Category: Strategic Tips

Filter rating


Is the filter rating important?

Yes! It is very important.

Usually, the OEM of the equipment specifies the filter rating (and even the filter material in some cases). These ratings help us to keep out particles of larger sizes that may cause damage to the equipment either through wear or clogging of fine clearances.

Some filters allow us to monitor the differential pressure. This is the pressure between the outside of the filters and inside and as this approaches the warning limits, we know that a filter change is needed in the near future.

However, there are times when there is no warning and the filter goes into bypass. When a filter goes into bypass, this means that the filter is no longer keeping back the larger particles. This can be catastrophic for the equipment as a higher concentration of contaminants can now enter the system and damage it.

It is common practice to change the oil filter when the oil is being changed. In some instance, (especially depending on the environment), OEMs recommend changing the oil filters twice or more before the actual oil change.

Always consult with your owner’s manual about the maintenance practices before adopting your own.

Synthetic vs Mineral


Should I use a synthetic oil in my equipment or just stick to mineral?

Check with your OEM first.

There are some OEMs that require a synthetic to be used but others that prefer mineral oils.

Typically, a synthetic oil (in industrial applications) tends to have longer operating hours compared to that of a mineral oil.

As such, lots of companies prefer to use synthetic oils as it leads to cost savings in the long term.

However, there are times when mineral oils are more cost effective.

For instance, if the component has to undergo maintenance (where the oil has to be drained) every 500 hours then it would not make sense to have a more expensive oil that lasts for 2000hours.

Before choosing whether mineral or synthetic, we need to do a cost benefit analysis of using both and then make an informed decision. If we can see savings by switching to a synthetic (such as energy, fuel or manpower savings) then this is definitely the way to go.

Mixing viscosities


Can I mix different viscosities of oils to get the viscosity that I want?

It can be done but this is not an ideal situation.

There are times when the only available viscosity is an ISO 46 (on a rig) but the equipment requires an ISO 68 and the new stock will not be delivered in time to avoid shutdown. Can the ISO 46 be used instead?

An ISO 46 oil is lighter in viscosity than an ISO 68 however, for most oils, there is a chart that depicts the viscosity of the oil at operating temperature. In these cases, one can consult this chart and determine if the viscosity at operating temperature will still fall within operating limits.

If we mix an ISO 46 with an ISO 68 oil we cannot be certain of where the new viscosity will fall especially if we do not know the ratios that are being used. There is a viscosity calculator that can help guide this decision available at:

This can be used as a guide and the actual values of the oil should be verified via oil analysis.


While this situation is not ideal, we need to remember that compatibility is also key.

As such, we should stick with the same line of lubricants that we being used. Typically, lubricant suppliers have the same formulation but change the viscosities for lubricants of the same line.

Stop production?


I can’t shut down the equipment but I know the oil has degraded significantly. What can I do?

Tough decisions!!!

There are times when production cannot be stopped such as when an order has to be fulfilled in a manufacturing facility. Before a decision is made, we need to understand the risks of not stopping production.

Can prolonged production cause a reduction in the overall quality of the final product or will it damage the equipment from working outside of its stipulated hours?

If we absolutely cannot shut down the equipment but the quality of oil has degraded, we need to firstly understand why the oil is degrading (especially if this is outside of its regular working hours).

Next, we need to identify which property of the oil has degraded, is it that the viscosity has increased / decreased, or the antioxidant levels have depleted significantly? By identifying the property that has degraded, we can choose the best way of replenishing this property.



There are a few methods that can be employed when trying to get the lubricant back to a healthy state however, as indicated above it is dependent on the property that has been degraded.

Cleanliness – if the ISO 4406 value has been increasing significantly this can hamper the performance of the lubricant. The clearances that the lubricant has to pass through can become blocked or the surfaces can experience an increased rate of wear.

One simple method of improving the cleanliness is through a kidney loop filtration system. This is an external system where the oil can be filtered through a filter cart and returned to the system.

Usually, this is a very effective method but one should investigate why the cleanliness values have become so high. Is it that the lubricant is being contaminated by the system, a process within the system or external factors?


Antioxidant levels – usually in turbines, this value decreases quickly especially if there is the presence of oxidation. Some users try to add antioxidants to their lubricant to increase the values. This is NOT recommended!!!

The composition of most turbine oils is 1% additive, 99% base oil. By adding any additive directly to the lubricant, we will be throwing the lubricant off balance and may induce other issues such as coagulation (clogged clearances) if the additive did not react well to the initial additives in the lubricant.

One of the easier ways of increasing the antioxidant levels without shutting down the machine is referred to as sweetening.

This process involves removing a percentage of the used oil (lubricant in the system) and then refilling the sump with new lubricant. The ratios can vary depending on the desired change in the antioxidant levels. It is important to note that the same lubricant should be used to ensure compatibility of the lubricants during the sweetening process.

Additionally, lab tests should be done frequently to monitor the changes in the antioxidant levels. The frequency of lab tests is highly dependent on the result turnaround time and budget available.


TBN decrease


The TBN has dropped significantly, can I still use the oil?

The TBN (Total Base Number) is usually seen in diesel engines. Most modern (smaller) diesel engines have TBNs within the range of 9-15 (especially if they are using ULSD).

The TBN gets depleted when the acids in the oil start to increase.

Typically, higher sulphur levels in the fuel produce more acids. As such, as the sulphur level increases, so does the TBN level.

