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Sampling and analysing on a regular basis establishes a baseline of normal wear and can help indicate when abnormal wear or contamination is occurring. Oil analysis works like this. Oil that has been inside any moving mechanical apparatus for a period of time reflects the exact condition of that assembly. Oil is in contact with engine or mechanical components as wear metallic trace particles enter the oil. These particles are so small they remain in suspension. Many products of the combustion process also will become trapped in the circulating oil.
Particles caused by normal wear and operation will mix with the oil. Any externally caused contamination also enters the oil. By identifying and measuring these impurities, you get an indication of the rate of wear and of any excessive contamination. An oil analysis also will suggest methods to reduce accelerated wear and contamination.
The typical oil analysis tests for the presence of a number of different materials to determine sources of wear, find dirt and other contamination, and even check for the use of appropriate lubricants.
Oil analysis can detect:
Some wear is normal, but abnormal levels of a particular material can give an early warning of impending problems and possibly prevent a major breakdown.