How important is a particle count?

Messages
1,347
Location
wytheville, va
I agree that the article is interesting... even though the practice seems more suitable (and the text seems angled) toward heavy industrial equipment. If I understand the text of the article correctly, particle counts are used to determine the size and quantity of the particles of contaminant. If iron particles begin to get larger, that is an indication of abnormal wear. (The text says that as wear increases, particle sizes increase). However, if iron particles (or copper or whichever wear metal is being studied) are not getting larger, that would be considered normal wear and no cause for alarm. Right? If that is indeed right (and I do believe that is the sensible thrust of the article) then one might want to observe particle counts to determine if the wear in one's engine was increasing--which could presumably be told by the increasing sizes of the particles being "sloughed off." This would of course require a series of UOAs over some period of time. I found it interesting, too, that the analysis could--presumably by the shape of the particles--determine what kind of action inside the engine was causing the particles to form, i.e. scraping, tapping, or whatever. This all said... I don't see how a particle count could vindicate a bad Redline UOA. If the copper is there in spades, it obviously came from somewhere. While a certain amount of copper might be considered "normal wear," if another oil is able to reduce the copper levels even more, it would seem obvious to me that the oil generating the least amount of wear metals was indeed providing the most protection against wear. So what I'm essentially saying is that one could send in a series of Redline UOAs to a lab which analyzed particle counts. The lab might determine that the particle classes were holding constant, and call it "normal wear." And it would be--for that oil in that engine. But that would not mean that wear metals could not be lowered with another oil. I believe that wear metal is wear metal, and there's no way to paint it into a good corner with particle counts. Again--you might be able to determine that the particulate matter was not increasing in size (changing in class)--and you might determine that that was "normal wear" (for that engine on that oil)--but that's all you'll have done. Switching to an oil which would reduce the total number of ppm iron, copper, and lead--whatever the particulate size--would, in a normally aspirated passenger car engine, have to be called a good move. [Smile] Dan
 
Messages
34,143
Location
Southern NJ
quote:
I don't see how a particle count could vindicate a bad Redline UOA. If the copper is there in spades, it obviously came from somewhere. While a certain amount of copper might be considered "normal wear," if another oil is able to reduce the copper levels even more, it would seem obvious to me that the oil generating the least amount of wear metals was indeed providing the most protection against wear.
I know Molekule has ran some tests on high horsepower Kohler engines with Redline 10W30 and never could measure any wear with micrometers, even though the analysis showed elevated metal counts over Amsoil ATM and Mobil 1. I called AnalystsInc and asked one of their Lab techs about RL. He told me that high Pb with RL is oxides. They deal with RL all the time. Molekule has also seen aircraft oil analysis that were using ester based oils and though the metals in the spectro showed high levels, visual inspection at tear down showed otherwise. Dave from RL said the same thing. In other words, $20 reports don't tell the whole story. I don't have an answer to RL's showing on here. I will say though that in the racing world, they are as good as it gets and their reputation is very good. Dick Guldstrand and Kenne Bell both have used RL for years and swear by it.
 
Messages
1,347
Location
wytheville, va
"I called AnalystsInc and asked one of their Lab techs about RL. He told me that high Pb with RL is oxides." I gotta plead dumb here... [Embarrassed] (And no, I'm not being facetious!) Does this mean that the lead coming from oxides does not actually come from material in the bearings? I'm serious. I don't know the answer to that question... [Confused] Dan
 
Messages
34,143
Location
Southern NJ
I don't know either, but that is what he said. It appears to be more complicated then we realize. Then again, it might not be.....
 
Messages
1,347
Location
wytheville, va
According to this link LINK... , "plattnerite," which is "lead oxide," is relatively scarce in nature. It's just lead and oxygen. Unless the gasoline being used in the engine was laiden with lead, I'd have to assume that any lead oxide--PLATTNERITE, (like that word)--would be a combination of oxygen, natch, and lead from the bearings! Dan
 
