Oil Analysis For RV Enthusiasts
by Jason Rainey, Apex Oil Lab
The main component that most people will want to test is gas and diesel engine oil. Hydraulic and gear oil can also be tested but, with the limited use of gear and hydraulic oil, that is probably not necessary.
Any time an oil discussion is initiated on any kind of a forum, it becomes a heated debate with a lot of opinions based on oil company marketing, past history, and a failure not related to oil type but pure neglect, just to name a few.
Most quality oil on the market place that has the API Service Symbol and the correct viscosity will be fine in most daily applications. The API Symbol “Donut” is divided into three parts
The top half describes the oil’s performance level
The center identifies the oil’s viscosity
The bottom half tells whether the oil has demonstrated energy-conserving properties in a standard test in comparison to a reference oil
Another designation for oil quality is the ILSAC Specification. ILSAC (International Standardization and Approval Committee)
Current Gasoline Engine Specification is ILSAC GF-5
ILSAC GF-6 is coming soon
Some of the oils in the market barely meet the specification and others far exceed the current specification. Which one are you buying?
Should everyone do oil analysis?
No, not everyone will need to have their oil analyzed. If you have a late model gasoline engine and using a quality motor oil and changing your oil as indicated in the manual you should not need to do an oil analysis. If you are trying to get extended drains and running past the manufacturers recommended oil change then you should to get a baseline on the state of the oil when you exceed the recommended drain interval. Remember that you also have an oil filter that is filtering the oil and may need to be changed no matter how many miles or hours you run the oil. Your filter may not make it as long as the oil if you’re in dirty dusty conditions.
Who should have oil analysis done?
New modern diesels with the emission after treatment have many new challenges that older diesels didn’t have. A lot of the newer diesels in pickups and RV’s will have fuel dilution issues. Fuel dilution reduces the viscosity of your oil, increases volatility, weakens lubricant detergency, causes corrosion and other issues. Soot is another item typically cause by reduced combustion efficiency. Soot will increase engine wear especially in engines using EGR technology. TBN (Total Base Number) is another diesel engine oil indicator. The TBM typically starts out between 9.5 and 10.5 on the newer CJ-4 oil. TBN is a measurement of the oils ability to neutralize acid. Oil should be changed when TBN drops to 50-65% which is a helpful indicator on when to change the oil among other telltale signs.
Other items oil analysis looks for is contaminants, coolant, nitration, oxidation, sulfation, wear metals.
It is important to keep in mind that manufacturers' recommendations are a pre-set average. Your engine, the burden you put on your engine, and the driving and environmental conditions make your situation unique. Once you have performed a couple of back-to-back oil analyses and collected the trending data, you can determine the right time for an oil change. This may or may not be the same interval recommended by the manufacturer. The goal of oil analysis is to effectively and efficiently maximize oil and machine life. By implementing a proper management (e.g. replacing oil filters) and preventative maintenance schedule, you can improve your equipment’s reliability and longevity, while minimizing costs and unexpected failures.
Apex Oil Lab