Extending Oil Drain Intervals

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Extended Oil Service Intervals


Big rig and heavy equipment fleets have been extending oil drain intervals for years—so why won’t automotive OEMs cut truck owners some slack? Why do most say you void your warranty if you exceed the drain interval?

Because the guys who buy lube oil by the barrel extend their drain intervals only after establishing strict oil analysis program and working hand-in-hand with their equipment dealer and lube supplier.

The automotive manufacturers set their parameters based on a worst case scenario and they know your average truck owner isn’t going to pay that much attention.  Their limits are conservative, but not without good reason.

If you want to try extending your oil drain intervals in your trucks, here’s what you need to do:

First: Forget about claiming a warranty. OE’s won’t honor it if you go over the prescribed number of miles between drains. For this reason we can’t recommend extending drains on truck engines under warranty either.

Second: If you want to extend drains on engines out of warranty, start by doing a used oil analysis. This is nothing more than taking a small sample of used oil out of the engine and sending it to a lab to be analyzed. If you buy oil by the barrel, your provider should be able to offer you this service.

If not there are labs like Polaris Labs (https://www.polarislabs1.com/) or Herguth Labs (http://www.herguth.com/) that can set you up for $12 to $15 per kit. (See our website article on this at: www.propickupmag.com/2010/03/21/engine-oil-analysis/).

If the analysis shows the oil is still good, you can gradually start increasing the miles you put on the oil, but sample frequently, say every 1,000 miles until you can say with some accuracy when the oil starts to deteriorate.

Third: Understand that the condition of your lube oil is largely determined by how hard you work the truck.

Trucks that carry light and run long highway miles don’t throw as much soot back into the oil or suffer from oxidation as much as the oil in  trucks that pull heavy loads or struggle through a lot of stop-and-go traffic.  So the oil in the super’s truck may last considerably longer than the oil in the truck that hauls the skid steer all week and a boat on the weekends.

“What drives the ability to extend the drain is the amount of fuel going through the engine, the percent idling, the number of miles per year, highway vs. city miles, the gross vehicle weight and the operating environment,” says Lilo Hurtado, commercial vehicle lubricant application engineer for Exxon-Mobil.

Fourth: Use an extended-life oil filter.  “These have a higher contaminant holding capacity and structural integrity to withstand that additional service period,” says Paul Bandoly, manager of technical services and customer training at Wix. “Oil doesn’t flow through a filter, it pulses,” he says.

“The filter media is flexing constantly. Lubricants and fuels have water in them and the media may absorb that. If you keep it in service too long it may damage the structure. You may need to go to a fully synthetic sheet. They don’t absorb water and they’re wire backed so they’re more robust and durable.”

Fifth: Incorporate oil analysis into a comprehensive maintenance regime. Keep records and make your decisions based on the used oil sample test results. “The best way to do it is from a data-driven, scientific approach,” Hurtado says. “The main objective is to extend drain intervals without sacrificing engine durability and reliability.”

Again, if you buy oil in bulk, your supplier can help. Many of the major oil companies have web-based reports you can access from a computer. If you’re buying oil retail—pick up a log book or enter your data into a spreadsheet.

Just remember: even the best oil in the world can only hold so much soot in suspension. When you get to that point, whether its 2,000 miles or 10,000, you have to change the oil or risk sludge formation, carbon deposits and reduced engine longevity and performance.

And don’t neglect other maintenance, just because you’ve extended your oil drains. You still have to do the cooling system maintenance and safety checks as often as before.

“Make sure you accommodate all schedules, not just your oil change interval,” Bandoly says.