Messages
34,143
Location
Southern NJ
From Stinky Peterson:
quote:
I don't have any personal experience with Redline but we do see high lead levels where the cause is not obvious. Conditions in the oil can change and affect the solubility of lead so it will go up without being an indicator of wear. We frequently see this with degraded oil when the oxidation-sulfation-nitration numbers are high. In the case of Redline it is probably due to the oil's formulation and an additive reacting with the lead in the bearings or soldered parts in the engine. This isn't necessarily a bad thing and in fact it is usually harmless. Some additives can cause the same thing and some additives themselves contain very high levels of lead. Glycol in the oil can also drive up lead and copper due to chemical reactions and not necessarily wear. It would be interesting to see if the high lead is happening when conditions favor condensation since water hydrolyzes esters to form acids and certain acids can react with lead. I can't speak for GM bearings but the engines we work with (heavy-duty diesels) the bearings have a lead and tin overlay with a very thin layer of copper and then aluminum (or vice versa) and finally the steel backing. We look for elevated levels of tin to help us decide it bearing wear is occurring or not. If tin is not up then most likely it isn't abnormal wear; this of course depends of the construction of the bearing. I think some folks try to attach too much significance to slight changes of wear elements. There are many factors that can affect the levels reported on the report, things such as instrument limitations, interferences, the actual wear mechanism and particle size, etc. Most of the labs I am familiar with run with a +/- 10% check standard (some go even higher for certain elements) so this is the normal error you would expect to see. In our lab we run the check standard every 24 samples and if it doesn't pass the instrument recalibrates itself and starts all over again. Lead, tin, sodium, and antimony are soft metals and poor emitters so they are hard to read (the signal is weak and hard to pull out of the noise). These metals can have more error than the hard metals (strong emitters) like chrome, nickle, iron, etc. which give strong signals. When people start adding additives it is possible to have interferences that go undetected. Before anyone starts criticizing the labs for not getting absolute accuracy remember what you are paying for an analysis and then go to an environmental lab or some of the other labs on the Internet and ask them what they charge to run just one element (not 21). Don't be shocked if you see the price is well over $100! Fortunately the accuracy we get is sufficient for what oil analysis was intended.
 
Messages
297
Location
NJ
quote:
Originally posted by fuel tanker man: "I called AnalystsInc and asked one of their Lab techs about RL. He told me that high Pb with RL is oxides." I gotta plead dumb here... [Embarrassed] (And no, I'm not being facetious!) Does this mean that the lead coming from oxides does not actually come from material in the bearings? I'm serious. I don't know the answer to that question... [Confused] Dan
Are these tests being run on engines running piston aviation fuel or race gas? There can be a mountain of lead in both. Gas station down the street go through a TON of leaded LL100 Avgas, my 440 likes it as well [Big Grin]
 
Messages
9,427
Location
Pensacola & Vero Beach FL
I've been running PCs with my UOA, and my long-term plan is to do them with some of my UOA. The ultimate "tie together" would be to get a read on the composition of the particle mixes in each various size range. Although both of my current engines are relatively new (an 04 Nis/Inf VQ35DE V-6 with 36k miles and an 01 Toyota 2UZ-FE V-8 with only 40k miles), my counts have been pleasingly low at single-digit micron range and above. Whether this is inherent in these engines, the M1 filters I generally use (I got good PCs from the often maligned K&N filter when used on the Toyota V-6 in my last car), or the combo. This is a very interesting subject, with much to be learned. Although my results have been "scored" very favorably, I really don't understand the implication of the measurement scales, although it certainly gives some comfort to know that your oil is "clean enough" to meet aircraft hydraulic system standards. [Wink] [Big Grin]
 
Messages
9,427
Location
Pensacola & Vero Beach FL
quote:
Originally posted by fuel tanker man: Someone correct me if I'm out in left field... [Cool] uh oh... there's ekpolk. Darn! I must be~! [Embarrassed] [Razz] [Big Grin] (just joking--all in fun...) [Smile] Dan
OK, I gotta ask -- how did you know I was coming -- three hours before I got here? I don't have you thinking that hard, do I? [Wink] [Cheers!]
 
