C magazine

Under the hood

Two men talking in front of a tractor

Producer Wayne Slaubaugh, right, works with Chad Hjelmstad, certified energy specialist at Envision Cooperative in Rugby, N.D., to conduct a used-oil analysis on his equipment.

Jun 17, 2019

A used-oil analysis offers an inside look at equipment health.

Producers regularly keep an eye on their fields, making sure crops are growing on target and problems are avoided. A similar focus on prevention can be harder with equipment, where it is often difficult to spot issues under the hood.

But one key component can help spot potential problems: “The oil running through a machine gives an in-depth look at how the equipment is performing,” says Jon Woetzel, technical services manager for CHS Lubricants. “Problems and downtime can be prevented by looking at oil contaminants, and that can save thousands of dollars in maintenance costs.”

That’s why many farmers rely on LubeScan®, a used-oil test that tracks drain interval trends and points out developing issues with a piece of equipment. “LubeScan provides priceless insight into the health of your equipment and is the simplest, most cost-effective way to protect off-road equipment and fleet vehicles,” says Woetzel.

Early Warning

Testing equipment is easy: Get a sample kit from a Cenex® lubricants distributor, collect a sample and mail it to the ALS lab, a global testing service. The sample is tested by a certified technician who provides results and a personalized diagnosis to the owner via email or mail. The LubeScan analysis identifies contaminants that are causing wear and what additives are present, which indicates how well the oil is working.

Wayne Slaubaugh of Wolford, N. D., says a used-oil test prevented thousands of dollars in damage to his 2013 John Deere model 9560R tractor. In spring 2018, he sent in an oil sample from the tractor and the LubeScan report came back with no issues. After 100 hours of use, he tested the tractor again. This time, the report came back with a red flag.

What LubeScan® Used-Oil Analysis Reveals

A LubeScan report provides an analysis of components found in used oil and a customized diagnosis of actions needed to keep equipment in peak condition.

WEAR METALS

These will be present in all engines, but high numbers may indicate excessive wear.

CONTAMINANTS

Any unwanted elements in oil are bad news. Presence of water, fuel or coolant can indicate serious issues.

ADDITIVES

These necessary components in oil provide protection in the harsh conditions found in modern engines.

“The report showed there was coolant in the engine oil, so we got it checked out. The tractor needed a new EGR [exhaust gas recirculation] valve cooler, which coolant passes through,” says Slaubaugh, who runs Tri-S Farms, a spring wheat, canola and soybean operation with his brother Denton. The repair bill was $4,000, but the issue could have led to higher-cost repairs, including a new motor with a $50,000 price tag.

“Without LubeScan, we never would have known this piece of equipment had an issue because it was running just fine,” he says.

Common Problems

Technical expert Woetzel says leaking coolant is a common problem identified by LubeScan analyses. “The water and glycol in coolant are detrimental to oil, causing it to thicken and lose its ability to lubricate,” he says. A common result is bearings failure, which can cost more than $10,000 to remedy. Another common issue in off-road equipment is fuel in the oil, which leads to lubricant thinning and breakdown.

Another perk of the LubeScan test is seeing oil makeup trends, which can help predict performance concerns. “By testing your equipment at every oil change, you can see trends that allow you to know if something is causing wear or an engine component is failing,” says Woetzel. “It also helps determine how long equipment can go between drain intervals.”

Chart of normal and abnormal levels of metal types found in used oil 

Used-oil evaluation is also valuable when it’s time to trade in a piece of equipment. “In a resale situation, you can give the buyer the oil analysis reports. They give a history of the equipment and show that you took preventive measures to fix issues,” says Woetzel.

“When you have thousands of dollars invested in equipment and your operation relies on it, your equipment needs to be in peak condition,” says Slaubaugh. “LubeScan is an important tool that provides peace of mind and allows us to prevent issues.”

LEARN MORE: Ask your cooperative energy supplier about LubeScan® used-oil analysis

Check out the full C magazine with this article and more.