Mechanics like to call oil analysis a blood test for your engine. It’s an apt comparison, since engine conditions can give you a quick read on the health of the entire vehicle and alert you to potential problems that could cause breakdowns and repairs.
“Whether you’re keeping new equipment in compliance with warranty requirements or maintaining older equipment, oil analysis is one of the easiest and most cost-effective things you can do to ensure everything stays in top condition,” says Todd Monroe, Cenex® lubricants marketing manager at CHS. “Preventive maintenance gives you peace of mind that you’ve done everything you can to avoid equipment malfunctions at crucial times.”
John Ufer, a corn grower near Truman, Minn., performs regular oil checkups on all his equipment. He agrees oil analysis is a valuable preventive maintenance tool. “It saves on repair costs and downtime. It’s a small investment for the valuable information we get.”
Monroe suggests these oil analysis tips to protect your equipment and prevent downtime.
1. Test before you drain. Draining all the oil or hydraulic fluid from a tractor, truck or combine costs time and money. Today’s modern high-tech lubricants and filters cost more than traditional inputs, but they often last longer and may extend change intervals. While scheduled oil changes are good and may be necessary to stay in warranty compliance, don’t discard good oil if you don’t have to. And even if you plan to drain the oil, data you collect from regular oil analysis is invaluable in tracking the health of your equipment. Regularly scheduled analysis can show trends that help you and your Cenex dealer spot engine wear long before it becomes a serious problem.
2. Set a schedule. “We recommend that farmers and equipment owners analyze engine oil every time they change fluids,” suggests Monroe. Transmissions, hydraulics, differentials and other components that contain lubricants should be sampled for analysis before putting equipment away for the season. That will give you time to repair problems before you need to use the equipment again.
“We test each piece of equipment every spring to ensure everything is running properly before we go into the fields,” adds Ufer. “It’s like a physical for your tractor to help prevent in-season issues.”
3. Analyze before you buy used. Beyond looking at book values and general condition, before buying a used tractor, vehicle or combine, run an oil analysis to evaluate the investment. Consider making your offer to buy contingent on an acceptable oil analysis. Presence of metals, coolant, water, carbon, fuel or dirt in oil can indicate a need for costly maintenance or repairs.
4. Use easy oil analysis options. Cenex retailers can provide LubeScan® kits for easy oil analysis. After running the engine a few minutes, follow the instructions to take a sample and mail it to the third-party testing service, ALS Labs. Results will be returned within 7 to 10 business days via mail or email, and the color-coded results will call out necessary action: STOP (red, repair immediately), CAUTION (yellow, change the oil) or GOOD (green). More detailed analysis is available to discuss with your mechanic or lubricants retailer.
“The process is simple and taking the LubeScan sample really doesn’t add any time to oil changes,” notes Ufer.
Contact your local Cenex retailer or CHS cooperative to learn more about oil analysis and Cenex brand lubricants. LubeScan kits are available at most Cenex retail locations.