For instance, in power plants that use larger (older) diesel engines that require HSFO (High Sulphur Fuel Oil, 3.5% sulphur), the TBN of the lubricant can be as much as 50. Here are the different types of fuel and their sulphur ratings:

  • HFSO (High Sulphur Fuel Oil): 3.5%
  • LSFO (Low Sulphur Fuel Oil): 1.0%
  • ULSFO (Ultra Low Sulphur Fuel Oil): 0.1%


With IMO 2020, the cap has been placed on sulphur in fuel to 0.5% for marine vessels. While this cap has not yet been translated to land applications, due to the demand for HSFO declining there may be a shift to ULSFO in land based applications in the not so distant future.


Ideally, if your TBN level gets depleted by 50% then there is a cause for concern and the oil should be changed or topped up with new oil (depending on which is more convenient).

If your TBN levels get to 50% in a very short time, you may want to investigate the reasons behind the value dropping so significantly in such a short time (perhaps fuel dilution or thermal cracking?).

Always investigate the reasons behind unexpected results as these will continue to impact your lubricant in the future.

Mixing oils


Can I mix hydraulic oils with engine oils?

Oils should never be mixed!

Every oil is designed with its application in mind. As such, they are blended with varying concentrations and types of additives. For instance, a typical engine oil has at least 30% additives while a turbine oil may have only 1% additive.

Hydraulic oils are designed for applications where power has to be transmitted through the lubricant. On the other hand, engine oils are designed to withstand varying temperatures (gasoline engines have a different temperature range compared to diesel engines. Diesel engines generally run at higher temperatures than gasoline engines).

Always pay particular attention to what the OEM recommends. Usually, the OEM will recommend that a lubricant meets a particular global standard (API SN or CK4). These standards were developed to ensure the best performance of an engine and should be adhered to when choosing lubricants.

Multigrade vs Monograde


Why use multigrade instead of monograde oils?

A monograde oil does not provide the same level of protection on start-up as a multigrade oil.

With the multigrade oil, it is designed to reduce the time it takes to get from the bottom of the sump to the top of the engine (this is indicated by the number in front of the “w”).

However, the monograde oils have not been adapted for this type of technology. Thus, it takes longer to get to the top of the engine and to all the components compared to a multigrade oil.

Most wear occurs on start-up. Before we start the car on a morning, all of the oil is at the bottom of the sump, so it takes some time to get to the top and the other components. However, once we start the engine, all the parts will begin moving. If they are moving without any lubrication, then a significant amount of wear will occur!

Typically, when driving, we start the car, go to our destination and stop. Then come back and start the car again. During this time, the oil would have drained back to the bottom of the sump and now has to get back to the top. Before it gets to the components, these are still moving without lubrication, inducing wear! If we think of the number of times that we start and stop for the day (or for the month!), we will realize the amount of wear that we put our engines through.

Hence, this is one of the main reasons, that we choose multigrades over monogrades.

That “w”!


What does the “w” stand for in multigrade oils?

The “w” stands for winter.

Let’s go back a bit. We weren’t always as advanced in lubricant technology as we are today. For instance, if we left an ice tray filled with water on the table, what would happen? It would remain in that state of water. Now, if we placed that in the freezer, the water would turn into ice.

Similarly, before we advanced lubrication technology, there was one oil to be used for the Summer and one for the Winter. During the summer, the temperatures were higher and during the winter the temperatures were lower.

The “w” helps us to understand that this is the measurement related to how an oil flows at a cold temperature (or on start-up). It does not mean that you can only use an oil with a “w” in countries that experience winter!

The lower the number is in front of the “w”, the faster the oil flows on start-up. When we start our cars on a morning, all of the oil is at the bottom of the sump. It will take some time before the oil gets from the bottom to the top of the engine.

However, all of the parts in the engine are moving before they get the oil. Thus, it is critical to get the oil to them in the shortest time possible. The lower the number in front of the “w”, the faster the oil takes to get to the top of the engine (this will reduce the amount of wear that occurs).

Quick Tip: Zero (0) does not mean that there is no protection on start up, it means that it will get to the components faster than all the other grades (like a 0w20).


What about the number after the “w”?

This is the number that represents the viscosity of the oil at operating temperature. When the engine begins operating this is the viscosity that flows through all of the lines and components continuously. As we mentioned in an earlier post, the value has decreased in recent times (some going as low as 0w16!) due to the lines being thinner, which is ideal for lower viscosities.

Recommended oil – Automotive


What type of oil should I use in my car?

Always follow what the OEM recommends! A quick google search can help you find the required lubricant if you don’t have the owner’s manual.

Most modern vehicles use lighter weight oils compared to older vehicles. Let’s think about cars back in 1950. They were larger, with big engines. With a big engine, it would mean that the lines carrying the oil would be larger. Thus, a heavier oil (50 weight) would be the most appropriate.

Now, fast forward to cars today. The engines are smaller, (albeit with a lot more horsepower as well!). If the size of the engine has changed, then the size of the lines carrying the lubricant will change as well. These lines will get smaller. If the lines are smaller, then the liquid that has to flow through them, should be lighter (thinner).

We can use an analogy of a straw trying to pull up molasses.

With a large straw, we could pull up the molasses faster than with a thinner straw. This is similar to the older cars, they would have thicker “straws” (lines) that would have allowed them to adequately pump the lubricant.

In the newer cars, the straw has gotten thinner, so it can’t pull up the molasses anymore. If we tried to pull up water instead, it would definitely flow faster than the molasses and not have as much strain on the person pulling up the water (pump in the engine). Hence, lighter oils are used in modern cars.

Most recommendations can be found by contacting the OEM or even doing a bit of Google searching with the year of manufacture for the car and of course the model.