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WINNIPEG, Man. - With the high cost of unscheduled repairs, there is a real need to predict mechanical failures before they occur - a fortuneteller specializing in owner/operators' trucks would be in ...


PRICE POINT: Leslie Morovek says a ferrography package geared towards an O/O would run about $750 and cover around six years of operation.
PRICE POINT: Leslie Morovek says a ferrography package geared towards an O/O would run about $750 and cover around six years of operation.

WINNIPEG, Man. – With the high cost of unscheduled repairs, there is a real need to predict mechanical failures before they occur – a fortuneteller specializing in owner/operators’ trucks would be in very high demand, indeed.

Some Canadian O/Os and fleets may have already found this diagnostic crystal ball in the form of ferrography. This science, which goes a step beyond traditional oil analysis, which examines just the oil, focuses on the machinery being lubricated as well.

And all it takes is an oil sample.

The sample allows for a detailed examination of the equipment, without the associated expense of downtime required in physical inspections.

Ed Nielsen, fleet manager of Winn-Mann Transport, has been sending his oil samples to Munroe Equipment Sciences (MES) in Winnipeg for close to five years.

“Last summer we did an oil sample and it came back really bad and we were told the rings on the engine were going,” he says. “So we tore it up, and sure enough, the rings were all trashed.”

Nielsen swears that episode alone made him a believer in the benefits of ferrography.

“I would absolutely recommend it,” he explains. “It’s not going to save every engine in your fleet, but even if it saves you just one it has already paid for itself.”

MES supplies Nielsen with bottles to catch the oil and the samples are mailed to the laboratory. If the results are really disastrous, the company calls him immediately; otherwise he gets the results back in 24 hours.

“It tells you not only what is wearing, but where (the cause) came from,” says Nielsen of the detailed report he receives. For example, it can, “tell you if you have diesel fuel coming into your system, (or other) things you would never have been aware of.”

According to says Leslie Morovek, chief administrative officer of MES, ferrography is ideal technology for both problem solving and trouble shooting.

“We have quite a few owner/operators and we do save them time and money. We can help them extend their drain intervals, we monitor their equipment condition and tell them when it’s time to change their bearings,” she says. “All the stuff they used to do on schedule; they sample with us instead and we tell them when it’s time.”

The oil sample is given to the lab. There, the ferrogram analysis organizes and pinpoints wear particles. MES’ particular diagnostic recipe incorporates incline-, chemical-, thermal- and mechanical-sample preparation, in combination with a magnetic field.

Hints of metal, dirt and even fragments of insects, not usually found by oil analysis, are identified and the kind of wear they have caused is determined.

Various wear conditions (such as abrasion, fatigue, adhesion, and corrosion) can ultimately lead to premature vehicle failure. These are all easily identified – and so corrective measures can be taken.

The process can predict future wear conditions including normal rubbing wear, bearing platelet wear, gear wear, cutting wear and severe sliding wear.

Greg Shank, an engineer with Mack Trucks, says the truck maker has been using ferrography since the 1970s.”If you had (a traditional oil analysis) done, it would give you a 200 parts-per-million-of-iron reading,” he says. “With ferrography, you determine where that iron particle was coming from in the engine.” n


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