What to Do When Your Oil Has High Particle Counts

Noria Corporation
Tags: particle counting

There are several corrective actions that you can take for high particle counts. Selecting the appropriate action will depend on factors such as the operational and environmental conditions. If a high particle count is noticed in a component through oil analysis, the first question you should ask yourself is “where are the particles originating from?”

One way to test this is with a digital particle counter, such as the IoT fluid monitoring system. With their patented fluid condition monitoring system, you can accurately get a read on the health of your lubricants by identifying particles and investigating the exact type of wear taking place.

But instead of asking where the particles are coming from, more often than not the initial reaction is usually to change or filter the oil. However, determining where the particles are coming from can save you time, money, and numerous headaches down the road. Simply removing the particles only focuses on the failure symptom and not the root cause.

Common root causes of high particle counts include new oil, ventilation and breathers, wear generation, service and manufacturing debris, and filter dumping or bypassing.

New Oil

It is a common misconception that new oil is clean. In fact, when tested straight from an unopened drum, most new oils have particle counts that, in some cases, can be 32 times dirtier than what you would prefer to have in your equipment.

Ventilation and Breathers

Every machine "breathes," so proper precautions must be taken to ensure that clean, dry air is entering the system. Otherwise, particles will build to uncontrollable levels over time.

Wear Generation

Some particles measured during a particle count may not be strictly contamination from outside sources, but rather the effect of contamination in the form of wear debris.

Service and Manufacturing Debris

Even brand-new equipment must be inspected for cleanliness. Often new components are not flushed or cleaned after assembly. This can lead to high particle counts after installation.

Filter Dumping or Bypassing

Systems with built-in filtration may run dirty because of operational conditions or a flaw in the design. In this case, all the particles that you assume are being caught by the filtration system are being sent throughout the internal components.


While this is by no means a complete list of potential causes of high particle counts, it does represent some of the most common. The best practice is to determine how the particles are entering or being generated by the system.

It has been proven that the exclusion of particles is 10 times more cost-effective than removal. Therefore, exclusion should be the priority, and then a focus can be placed on removal.

Keep in mind that new oil particle counts vary widely, and many factors contribute to high particle counts. The simple truth is that you should assume your new oil is dirty, and it must be cleaned before being used.