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By Karin Haumann, OEM Technical Manager, Shell Global Solutions

With Total Cost of Operation (TCO) top of mind for most heavy-duty fleets, regular maintenance schedules are an absolute necessity to maximize efficiency and minimize downtime. How often the engine oil is changed can impact both the health of the engine as well as the bottom line. Changing the oil too soon can be an unnecessary expense and cause downtime, while extending the oil drain interval too long can create a loss in engine protection. A carefully structured engine oil analysis program can help establish the proper oil drain interval and provide a number of other benefits to fleets.

Engine oil plays a vital role in maintaining the health of every engine. Oil drain intervals are defined by how a truck is used, and can include guidelines for fuel economy, gross vehicle weight and idle time. However, factors such as operating climate, air quality, effective maintenance practices and more play a part in the health and life of the oil. A truck can also experience different duty cycles in between oil changes which must be accounted for as well.

With all these factors to consider, how can you be certain that you’re getting the maximum life out of your engine oil? In many circumstances oil drain intervals can be customized through the utilization of an oil analysis program. This can allow fleets to safely customize oil drain intervals based on the actual operating conditions of individual trucks.

Since engine oil is the lifeblood of the engine, closely examining the characteristics of the oil can tell you a lot about both the health of the oil as well as indicate mechanical issues with an engine. An oil analysis program can help to determine the optimum time to change the oil which can reduce the number of oil changes, and even extend them out to coincide with other maintenance schedules which can further reduce downtime for the truck.

Oil analysis can also determine the useful life remaining in engine oil as it looks at things like oxidation and nitration, additive depletion and viscosity. Additionally, data on every oil drain can provide a record about the health of the engine by showing contaminants that can indicate issues like engine wear, fuel dilution and soot.

Some Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) allow drain intervals to be extended beyond the published guidelines with the use of an oil analysis program used to determine the maximum life of the oil. For a minimal cost, small fleets can use an engine oil analysis program to monitor the condition of each of their trucks and to customize the drain interval. Larger fleets can select trucks representative of a group of trucks within the fleet that operate in similar conditions and sample their oil to establish the optimum oil drain intervals for each group.

Shell Lubricants works together with our fleet partners to design a program that meets their individual needs and objectives. We first conduct an analysis of the make-up of the fleet by engine model, truck manufacturer, age and duty cycle to determine what maximum intervals can be supported. The Shell Lubricants team then helps determine the best high-quality Shell Rotella engine oil for the application and which trucks are the best candidates to be representative of a larger part of the fleet.

Shell Lubricants also works to help identify a select “worst case” to be used to determine the optimum oil drain interval that can be applied to trucks with similar operating conditions. This is done by grouping trucks with similar engines together and ranking them by age, duty cycle, and other factors that contribute to engine oil life. Engines from each group that represent the most severe condition from the oil are then chosen to be sampled. Sampling data on these trucks can then be applied to others without having to take samples from every truck. Fleets can also choose to sample used oil on all their trucks, monitoring engine health and providing data to support resale value when the time comes.

Shell Lubricants is committed to helping fleets reduce the TCO of their trucks across duty cycles and operating conditions with high-quality engine oils and oil analysis. The line of Shell Rotella synthetic blend and full synthetic engine oils can help increase fuel economy and help reduce carbon emissions. Oil analysis through Shell LubeAnalyst can help to optimize oil change intervals which can help fleets ensure maximum protection of their engines and to have the peace of mind that comes with taking the guess work out of oil changes.


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