I suppose we could refer to used oil, when put under the lens of a microscope, as a book waiting to be read. It is loaded with revealing bits of information that tells a pictorial story about the condition of the machine and the oil. Still, for most people, the story cannot be read or understood. To them, the language of oil analysis is foreign and seems complicated.

It is true that literacy in oil analysis doesn't enter the mind as an overnight sensation. It takes time, a process not dissimilar to osmosis. Yet at the same time, oil analysis knowledge and technology races forward like a train, gaining speed on each turn. So too, it seems, the more we discover and learn about the topic the more we become aware of all that we don't yet know. Add this to the belief that knowledge is said to double every four years and, well, one might choose another pursuit.

Not to worry. No matter how vexing or challenging it may seem, the task is far from insurmountable. Why? The answer can be found in the common 80-20 rule and it is tilted in our favor. By effectively applying just 20 percent of what is commonly known about oil analysis, 80 percent of the available savings and benefits can be realized. The question then becomes what is this 20 percent and how do we effectively apply it.

The secret lies in yet another 80-20 rule, i.e., 20 percent of the possible causes of failure are responsible for 80 percent of the total occurrences of failure. By taking dead aim on this 20 percent and building an oil analysis program that monitors and controls the causes, simple solutions to complex problems are within reach. In sum, by systematically eliminating core root causes, using oil analysis for verification, hard-to-detect and downtime producing faults rarely occur. The technique is also known as the "clean, dry, cool, and well-oiled strategy".

This issue of Practicing Oil Analysis offers revealing insight into how to effectively implement these principles–in practice. While perusing the articles, don't let what seems on the surface to be nothing more than "common sense" get in the way of real understanding. The fundamentals are indeed commonly understood but their application is far from commonly applied. Worth a careful read:

The Visual Crackle–This article, on moisture monitoring, describes a time-tested technique for
monitoring the most destructive forms of water contamination (emulsified water).

What Particles Mean–In oil lubricated machinery, there is no property of the oil more important than fluid cleanliness.

Operation Cleanup–Begin the pursuit of oil cleanliness by targeting all original sources of contamination-including new oil deliveries.

Putting On-Site Oil Analysis to Work–Here's a company that took oil cleanliness to heart; turning it into big-company savings.

The Soot Meter–Take aim on one of the most important condemning properties of used crankcase oils.