Fluids in the Field

Aug. 13, 2012

Everything can be done in the field, declares Jim Hutchek, director of sales and marketing for On-Site Analysis Inc., referring to maintenance. In fact, equipment manufacturers are now supplying equipment so contractors can do it themselves. “The technology is here; take advantage of it!”

Several are, as more service providers offer to change fluids in the field. It helps with uptime, says Jim Gambill, Delo product manager with Chevron. Uptime, along with reliability and durability, are keys to business. “With the economic crunch, you need the equipment to last.”

Proper maintenance plays an essential role in making equipment last, and part of proper field maintenance involves keeping the product clean when it’s exposed to air. “You can double the life of the equipment by keeping the oil clean,” Gambill says. “You can clean it up with good filters, but it’s better not to introduce dirt in the first place. It’s easier and less expensive to keep it clean if the oil starts clean-and that also leads to longer intervals.”

It can also double the life of oil. Dan Arcy, OEM technical manager with Shell, advises targeting the ISO cleanliness code, particularly where hydraulic oils are concerned. “Pay attention to cleanliness. Final filtration going into the vehicle is important, especially with hydraulic oils, so filter for the ISO target. It’s the last step.”

The first step may be to check the condition of the service truck: Are the hoses and nozzles covered to keep out dirt and water? “You want to lube with oil, not water,” Gambill says. If necessary, he adds, go to a cleaner area onsite or go to the shop. “The situation decides if it should be done in the field: analyze the product, the site and the capability of the service provider.”

Some extended-life fluids are designed to last up to 5,000 hours in excavators, for example. However, interjects Diego Navarro, John Deere global fleet management solutions manager, “these hours are feasible only if users avoid mixing the product with other fluids of less or different specifications.”

It’s not a matter of not doing it in the field, but of doing it safely and properly, according to Arcy: in a word, housekeeping. “Watch out for contamination.”

“If the fluid gets contaminated with dirt or water, the extended service feature of the fluid is no longer available,” Navarro explains. He says it’s important to test for contaminants and particle counts compliance, and to test the machine for fluid cleanliness after major repairs.

Contamination can also occur if the product isn’t properly stored on the service truck or if the drums aren’t suitably located. Drums should be covered and kept inside. “It seems obvious, but it’s easy to overlook,” Arcy notes.

In addition, he recommends using dedicated transfer units to avoid mixing engine and gear oil and coolant. “The amount of contamination affects the life of the equipment,” Arcy continues. “It’s important to manage to a lower level.” As important as it is to avoid contamination, it’s equally crucial to prevent spills and leaks. “What is your containment unit for drips, spills and runs in the field?”

To Do List … or Not…
Although no one disputes that field maintenance is all about cleanliness, not everyone agrees that it’s suitable for every task. “You can’t do major maintenance, such as engine removal or major hydraulic component removal,” states Victor Kersey, director of technology for commercial/industrial with Valvoline.

Navarro agrees. “Changing a hydraulic pump in the field, for example, is like having open heart surgery in the open. Not even the best technician could guarantee that the repair is going to be clean and free of trouble. If done in the field, chances are that the second pump won’t last as expected.”

Cleanliness isn’t the only concern. Based on reports from operators and field service people, Mark Betner, heavy-duty lubricants manager for Citgo Petroleum, says field diagnosis can be problematic. He believes symptoms such as loss of oil pressure, a spike in oil consumption, engine noise or loss of power require shop-level diagnosis. “Often, field service people make assumptions instead of investigating. You need to take the same steps whether you’re working in the field or in the shop.”

In-house diagnostics typically provide immediate answers, but field testing doesn’t always provide such rapid results. Oil sampling, for example, using sensor checks for changes in the electrical current tell you “something has happened, but not what happened,” Hutchek says. “To find out, you have to send it to the lab.”

Alternatively, On-Site Analysis offers an easy-to-use mobile microlab to check engine oil and other fluids. “We sell the advantage of onsite service,” Hutchek advertises, adding that the faster you find out about leaks, cracks or problems, the better off you are. “It’s important to be proactive not reactive, to practice true preventative maintenance. The dirtier the environment, the closer eye you should keep [on maintenance], especially if some equipment has a history of known issues.”

