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Fluid Analysis Can Alert You to Equipment Performance Issues

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Fluid analysis is a machinery management practice that can play a role on your farm, regardless of whether your equipment fleet is late model or high hour.

The Case IH Systemgard™ fluid analysis program involves pulling small samples of the equipment’s engine oil, transmission oil and coolant using a vacuum pump and hose inserted through the dipstick, oil fill port, oil level plug or sampling valve. You fill a small sample jar and label it for the specific machine, and drop it off at your Case IH dealer. They’ll send it to one of five Systemgard labs in the U.S. and Canada for analysis.

The Systemgard lab will analyze the engine oil, hydraulic oil and coolant to identify the overall condition of the fluids, along with any contaminants. Each lab operates under A2LA ISO 17025, which is the highest level of accreditation for testing and calibration laboratories. The results are accurate, repeatable, traceable to a standard and supported by the ISO quality system.

The resulting reports can give you a heads-up on a wide range of equipment conditions, from ineffective air filtration to deteriorating bearings, so that you can address performance or wear issues prior to a costly failure.

“Tracking the ‘blood work’ on a piece of equipment is like checking its vital signs,” explains Doug Page, the CNH Parts & Service Product Marketing Manager for Fluids. “By analyzing the engine oil, hydraulic oil and coolant on a piece of equipment, we gain valuable insight into the condition of the engine, transmission and hydraulic systems, as well as the fluids used in these systems.”

For example, as engines wear, their internal components also shed small amounts of metal such as iron, chromium, nickel, aluminum and copper, which the analysis identifies in parts per million. And, the type of metal indicates the likely source of the metal. Piston rings commonly shed iron, chromium and lead, whereas bearings will lose copper, aluminum and tin.

Other materials can identify different issues. The presence of sodium or potassium in an engine oil sample can indicate coolant from a leaking head gasket; silicon can come from dirt ingested through ineffective air filters or leaks between the filter and the engine.

With a long history of analyzing Case IH engines working in agricultural applications, the Systemgard reports define if the amounts found are within normal ranges, or excessive. The reports also include maintenance recommendations based on what has been flagged in the analysis. For example, if fuel is detected in engine oil, the report will recommend checking fuel injector performance and changing the oil, depending on the amount of fuel found.

The Systemgard reports are highly accurate and a valuable resource for making equipment management decisions. And while one sample can be helpful, it’s best to pull fluid samples on a regular basis to identify any trends that might be occurring, regardless of the age of the equipment.

The bottom line for growers, according to Page: “We can identify issues well before they become problems in the field so that you can stay productive, keep your operating costs down and retain your equipment’s resale value.”

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