Messages
9,427
Location
Pensacola & Vero Beach FL
Since this is one of my own pet issues, I decided to revive this thread. Yesterday evening, I got my latest UOA results on my G35 from Blackstone. I already posted them over in the UOA forum ( yesterday's G35 UOA). As you can see, I have included the particle counts from this and Jan 05 UOA (I did not test the intermediate fill). I'm interested in hearing anyone's thoughts on the results. From my own efforts (certainly not conclusive info), I understand that the tightest clearances in a typical piston engine are in the low single micron range. Mobil advertises down around that level (but you have to consider efficiency too). As you can see, there are some particles well above the single micron level, but lab says the oil scores as "clean". Also, it sure would be nice to know what the particles are, and how "durable" they are. In other words, is a given, say 10 micron particle, soft or hard and therefore, what will it do as it tries to go through a 5 micron clearance (get crushed itself, or gouge the walls it's passing). Again, I've been beating the particle count drum on and off for a while. Lots of room for exploration, IMO. Experts, where are you??? [Cheers!]
 
Messages
3,845
EkPolk, The particles of any significance in your analysis are a combination of fuel soot and oil additives. Generally any particle larger than >15 um is abrasive AND in a large count is problematic ( yours is incredibly low). The majority of the smaller stuff > 5 um area is being safely encapsulated by lubricant micelles ( polar holders of contaminants), otherwise it is part of the GC and LC adds and combustion byproduct. For a engine and oil with this many miles, your test is incredibly clean. On the 2 unit ISO code consider the first # silt, and the second # abrasives measure. Particle concentration is measured in particles per millimeter. This is a relative measure of cleanliness. How did I know you would be wanting to know more??
 
Messages
2,233
Location
Wisconsin
quote:
On the 2 unit ISO code consider the first # silt, and the second # abrasives measure.
Thanks, Terry, for providing this simplified explanation of the ISO code. For me the significance of the term "silt" did not sink in, until I viewed your post! [Smile] So, for Ekpolk's latest data, the ISO code would be 16/13 per this Iso Clean Code Range Chart . Is this low level of fluid contaminants due to good filtration or a very clean running engine with little or no deposits? I'm assuming a standard filter only has an effect on the distribution of the 15 micron & larger, particle sizes.
 
Messages
468
Location
Maryland
Here is more info on the particle count: >=2 micron=1565 >=5 micron=580 >=10 micron=160 >=15 micron=62 >=25 micron=14 >=50 micron=1 >=100 Micron=0 ISO cleanliness code 16/13 This was the Particle count on a 2005 toyota 3.3L V6 motor with 8073 miles on it Toyota Filter. Not as clean as ekpolk's but still a ISO cleanliness code of 16/13.
 
Messages
9,427
Location
Pensacola & Vero Beach FL
quote:
Originally posted by Blue99: {snip} Is this low level of fluid contaminants due to good filtration or a very clean running engine with little or no deposits? I'm assuming a standard filter only has an effect on the distribution of the 15 micron & larger, particle sizes.
Well, that's the next thing to figure out, although that will be tough, since both appear to be reasonable explanations. This is a relatively new engine (14 mos, 37k miles) that's never been allowed to get dirty. Although I do some full throttle accels (hard to resist with this drivetrain...), most of its miles accumulate at 75-80 mph on the interstate. It is a clean runner with no visible or UOA suggested deposits. I also use the Mobil-1 oil filters. They advertise finer filtration than standard filters, though how much finer in reality, who knows. That said, my results would at least suggest that there may be something to Mobil's finer filtration argument. Bottom line for now is that I like this combo, and plan to stay with it. I can live with not being able to nail down the exact "why" for numbers this reassuring. Chimay: I'm guessing that if you stay on top of this engine, its particles will drop as it moves beyond its childhood and adolescence and into being an "adult" engine. Maybe try an M1 filter next time just to see what happens.
 
Messages
3,845
Because of VARIABLE combustion byproduct in the less than 10um range and the INABILITY of filtration to get it all out the IC engine will always have a developing level of lower um sized contaminants until the aglomeration bonds, beginning to form sludge. THEN your oil filter will trap the larger particles for a set period of time, until it loads and bypasses. One reason I like the sludge cycle interuptive technologies like Auto-Rx and LC/FP. Full flow filters AND BP filters from our testing show little help in containing these contaminants. Stopping the source of soot, and then dispersing or using the carbon soot as a colloidal lubricant is the effect RX and LC/FP have. Having trouble typing on a south american keyboard here, sorry.
 
Top