On-Site’s all-in-ones do more than just indicate when it’s time to change oil. They check for metals in oil, such as iron, tin, copper, lead and aluminum-in the engine, gear box, transmission, final drive, transfer case, and crankshaft. They indicate if there’s a fuel dilution problem and perform particle sizing in hydraulics tanks. “We look for soot, water or glycol in the engine, blown head gaskets, oil viscosity, nitration of oil, oxidation of oil…” Hutchek says.

“You can fix things immediately onsite,” he continues, “or you can collect samples while fueling the fleet. One of our customers in Indianapolis does this.” They also provide a total base number, which he says is important to do every oil change. “It provides a true history, a baseline and documentation that the truck is in spec and is maintained.”

The Final Analysis
Environment plays a critical role in service intervals, Kersey states. “Duty cycle and environment are key factors.”

“Dirt plays the biggest role,” Shell’s Arcy elaborates. “When oil gets dirty, you find leaks.” It’s why he believes oil analysis is critical: It locates bad seals, for one thing. But he emphasizes that proper sampling technique is crucial. “Keep the kits in the container. Avoid contamination by wiping the oil drain plug first.”

Shell Lubricants, which supplies 13% of the global lubricants volume through brands including Pennzoil, Quaker State, and Jiffy Lube, offers three heavy-duty engine oils: Rotella T, the company’s mainline product; Rotella T5, a 10W-30 synthetic blend for better fuel economy and better pumpability and startability at low temperature; and Rotella T6, a full synthetic 5W-40 option with improved viscosity for enhanced low-temperature flow to extend drain intervals and protect exhaust-emission control systems.

Arcy says Rotella oils can potentially extend engine life and reduce maintenance costs. The T5 and T6 protect against corrosion from acids formed as fuel burns, keep engines clean for optimum performance, and provide wear control by keeping moving metal engine surfaces apart.

Because the environment at job sites is not consistent, oil analysis is very important, Chevron’s Gambill explains. Chevron offers Delo 400 multigrade 15W-40 severe-duty oil for extended intervals, although Gambill recognizes that “you may have to shorten intervals if the environment is extreme.”

Intervals are usually calculated in cooperation with the OEM to promote equipment life and optimize costs. However, customers always want to extend drain intervals, says Valvoline’s Kersey. Doing so depends on several factors: environment, engine, conditions and fluids. “Sometimes extending intervals increases costs.” He explains that oil changes must start with premium products. “You need to use quality products. There’s a reason cheap oils are cheap.”

Extending his advice to filters, Navarro says, “If you buy cheaper products, you are typically buying less efficient and less durable filters. Genuine filters have the efficiency that the manufacturer specified while designating the system.”

External filter caddies can be used to filter hydraulic systems. With this type of dialysis service, the external caddy filter pumps the machine’s fluid through its filter media and returns it to the hydraulic tank on the machine after capturing any particle and water, Navarro explains. “Modern filter caddies are intelligent in the sense that they can measure not only particle contamination and humidity, but also remove these contaminants efficiently with highly restrictive media.”

As important as the environment is, so too are the season and the application, Navarro adds. Extreme temperature defines the viscosity to be used in the engine or hydraulics. “A machine working in Florida or Ontario, Canada, will always show some sodium in oil samples. Machines working in dredging operation need to be more careful not to introduce humidity to the hydraulics and somebody using an attachment, like a hydraulic hammer, will need to change fluid and filter more often.”

Cool It
Working in hostile environments can cause overheating, which leads to a situation more costly than fuel or maintenance: downtime. “Overheating, productivity, downtime and revenue are big issues,” notes Mike Tourville of Evans Cooling Systems Inc., the Sharon, CT-based developer of the only waterless engine coolant.

The key to Evans Heavy Duty Coolant is that its higher boiling point allows the engine to safely operate at slightly higher temperatures. “It never gets to the boiling point,” Tourville says. Because of that, pressure doesn’t build up in the system, so there is less stress on the hoses and radiator. This separation of boiling point from operating temperature results in less fan-on time, which in turn improves fuel economy.

Other benefits include reduced maintenance due to prevention of cylinder liner cavitation erosion, reduced emissions because it is non-toxic and does not require disposal, and improved performance and reliability. Testing conducted by Emisstar LLC, a clean energy and emissions technology consulting firm that provides independent third party testing services, indicated a reduction of 3.6% in carbon-dioxide emissions and a 4% fuel economy improvement.

“It trumps many of the others,” Tourville claims. “No more changing coolant every two years, no more stopping to clean the radiator or let it cool down.”

