Locomotive Oil Analysis to Prevent Severe Wear

Tullow, Ireland-based T.E. Laboratories is a provider of fuel, oil and environmental analysis services for clients, including Irish Rail. The company utilizes instruments from Spectro, Inc. such as the Spectroil Q100 spectrometer for oil analysis. Following the determination of severe wear particles in large quantities from the analysis of oil samples taken from a main locomotive Irish Rail approached T.E. Laboratories and brought the engine in for overhaul, which confirmed the presence of chunks of metal in the sump and the condition of the bearings that were about to fail.

Visible chunks of metal in the sump of the disassembled engine

Figure 1. Visible chunks of metal in the sump of the disassembled engine

A bearing from the engine on the verge of failure

Figure 2. A bearing from the engine on the verge of failure

Significance of Oil Analysis

From this oil analysis, Irish Rail was able to save the costs associated with a more extensive engine overhaul as well as with a breakdown. The saved cost is much higher than the cost involved in the oil analysis for the entire fleet of the railroad for a year. With a custom facility measuring 40,000 sq. ft., T.E. Laboratories delivers a machine-care predictive-maintenance system on the basis of condition monitoring by oil analysis, which identifies potential problems such as coolant contamination, dirty fuel, and lubricated metallic components.

T.E. Laboratories recently upgraded its facility with the deployment of the SpectroTrack laboratory information management system. SpectroTrack is equipped with the ability to interface with the suite of viscometers and spectrometers from Spectro, Inc. Moreover, it is capable of integrating with equipment from other suppliers for thermographic, vibration and performance data. The database is designed to track asset data regarding status, maintenance actions, service intervals, locations, and other problems. SpectroTrack also offers security-protected access to the Laboratories' customers for their sample results.

T.E. Laboratories' General Manager, Mark Bowkett informed that Irish Rail generates its test reports and designs its maintenance plans through the extensive use of the SpectroTrack web access. A recent analysis of 18 different wear metals on a liquid-cooled diesel locomotive engine determined the presence of some dark metallo-oxides and large sliding wear steel particles, an indication of a shift from normal to severe sliding wear may be because of inadequate lubrication.

SpectroT2FM Q500 Analytical Ferrography Laboratory

The SpectroT2FM Q500 analytical ferrography laboratory was used to closely monitor the oil sample. This technology features a bichromatic microscope, video camera and image capture software to analyze wear and contaminant particles in used oils, fuels, coolants, and hydraulic fluids. The bichromatic microscope is equipped with reflected (red) and transmitted (green) light sources to view an explore ferrograms.

Ferrogram image showing dark metallo-oxides indicative of abnormal wear

Figure 3. Ferrogram image showing dark metallo-oxides indicative of abnormal wear

Hence, it is possible to illuminate the ferrogram from both above and below the microscope stage. With bichromatic illumination, nonmetallic particles were appeared as green, while metal particles appeared as bright red. The ferrogram revealed that the problem needs to be attended urgently as the engine was on the verge of failure, thus requiring an immediate overhaul.

Large copper chunk seen in ferrogram image

Figure 4. Large copper chunk seen in ferrogram image

Cast iron fatigue chunk seen in ferrogram image

Figure 5. Cast iron fatigue chunk seen in ferrogram image

Conclusion

According to Bowkett, oil analysis is cost efficient as it helps in prioritizing maintenance by preventing unnecessary spending of money on machines that have reached a scheduled milestone, but don’t require maintenance. Moreover, regularly scheduled oil analysis can help determine the condition of machines that urgently require maintenance, although the scheduled service is not due.

Spectro Scientific

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by AMETEK Spectro Scientific.

For more information on this source, please visit AMETEK Spectro Scientific.

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