Maintaining lubricant cleanliness is CRITICAL to increasing component life, increasing lubricant life, and reducing costly routine maintenance. Clean, dry lubricants will improve machine performance and longevity. Small particles in the lubricant, those at or near clearances, cause abrasion wear. Large particles can cause fatigue wear. Particles in the lubricant will increase lubricant degradation rates. Particles in hydraulic control systems will degrade hydraulic functions or even cause performance failures. Particles in other hydraulic systems will cause abrasion wear and hydraulic leaks. In extreme cases, particles can partially clog oil ports and result in lubricant starvation to vital machine components.
Monitor the cleanliness of you lubricants either with Direct Read Ferrography in the case of gear boxes and reciprocating equipment or Particle Counts in the case of most other equipment.
This test is performed using an automatic laser light particle counting instrument. A laser light beam is shown through a constant flow rate stream of oil. As particles entrained in the oil pass through the light beam, the attenuation of the transmitted light as seen by a sensor is measured versus time. Using the flow rate and the attenuation versus time curve, particle size can be determined and counted using an algorithm. The algorithm is unique to each brand or model of instrument and is usually proprietary. The number of counts for given size ranges of > 4, > 6, and > 14 microns are then classified according to the ISO 4406 Standard.
While a particle Count Analysis will not indicate what the particles are, it will indicate the need for further analysis, usually microscopic particle analysis to determine not only what the particles are, but help determine where they came from, how to clean up the lubricant, and how to prevent them from re-occurring.