“Coolants are key,” Gambill emphasizes. Chevron’s ELC-extended life coolants-can go years without changing. In one example, they lasted 8 years, 12,000 hours. In addition to advantages in cost and time, ELCs help keep equipment cleaner. “If you’re not opening up the equipment, you’re not exposing it to dirt.”

Shell also offers an extended-life coolant for substantially longer service intervals, Arcy points out. Rotella ELC lasts for 12,000 hours, four times as long as conventional oil. “With conventional oil, you must supplement and filter it, but not with ours,” he says. “It reduces one maintenance step, which means there’s less contamination and no need to dispose of old product.”

Before, During, and After
Another product that lasts forever also contributes to better fuel quality and cleaner combustion, which reduces the load on exhaust gas treatment equipment. Algae-X is an inline fuel conditioner that protects the engine through filtration and water separation. “It stabilizes and remediates diesel fuel,” says Bill O’Connell, president.

Fuel quality is an important factor in engine performance, but fuel degrades over time, compromising reliability and leading to higher operating and maintenance costs for injectors, fuel filters, and other components. “Every tank is a storage tank,” O’Connell rationalizes. The conditions of tanks during transportation and storage, water, condensation, microbial activity, and the mixing of fuels and additives can lead to fuel degradation.

As an unstable organic fluid, diesel fuel’s physical and chemical properties change due to temperature changes, oxidation, time, and heat and pressure from injection systems, centrifuges and pumps. Detectable degradation can occur in six months. Fuel particles can clog fuel filters, form sediment in the tank, cause excessive wear of injectors and create harmful exhaust.

By stabilizing and conditioning stored fuel, Algae-X prevents sediments from forming, promoting a cleaner burn of fuel that results in less waste, reduced emissions and longer life of engine parts and filtration elements. “Our technology optimizes the quality of fuel on the way to the engine to prevent sediment,” O’Connell says. “It alleviates problems that customers associate with fuel: engine maintenance bills decrease, filter life is doubled, less carbons are exhausted into the atmosphere and the return fuel is better than the fuel in the tank-and it gets even better over time.”

While O’Connell says Algae-X will not void warranty, it’s important to carefully choose any aftertreatment products. “Depending on the licensing protocol, they could violate warranty,” Gambill says. “Lubricants are chemicals,” he explains. “If you add to them, it can cause interference and incompatibility. When you reformulate, you run the risk of rendering it helpless or violating the chemical limits of the formula required for emissions control. Aftertreatments do not fix problems.”

Not all aftertreatments are created equal, however. Some products are designed for use by the OEM, according to Valvoline’s Kersey, while Thomson points out that some aftermarket additives, such as STP, while not approved themselves, are often added to products approved by the OEM. And some aren’t aftertreatments at all. Valvoline offers an injector cleaning fluid that is a before-treatment product to prevent deposits from building up or to reduce them.

Navarro says that fluids for aftertreatment are used in on-highway applications, but “treatment fluids are still not used on off-road equipment, and manufacturers are looking for alternative methods to avoid the complications of having to carry these fluids onboard and having to service fluid dosing installations.”

From Hydraulics to Grease
Echoing Kersey’s and Navarro’s advice regarding quality products, Chevron’s Gambill says that premium hydraulic oil can last two to four times longer than traditional choices and provide better protection and performance. Chevron Rand HDZ synthetic hydraulic oil, for example, lasts longer and features lower toxicity. “We tested it on a large Cat excavator. It improved productivity 5%, fuel economy 8%, and lowered the carbon footprint. You can use it on a LEED building.”

Hydraulic systems are more sophisticated, Betner suggests. “Conventional hydraulic fluids are not delivering productivity; they lose efficiency.” In May 2012, Citgo introduced SynDurance high-efficiency hydraulic fluid, formulated to last three to four times longer and provide better performance than conventional hydraulic fluid. “Our technology sustains mechanical and hydraulic efficiency all day. It improved productivity 10% on a job in Michigan.” In addition, he says, the contractor used less fuel used and experienced better cold temperature performance.

Similarly, Valvoline, with Eaton Corp., developed a high-performance hydraulic fluid. UltraMax hydraulic fluid demonstrated an “advantage over commercially available fluid,” Kersey says, in wear metal, pump performance, hose compatibility and seals during flexibility testing under high pressure. “It helps prevent leaks and catastrophic hose failure.”

