Quality Lubrication Renders Engine Teardown Spotless

Dennis Hammons, ConocoPhillips

The benefits of proper equipment maintenance and use of a high-quality heavy-duty diesel engine oil are evident at Miles Sand and Gravel, a sand and gravel supplier in Auburn, Washington. The company's 18 quarries span across the state, meeting the construction industry's daily sand, gravel and concrete needs.


Figure 1. Miles Sand and Gravel Supplier

At the Beginning
In business since 1946, the sand and gravel supplier has been passed down through two generations, growing into one of the largest sand and gravel suppliers in Washington. Today, it operates more than 300 pieces of heavy-duty on- and off-road equipment such as loaders, dredgers, excavators and more. The company operates various gravel pits and concrete plants between Washington and Canada.

As the sand and gravel's shop foreman for eight years, Chuck Kallinen manages equipment maintenance, routine fleet inspections and oversees the quarry's team of 19 mechanics. Kallinen has worked for the company for 15 years, managing the fleet amidst the quarry's harsh terrain. A rough operating environment calls for stringent maintenance standards and, as the sand and gravel supplier expands, service bays require additional lube shops, oil tanks and equipment in order to properly maintain a functioning fleet.

Steve Small, of Don Small and Sons, who supplies the sand and gravel company with 76 Lubricants products, has helped develop its pits and service bays since the beginning.

"We set up their shop, provided them with the latest crank case oil and even arranged an oil evacuation system. This allows them to recycle used oil from their fleet into energy to heat their shop. It's a new, efficient way to conserve energy," Small said.


Figure 2. Upon inspection, pistons had only moderate amounts of carbon buildup.

Keys to Success
As most industry professionals know, proper oil maintenance and strict inspection standards are keys to a fleet's longevity. When heavy-duty equipment is kept in top working order, the flow of production continues to increase and positively impacts a company's bottom line. Noting the severe environment in which his machinery operates, Kallinen said his fleet must overcome mud, water, dust and changing weather conditions on a daily basis, increasing the need for quality maintenance. To combat the abuse the equipment receives, mechanics perform maintenance checks on its gravel fleet every 10,000 miles and every 3,000 miles for its concrete fleet. Kallinen said he tries to address performance and reliability problems as they arise. To sustain the equipment and ensure maximum life, mechanics at the sand and gravel supplier use an oil analysis program as a maintenance management tool, consistently setting high standards for each test. The quarry designs its maintenance program specifically to each piece of equipment. For instance, for conducting oil sampling on dump or highway trucks, total mileage is the only factor considered. However, in off-road equipment, such as loaders that operate in demanding conditions, sampling is done more often, typically after every 250 hours, he said.

The mechanics are able to drain all fluids at intervals greater than the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) standard, though Kallinen said it is particularly difficult to find a sand and gravel industry standard to follow. For his off-road equipment, he recommends his mechanics follow OEM recommendations and says his equipment has met or exceeded its expected life capacity.


Figure 3. Because of quality lubricants and a diligent maintenance program, internal engine parts rated well and showed little wear or buildup.

Clean as a Whistle
In November 2005, ConocoPhillips conducted a heavy-duty engine seminar in Seattle. The seminar involved classroom study as well as an actual engine teardown. The sand and gravel company provided a vehicle equipped with a Cummins N14 which had 630,000 original miles. The Cummins had never been rebuilt and was clean as a whistle when dismantled, Small said.

The internal parts of the engine rated well. All the pistons had only moderate amounts of carbon buildup. The rod and main bearing showed little wear and minimal overlay removal. One of the most remarkable parts of this particular engine was the oil pan. The inside of the pan had no varnish or sludge buildup. This was visible to the class, and demonstrated what good detergents and dispersants can do in diesel engine oils. The maintenance program at the sand and gravel supplier showed that truck fleets which use quality lubricants along with good sound maintenance will see positive results like this every time.

There was no gum or buildup on any of the components and there was no sludge or deposits on the valves, Small said.

"All engines will produce more soot due to the exhaust gas recirculation used to keep emissions low. Thus, the heavy-duty diesel engine oil needs to keep this soot in suspension, otherwise the engine will take a beating from the sludge and varnish deposits," Small said. "We haven't had any catastrophic engine failures due to lubrication problems. The engine oil's high dispersant-detergent package does an excellent job of holding the soot in suspension to keep the engine free of sludge and varnish deposits."

What the Future Holds
With the arrival of new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions standards in 2007, the sand and gravel supplier will face more stringent emission requirements that will change its current maintenance practices. The new 2007 diesel engines will use increased exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to reduce NOx levels, and exhaust aftertreatment devices to remove particulate. To help the new engine meet the emission requirements, the engine oil and diesel fuel will also change. In regard to future engine oil characteristics, Kallinen said cost and performance will be first on his list to consider when purchasing. Although quarry mechanics may face minor frustrations when dealing with coming EPA requirements, the company understands the importance of running an environmentally conscious business and is dedicated to maintaining healthy environmental standards. Kallinen said he will ensure his fleet meets all new engine emission specifications.

Despite what the future holds, the hard work and energy behind the tight maintenance guidelines at the sand and gravel supplier will continue to survive. Continued equipment care ensures smooth running of the fleet and steady growth of the company. Kallinen and his team of maintenance specialists are responsible for the impressive results of the Cummins engine teardown. The spotless engine has proven that strict oil maintenance and loyal use of quality motor oil pays off.


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