Oil Analysis Tests

Oil Analysis begins with a variety of testing options. The results from the testing can then be utilized to determine the condition of the lubricant and the equipment. Understanding common oil analysis tests is critical to a successful oil analysis program.

Common Oil Analysis Tests Info

Spectrometric Analysis is a technology that is used for trending wear metals, contaminants, and additives. Spectrometric analysis is capable of tracking particles that are 8 microns or less.  The main focus of this technology is to give the end user an accurate indication of the concentration of the particles detected. Results are reported in parts per million (ppm).

Solids & Water Content determines the percent solids and percent water present in the sample. Solids debris can come from a variety of sources.  Water compromises the lubricating properties of the oil and can lead to component corrosion. Upward changes in the level of solids and water percent may indicate adverse changes are occurring to the lubricant and equipment.  Results are reported as percent solids and percent water.

Viscosity is the one of the most important properties of an oil.  Therefore, viscosity determination is a critical component of an effective analysis program.  Viscosity is a measurement of the lubricant's resistance to flow.  A decrease in viscosity may indicate contamination with a solvent, or fuel. A decrease may also be due to contamination with a lower grade viscosity oil.  An increase may indicate lube oxidation or contamination with a higher grade lubricant. Results are reported in centistokes (cSt).

Particle Counting will quantify the number of particles that are found within the sample.  However, particle counting will not determine the composition of particles present.  Excessive lubricant particle contamination is a major cause of equipment failure.  All particles are counted and reported over a particular size range. Results are usually reported as the number of particles per volume of fluid.

Acid Number is a measure of the amount of acidic agents present in the sample and indicates lube oxidation or contamination. Tracking and trending a lubricant's acid number provides an indication on the overall oxidation state of the lubricant. A steadily increasing trend indicates the lubricant is breaking down and remedial action should be implemented. Results are reported in mg KOH/g of oil.

Base Number monitors the reserve alkalinity of the lubricant.  This value is critical to the analysis of engine lubricants. A decrease in the base number indicates a corresponding decrease in the lubricant's ability to neutralize the combustion process. Results are reported in mg KOH/g of oil.

Direct Reading (DR) Ferrography monitors and trends the relative concentrations of ferrous wear particles.  A ratio of large to small ferrous particles is determined and can provide insight into the wear rate of the equipment.  DR Ferrography may also be used in situations when particle count results are not advised, such as when the lubricant is opaque and/or has water contamination.

Infrared Analysis monitors the chemical composition of the oil in certain infrared wavelengths.  Contaminants such as glycol and water can be detected using infrared analysis. Lubricant degradation products, such as oxidation and nitration, can also be monitored and trended. Results are reported in absorbance per cm (abs/cm).


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