As part of their “next generation” line of products that are 50% greener and more environmentally sustainable, Valvoline recently introduced UltraMax, a multigrade all-season transmission and drive train oil. Not only does it reduce the need to change oil seasonally, but it also provides “significant improvement in performance and cost over competitors,” Thomson says-so effective that one of their mining customers uses it in his Cat 980 wheel loaders.

Because the size of gearboxes has been reduced at the same time that power is increased, the need for high-quality lubricants is even more critical now. “There is less fluid but more power density,” Thomson elaborates. “Therefore, heat rejection performance must be better.” Valvoline’s UltraMax TDB was designed to handle high temperatures.

It’s been an evolution, Citgo’s Betner says. “Cat dozers used to use engine oil, then transmission oil, now our higher performing final drive and axel oil. It lasts two times as long and contributes to longer component life.”

Another Citgo product for power shift transmissions and hydraulics to improve high and low temperature performance is Syndurance All-season synthetic lubricant. “It replaces 10 weight oil in winter and 30 weight in summer,” Betner explains, “allowing contractors to consolidate inventory for seasonal changeout.”

An often overlooked lubricant is grease, claims Chevron’s Gambill, who recommends high-quality 3% to 5% molyproducts. “Be sure to look at the product from the top of the blade through the bottom of the track. Northern territories need a synthetic for cold weather applications.”

Agreeing that grease is an “unspoken product area,” Betner says Citgo offers one grease that “will do just about everything: pins, bushings…” SynDurance synthetic grease lasts three times longer, even under high temperatures, he adds. “You can dispense, apply and have pumpability at sub-zero temperatures like it’s summertime, according to customer reports.”

Tier 4
One of the more controversial issues is Tier 4. “When talking about Tier 4, we are talking about the new emission standard for engines,” Navarro clarifies. CJ4 came to the market for T4 engines. “These oils have typically less but better additive packages.” That includes approximately 1% ash content to protect the diesel oxidation catalytic and the diesel particulate filter from plugging when they burn in the normal operation of an engine. They are also designed to withstand heat and oxidation better than their predecessors.

Although Betner believes that, based on on-highway experience, Tier 4 won’t impact lubricants for off-highway applications-“It won’t change anything”-not everyone agrees. “Tier 4 has and will change things,” Gambill argues. “The on-road fleet has been through the cycle, so we look to their experience with drain intervals.” According to On-Site’s Hutchek, Tier 4 is already changing intervals.

Conversely, Valvoline’s Thomson sees “no change” with Tier 4. “We’re just adding to on-highway.” As Kersey says, “It’s required for performance changes. It reminds me of the unfounded concern at the introduction of CJ-4. It’s just an advancement, a step above the old category.”

Anticipating the same problems in off-highway as on-highway, such as internal injector deposits form inside the injector unit causing the injector to strike, Thomson says ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, cleanliness and quality filters are important. “With a common rail with high operating pressures of 30,000 psi to minimize emissions come problems of deposits. It’s an area of concern.”

Taking the middle ground, Shell’s Arcy says it all depends on the manufacturer. “Everyone has different exhaust and emission control systems.” The right type of oil can help get maximum life out of a diesel particulate filter, but he doesn’t recommend extended oil intervals. “Some Tier 4 is going with SCR emission control for nitrogen oxides,” he adds. An extra tank with a catalyst for diesel exhaust fluid changes nitrogen oxides to nitrogen and water, but may introduce additional maintenance items because the filter can become clogged.

Topping Off
Most customers want better uptime, higher machine reliability and lower operation cost, according to Navarro. “In order to achieve those three goals, you need better communication with the machine, allowing better reaction time between a reported issue and resolution [and] better intervals that avoid logistics for having to service the machine often.” He points to products like JDLink Fleet Care and Service Advisor Remote as new tools that help keep track of maintenance issues so contractors can choose where to perform routine maintenance.

Proper use of fluids and lubricants should be part of any maintenance routine. Many companies spend 2%-3% of their budget on lubricants, Betner claims, but lubricants impact 90% of the items that affect maintenance costs. “Most oils are good; it’s how you use them-wherever you use them.”

Wherever you use them, Chevron’s No. 1 recommendation is to talk to your service provider about how to protect the equipment while you’re putting fluids in. “If you don’t get good suggestions, get a new service provider,” advises Shell’s Arcy.

About the Author

Lori Lovely

Winner of several Society of Professional Journalists awards, Lori Lovely writes about topics related to waste management and technology.

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