Work with your local equipment dealer and/or lubricants provider to determine the appropriate test intervals for each fluid type based on the application. For example, coolants should generally be tested about every six months, but you may want to test hydraulic oils on a quarterly basis. In some situations, you may need to shorten the typical interval times.
"Some construction environments can be particularly harsh," Arcy comments. "Recently, in Galveston, TX, I watched them rebuild the beaches after the hurricanes. The tires and axles on the trucks used to move the sand were working under water. That water can seep into the axles. If that happens, the water can displace the oil and you could end up with wear issues."
Fluid analysis made easy
Although you're testing more fluid types, the process of collecting samples and monitoring results isn't necessarily more complex. Sampling of hydraulic fluid, transmission fluid, etc. is similar to taking an engine oil sample, and lab processing costs are comparative. Just make sure to fill out the paperwork correctly so the lab knows what type of fluid it's testing.
You would also be monitoring many of the same properties as engine oil, including wear, contamination, additive elements and viscosity. Of course, each fluid will have unique properties that should be tested, as well.
To make it easier to track test results, many lubricant marketers offer computerized reporting systems. "In the last 10 years, oil marketers have introduced computerized systems to coordinate the analysis of the samples, and also report the results back to customers," says Gapinski. "The system will flag the customer when something looks suspicious. In the past, that was all done manually."
The systems also enable you to perform trend analysis once a sampling history is established.
"One test can tell you something, but it's better if you have several tests done on the same machine and the same oil so you can see how it's trending - how fast it's degrading, how fast TBN (total base number) is going down or TAN (total acid number) is going up. It can identify how fast you are seeing wear metals accumulating or additive elements depleting," Gapinski points out. "There are sophisticated computer programs that greatly aid the process of record keeping and interpreting the results."