A Little Football Fun with Oil Handling

Steven D. Anderson, Y2K Fluid Power, Inc.
Tags: lubricant storage and handling, filter carts

Your Oil is the Football

How well you handle your oil determines who is in possession of it, you or your opponent: contamination. We know that oil has a useful life and does not last forever, but getting our oils to last longer and perform better is the equivalent of reaching the goal line on a regular basis and winning the game.

Coin Toss

You get the choice of being offense or defense. The defense can only react to situations; when something breaks, you must fix it. This is the most expensive strategy, and turnovers from contamination’s control are expensive and tedious. The big “D” is not a winning strategy.

Tails Never Fails, Choose Offense

We want to win and winning demands scoring. That’s easier if you have possession of the ball. We want the ball and we want possession of it during all four quarters. By keeping the offense on the field, you have control over all situations, including contamination.

Keep Contamination on the Defensive

Contamination will try to impede any progress. It will not play by the rules and will never be penalized for rearing its ugly head at the worst possible moments in production. Like a cheater, it will hold, face mask or try to play with too many men on the field. Contamination is always looking for a way to take possession of the ball. Therefore, the number on the field becomes very important.

Watch Out for the Blitz

Contamination causes more contamination and premature wear - a process that repeats itself in a nasty cycle. This is the cycle of denigration, also known as inevitable failure and big-time loss. Talk about defensive pressure, comparable to the old “iron curtain.” Now it’s easier to understand why too many contaminants on the field make forward progress difficult.

Practice and Warm-ups

No team ever takes the field without first practicing and ensuring they are ready. Oil should never be used or even transferred unless it is first prefiltered. Most new oils are contaminated and in some cases, a single pass through a filter just isn’t enough. The practice of prefiltering oils is paramount for the successful control of contamination from the start.


Someone needs to keep an eye on the field of play, regulate the game and provide feedback. That is the same feedback and regulation regular oil samples provide. They provide a simple comparison of how clean you want, desire or expect your oil to be and how clean it actually is. Elementary school refs will look at the oil and tell you whether the oil is clean or not. Professional refs know that isn’t good enough for the major league. Only through regular oil sampling and trending will you have the black and white results of the oil’s actual condition.

Create a Game Plan and Stick With It

It is impossible to eliminate all contamination from a system or an oil. However, our game plan has only two fundamental rules. First, we are trying to reduce contamination before it enters the oil. This is the least expensive, simplest and most effective approach. Secondly, we need to control the amount of contamination in our system through filtration. We know that it can’t be eliminated; but we know we can reduce it before it enters the oil, so our game plan is to monitor the remaining contamination levels. This makes the odds of keeping clean oil in our favor.

If John Madden was Our Oil-Handling Coach, His Advice Would Be:

No. 1. Use the Randy Ratio (Randy Moss)

Every team has its superstars. They help augment the team’s efforts and provide pivotal plays when most needed. A filter cart is that secret weapon; don’t keep it on the bench or let it sit idle. Too often, filter carts are used only to transfer oils, when in fact they are great for prefiltering and transferring oils and for off-line oil filtering in reservoirs, gear boxes, turbines, engines, etc. When the secret weapon is used, the result is gaining yardage … major downfield yardage!

No. 2. Complete All Passes

Or at least more passes than Tommy Kramer completed while he played for Minnesota. Back in the day when cave men played football with a rock, breather caps were removed so hoses or hose wands could be inserted into the oil. That practice was messy, unsafe and added more contamination to the oil. How can we control contamination levels, if we are constantly adding it or allowing it to enter freely? It would be similar to using the Gatorade bucket to transfer your oils.

Hydraulic reservoirs, gearboxes, turbines, bulk oil tanks and such need to stay closed at all times, especially during oil transfer. Quick-disconnects allow oil connections to be easy, safe, clean, fast and best of all, keep out external contamination. Talk about a completed pass!

No. 3. Two-Point Conversion

Consider the added protection of having both better air filtration and a port to add oils with a breather adapter. Manufactured primarily for hydraulic reservoirs, bulk tanks and drums, breather adapters provide both ports necessary to seal off reservoirs and keep them closed. This combination alone can reduce contamination beyond all measure.

No. 4. Know Your Players’ Strengths and Weaknesses

Don’t send in a filter cart during a clutch play, if it has nominal filters, hose wands or drain pans. Make sure the resources your team depends on are designed for the task of actually reducing contamination instead of adding more. They can’t be messy, unsafe or make matters worse than they already are. That’s not giving up yardage; it’s giving up the entire field. As a minimum, filter carts should have absolute-rated filter elements, filter indicators and quick-disconnects for safer and simpler use. If your cart doesn’t have these features, put it on injured reserve until it completes rehabilitation.

No. 5. Flea-Flicker

Want to occasionally take contamination by surprise and shake up the momentum of the game? Try cleaning out your hydraulic reservoir, gearbox or oil storage tanks once a year or every other year. Remove the standard 40-micron breathers on your hydraulic reservoirs and replace them with desiccant-style breathers. Make sure any hose or pipe that is replaced has been cleaned inside before it is used. Check the filter elements on your system, make sure they are absolute and have working indicators. Take and keep track of oil samples. The only window to the oil’s current condition is an oil sample.

No. 6. Sudden Death/Overtime

Your machine is broken down. Repairs require a shutdown and there’s an all-out offensive drive to get the machine back into production. It’s fourth down and 10 yards to go. Don’t waste valuable time on the play clock. Before any other work is performed, immediately use your Randy Moss (filter cart). Connect it to the reservoir, gearbox or turbine as an off-line filter (kidney loop). It will filter the oil while other repairs are being made. Depending on the repairs, you might want to leave the cart connected to the reservoir for a while longer than the repair, to remove any possible debris that may have been added during the repair - another key play for keeping possession of the ball.


In football, progress is first measured by the hash marks on the field, and ultimately by the numbers on the board. The score will be measured by periodic oil samples, and ultimately in cost savings and profits. Productivity is measured at every facility, so is profitability. When winning game plans are documented and implemented and the results can be put on a score board, the profits speak louder than cheers.


Shareholders, bosses, owners and supervisors join in the wave when their team has possession of the oil. They never stop cheering when their team is heading downfield against contamination and the score starts climbing.

Super Bowl

Championships are built on small wins that build momentum and support for the game plan. Making minor changes in your game plan will bring your oil handling and oil cleanliness to the Super Bowl. Who’s got possession of your ball?