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Reliability-centered lubrication is an important maintenance strategy for extending engine life and optimizing lubricant use. To achieve these goals, you must follow the four “rights” of lubricant application:
It will be critical to maintain the proper oil level to ensure the right amount of lubricant is being used. Also, no other lubricant should be put in the engine, and the lubricant should not be mixed with any other product, such as an assembly oil or other lubricant type. The selected engine oil likely should not be used for other applications either.
Of course, lubricants age over time, so there will come a time when the oil must be replaced. Traditionally, engine oils are changed according to an established time period or mileage limit. However, they also can be changed when an issue is identified. In this case, it will be necessary to perform tests on the oil in a laboratory or by using online sensors. The tests or monitoring results will indicate the right time to change the oil in order to optimize its use and protect the engine.
In addition to using the four “right” practices, you must keep the lubricant clean. This means it should be properly filtered and free of solid or liquid contaminants, including other lubricants. Oil should be filtered before being put into the engine and then maintained in this condition while in service.
Only high-quality filters should be used. You may choose to install a bypass filter, which works with 5-10 percent of the circulating oil. This filters the oil better than a conventional filter. Premium air filters should also be installed, and correct replacement procedures followed to make certain the air entering the combustion chamber is clean.
An effective oil analysis program in which samples are taken periodically can help monitor the presence of contaminants in the oil, such as fuel, glycol and soot. If these elements exceed the normal levels, corrective actions should be taken.
It’s always important to keep your lubricants dry — water contamination is a frequent issue in many machines. Lubricants should also be kept cool. This means the oil should operate at relatively low temperatures based on the engine and application. In general, the higher the operating temperature, the shorter the lubricant life. Normal operating temperatures should be maintained to preserve the lubricant’s properties and life.
All maintenance work must be done correctly and consistently. This will require training, good procedures, the right tools, communication and team alignment. Ensure accountability and use key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor the team’s results.
Other beneficial practices would be to utilize pre-lube systems and heating systems to reduce engine wear during startup, particularly in cold temperatures. Finally, use a premium fuel and perform periodic engine flushing with a low-viscosity engine oil.