How carriers can extend diesel engine oil changes

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There is hardly a simpler way to have a positive impact on the bottom line than to take an essential item you already buy and get the most out of it.

Depending on the supplier and the lubricant used (type and quantity), an engine oil and filter change can cost up to $ 500. For fleets doing internal services, this can cost $ 250 in supplies, but you have to factor in downtime.

As fleets improve trucks, Shawn Whitacre, senior staff engineer at Chevron, said maintenance practices deployed on older assets are in many cases simply carried over to newer models that are delivered. with longer service intervals from the factory, so carriers go about 25,000 miles – a long life. permanent benchmark – could spend countless hours and thousands of dollars a year on fluid changes that might not even be necessary.

“Old habits die hard,” he said. “Engine builders and oil companies have worked hard over the past few years to make improvements that have dramatically extended oil life and allowed for longer service intervals.”

Larger sumps, better temperature management and better combustion control afforded by improved cylinder designs “really improve the way the engine handles oil,” Whitacre said. “At the same time, we have done a lot to improve the chemistry of petroleum through better soot resistance and, more recently, by improving the oxidative stability of the oil – by actually improving and strengthening the oil. additive protection that allows it to withstand higher temperatures and last longer in the engine. ”

[Related: More profitably with the right engine oil]

Newer on-road engine models feature OEM recommended drain intervals, depending on the duty cycle, between 60,000 and 75,000 miles, and can reach over 100,000 miles depending on truck capacity to meet various conditions.

Mobil Commercial Vehicle Lubricants applications engineer Paul Cigala noted that small and medium fleets tend to be particularly careful about oil change intervals, and wary of longer extensions approved by OEM which they see as a way to sell maintenance services.

“Engines that run harder – engines that get lower MPGs because they use more fuel – often qualify for a shorter drain interval than those that can run more stably, getting very high mpg.” , Whitacre said. “In these cases, the engine is not working as hard, is not putting as much strain on the oil, and therefore the recommended oil change interval can be considerably longer.”

Cigala pointed out that idle time was “a engine oil life killer” in that it accelerates contamination and oxidation. Over the past year, he said lubricants reps would ask for miles per gallon and idle time of a fleet to see if the company is a candidate at extended intervals, but the advent of the Modern telematics have refined this process because it allows fleets to locate idle. time, which Cigala says is often significantly higher than fleet managers think. “They were telling us it was less than 20%, but now you can look at the ECM data and see it could really be 40% downtime,” he said.

Carriers that regularly maximize the OEM allowance for engine oil changes could still leave money on the table, as Whitacre said the engine manufacturer may be willing to go further depending on the maintenance practices of the company. the fleet.

“It’s really an important thing to then engage with your equipment builder – maybe your oil supplier – so that you can partner with them to put in place a strategy that will allow you to move on comfortably and responsible way to an expansion, “Whitacre said, noting many OEMs have already put in place programs that define how to participate in extended drain plans. “They will look at your duty cycle, look at your maintenance habits, as well as the oil analysis, to make a judgment on what is actually appropriate for your specific operation.”

Karin Haumann, OEM Technical Director of Shell Global Solutions, noted that an engine oil analysis program can help establish appropriate oil change intervals. “Optimally, you should have a used oil sample analyzed after each oil change for each truck,” Haumann said. “Careful examination of the characteristics of the oil regularly can tell you a lot about the health of the oil and indicate mechanical problems with an engine. This can help quickly detect engine problems and save on downtime and costly repairs. “

Darryl Purificati, OEM technical liaison at HollyFrontier Lubricants & Specialties, which includes the Petro-Canada Lubricants brand, said thExtending oil changes can only be accomplished by carefully monitoring the general condition of the engine through a comprehensive used oil analysis program.

“Extended oil change intervals are unique to the condition and operation of each fleet and their used oil analysis data, so based on these factors, always check with the OEM to determine. which API grade oils are recommended for the engine and seek the advice of a lubricant technical advisor, who can help you determine what is best for your fleet, ”he said.

It is better to involve the OEM at the start of these studies than to bring them the data afterwards, Cigala said, noting that manufacturers best understand their equipment and duty cycle, “and can set realistic goals.”

Cigala warned fleets hoping to gain oil change interval mileage with an aftermarket additive to first consult their owner’s manual as in most cases there is no gray area in it. may void an engine warranty. “It’s black and white in any engine service manual,” he said. “This will void the warranty.”

Additionally, commercial additives that contain zinc and phosphorus can be harmful to the aftertreatment system, and thickeners can inhibit oil flow, he said.

“Each oil is precisely formulated, so adding anything to the oil will dilute the carefully designed additive set which includes detergents, dispersants and antioxidants,” Haumann added. “Additional additives can actually cause damage by changing the chemical balance built into the oil and can even change the viscosity of the oil.”

Carriers considering an extended oil change should also take into account other maintenance operations performed during an oil service, and whether those maintenance items can also wait, or whether the PM schedule needs to be rescheduled.

“It’s great if I have a customer who can haul their engine oil up to 90,000 miles,” Cigala said, “but if that doesn’t match their other services, they won’t bring the truck just to. an oil change. “

Haumann said there are circumstances where it may be more cost effective to change the oil at a shorter interval if a fleet is able to combine an oil change with other scheduled maintenance, thereby reducing the number of once a truck is taken out of service for an expected period of time. maintenance.

OEMs generally allow low viscosity oils in their engines, primarily using API CK-4 oils in engines newer than 2010, Purificati said, adding that engines newer than 2017 can also be OEM approved to run API FA-4 SAE 10W-30 or 5W-30. Fleets are historically reluctant to change oil type, especially given the higher price associated with fully synthetic oils which often allow the longest drain intervals, but Cigala said a change in lubricant type or weight might not be necessary to gain significant benefit.

“There are options. There are semi-synthetics. There are more conventional oils of higher quality,” he said. “All petroleum makers have good, better, better, and somewhere in between options that will be what [the fleet is] try to accomplish. “


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