); Title 33 and Title 46, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and the Voluntary Standards and Recommended Practices developed by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Why Do Oil Analysis?

Identify potential problems by having your oil analyzed! Analysis is the easiest and cheapest way to regularly monitor the condition of your vessel's engines, drives, generators, and transmissions. As part of a regular maintenance program, oil analysis allows you (or your mechanic/surveyor) to identify potential engine problems before the components actually fail or you purchase the vessel.

Engines seldom break down at convenient times, but with ample warning that a component is failing, you may schedule repairs or replacement before an emergency occurs. Because the repairs can be done at your choice of time and location, they will certainly be less expensive. By repairing the component before it fails, you prevent damage and more costly repairs to other parts of the engine.

EngineSurveyor.com is equipped to take engine and gearbox oil samples for laboratory analysis. Samples are drawn hot during sea trial or after returning to the dock. Engine and gearbox condition can be evaluated by oil sample spectrometric analysis. We deliver samples to a laboratory in West Palm Beach, Florida, and receive a report by e-fax within one working day and in emergency circumstances the same day. 

Explanation of Oil Analysis

The theory behind oil analysis is that as an engine is operated, the metal parts of the engine wear and microscopic particles will remain in suspension in the hot oil. This is measured for both quantity and type by the lab, which uses complex testing and analysis.

All the major engine manufacturers, such as Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit/MTU, and MAN, offer oil analysis programs through their dealerships.

Oil analysis is also useful as part of my marine survey. I recommend that engines, transmissions, and generators be tested as part of the pre-purchase survey. Though oil analysis is intended as part of an ongoing sampling and maintenance program, a single test can still tell a great deal about the health of an engine.

Lubricating oil reduces friction and wear between moving parts, assists in cooling the engine, and removes contaminants. The wear of these parts generate minute
metal shavings, decomposition of gasket material, ingestion of sand and dust with combustion air, accumulation of soot and sulfur from combustion, and acids formed when condensation combines with the sulfur and other chemicals in the oil.

The analysis is based, when known, on the hours of the engine and the hours on the oil. This is a good reference to relate the parts per million to the actual use. The values are also important indicators of existing severe conditions. The annual analysis reporting is intended to predict mechanical wear and failure of the equipment or a component part. The values for wear metals and silicon are reported in parts per million. The results are evaluated in relation to hours and/or miles on the oil and component, operating conditions, and any other variable that could affect wear element concentrations.

A successful oil analysis program involves the necessary coordination between the laboratory and the user to utilize the program to its maximum benefit. The lab keeps a record of each sample and after a few tests can offer an annual analysis that takes the observed trends into account. When picking a lab make sure that they have a good background in your type of equipment. You might want to check with your local engine distributor for his recommendation. Each lab varies in the tests they perform but there are certain basic tests that should be included. The first is physical data: viscosity of the lubricant and the presence of water, fuel, dirt, and other solids in the oil. Lubricant diluted by water or antifreeze solution indicates that coolant is leaking into the oil, usually from a blown head gasket or cracked head. 

Ref: MIT via AZO Materials

Test Results

The test results will indicate whether the oil is contaminated as described below. If the oil is found without contaminants, this report will serve as a baseline for future testing.  

I, Gary Gillespie, recommend conducting an oil analysis at the conclusion of each boating season or on an annual basis. If oil testing is accomplished in this manner, any lubricating deficiency will be detected early and this could save the vessel's owner thousands of dollars in repair costs.

Implementation of an oil analysis program with annual relative reports may actually increase the value of the vessel, since machinery is expensive and it can be shown the lubricating oil was tested at regular intervals by an independent laboratory. On survey day, this is useful information and shows consciousness effort by the owner to keep equipment in bristol condition. 

Ref: Fluid Life via Machinery Lubrication

20+ Wear Contamination Elements Tested

The following elements are typically tested in an oil analysis.

Please refer to this and/or the information Engine Surveyor has provided with the results to help you determine the contaminents within.

ALUMINUM - Shows wear on spacers, shims, washers, pistons on reciprocating engines, cases. On accessories, bearing cages, crankcases, housings, bushings and some bearing surfaces.

BORON - Seals, dust, water and coolant leaks.  

BARIUM - Oil additive, grease and water leaks.

CALCIUM - Oil additives, grease and some bearings.

CHROMIUM - Plating metal, replacing silver in many newer engines, shows wear on piston rings, seals, cylinder walls and liners, bearing cages and coolant leaks due to chromatic corrosion inhibitors.

COPPER - Present, in the form of an alloy, either bronze or brass therefore usually detected in tin for bronze alloy and zinc for brass. Shows wear on main, rod and thrust bearings, wrist pin bushings, thrust washers, oil coolers, gears, valves, turbo charger bushings, clutches disc plates and coolant leaks in copper heat exchangers. Copper levels can vary widely and should be ignored unless accompanied by elevated readings for any other metal on the presence of antifreeze. Copper is also used as an additive in some oil. 

GLYCOL - Shows a coolant problem 

IRON - Shows wear on shafts, valve train components, cylinders, gears, liners, bearings and an indicator of rust present.

LEAD - Overlay on main and rod bearings, turbocharger bearings, camshaft bearings and some bushings, is also a friction reducing agent in some oils. 

MAGNESIUM - Cases for accessories, component housings, also an oil additive. 

MOLYBDENUM - Piston ring metals, Found in antifreeze formulas, also a friction reducing additive in some oils 

MANGANESE - Valves, blowers and exhaust leaks.

OXIDATION - Chemical reaction between oil and oxygen causing oil to thicken and lose its lubricating properties. Caused mainly by high temperature operation and/or extended oil changes.

POTASSIUM - Shows a coolant problem.

PHOSPHORUS  - Oil additives and coolant leaks. 

SILICON  - Shows the presence of contamination by dirt or gasket material. Silicon is an oil antifoam agent, also found in grease, gaskets and antifreeze.

SODIUM - Shows a coolant problem, possible saltwater intrusion. 

SULPHUR  - Present in all fuels. Excess creates acidic conditions causing corrosive wear to engine.

TIN - Shows wear on pistons, bearings and bushings. 

VANADIUM - High speed steel alloy, contaminant metal in residual fuel.

WATER - Shows a coolant problem or could be condensate. Positive test indicates the presence of at least 0.5% contamination. This may lead to reduced oil lubrication ability and an increase in rust formation.

ZINC - Brass components, neoprene seals, grease, coolant leaks and oil additives.

FUEL DILUTION - Shows injector problems or internal diesel leakage. Positive test indicates the presence of at least 4% dilution of oil. This may lead to a reduction in oil viscosity and lubrication.

ANTIFREEZE - Positive test for glycol indicates the presence of at least 0.1% contamination. Any amount is undesirable and can lead to accelerated bearing wear.

SOOT - Indicates incorrect air mixture, residue of partially burned fuel that can thicken oil, deplete oil additives and eventually plug filters. Found only in engine samples. 

VISCOSITY - SAE number of the oil. 

TOTAL BASE NUMBER - The number that indicates the ability of the oil to fight acid formation. 

PARTICLE COUNT - Detects both metallic and non-metallic particle contamination larger than 7 to 10 microns in size. 

ENGINE OIL ANALYSIS - Inspection of direct fuel injector, carburetion, tunnel ram injection on single unit injection service test and modification completed by authorized dealer with warranties.

Ref: Fluid Life via Machinery Lubrication