As a teenager in the 1970’s, our family never had the money to allow me to indulge in a muscle car, but it didn’t matter since I was more interested in saving my money for university anyway. However, we could afford transportation and I used to drive other students to school. We lived in the Canadian prairies where weather is extreme both in the summer and winter. In these conditions, you learn early that the best way to extend the life of any vehicle is to change your engine oil often. A quick search on the Internet and you quickly find out that there is a lot of controversy about this topic. I found one site that offers a few thoughts about this topic.

As far as I can tell, the bottom line in this whole discussion is that the only way to know for sure when engine oil needs changing is through laboratory analysis. This is where PANalytical's compact; benchtop MiniPal 4 spectrometer, combined with a special oil trace package is an ideal tool for this type of analysis.

Engine oil does more than just lubricate. It also protects surfaces from corrosive substances, adsorbs and transfers heat as well as transports wear particles and contaminants to filters. Through analysis not only will you have an indication of when oil should be changed, but also what components are being worn. For example:

  • Ni and Fe comes from piston, rings, crankshaft wear and engine damage,
  • Cu and Sn from bearing and bushing wear
  • Pb and Sb from babbit bearing bushings,
  • Cr and Mo from piston rings and seals,
  • Al and Si from catalyst residues, and
  • Na and Si from bad air filters and water or coolant leaks

If I were responsible for the maintenance of multimillion dollar equipment, a tool such at the MiniPal 4 would be the ounce of prevention needed to lower costs by reducing potential downtime.

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