Keeping it clean: what you need to know to prevent expensive wear and tear from base oil and lubricant contamination

What arguably causes the most preventable fleet damage? That just might be base oil lubricant and fuel contamination. Some experts say that 82 percent of mechanical wear is caused by contamination. That includes abrasion, erosion, fatigue, adhesion, and fretting. And what’s even worse is that the issue is mostly preventable with just a little know-how.

The problem with contamination is two-fold. It not only causes wear; but it can prevent your oil from doing the job of protecting the engine and vehicle components. So, you might say that not only does contamination shorten the life of the base oil, but also of the vehicle overall. Conversely, keeping your oil clean and contaminant free can double the life of your vehicle.

What are we talking about when we talk about contamination? The dirt, minerals, bacteria, and other natural debris that get into the system between components. We’re talking about dirt and other contaminant particles so small you can’t even see them. In fact, the worst contamination comes from particles so small they’re invisible to the naked eye.

The type of contaminants that do the most damage measure at 1-10 microns. (A micron is one-millionth of a meter. Just to put that into perspective, most people can’t see particles that measure less than 40 microns.)

Do you know the most common causes of contamination? It might not be what you think.

Causes of contamination

- Normal use and wear
- Entry between machine parts, through wind or water
- New oil that doesn’t meet cleanliness standards
- Improper maintenance and use of oil that should be changed

Are you surprised by the third item on the list? Most people are. And it doesn’t take much to spoil the oil. Just one teaspoon of dirt in 55 gallons of oil is enough to shorten equipment life overall.

How? Just consider that new oil can be transferred approximately eight times before it reaches you, and that with each transfer the oil is picking up contaminants before it ever reaches you or the vehicle for its intended use. Fuel filters will pick up some of the contaminants, but not all. For that reason, we recommend choosing an oil that meets OEM specifications.

So, what more can you do to prevent contamination overall and increase the life of your vehicle?

Here are three steps to help prevent contamination:

1. Choose the proper oil. Do you know whether to choose a synthetic or a mineral base oil? Check out our last blog for more information or reach out to us with questions.
2. Look for new oil that meets OEM specifications, and the requirements for your vehicle. Choose an oil with the proper ISO code for the component. Manufacturers provide the specifications for most equipment and individual parts.
3. Consider use, and make sure you have a good maintenance plan in place.

If you need additional information, please know that the team at Greg’s Petroleum Service is here to help. As your fuel and lubricant supplier in Bakersfield, Fresno, San Luis Obispo, Santa Clarita or Ventura, California areas, we are available to help answer any questions you might have. Visit us online or give us a call to learn more.