trucks: Don't Let Oil be a Financial Drain

Optimizing oil drain intervals can reduce vehicle downtime and maintenance costs. However, proceed with care: Extended oil drain intervals, whether based on miles, hours or fuel consumption, can leave you in the lurch if they are not properly planned and monitored.

While extending intervals will use less oil and filters and decrease disposal hassles, you might face unexpected costs if you exceed your engine's or oil's capability.

When determining an optimum drain interval, consider: * engine sump capacity;

* filtration type and capacity, engine oil consumption, fuel consumption;

* operation type; and

* number of drivers, oil analysis records, computerized maintenance records, fuel quality, oil quality and new technology.

Successful extended oil drains ensure that: * The engine oil has excess capability for the oil drain interval.

* The oil filter has adequate contamination holding ability and efficiency, and the media is chemically and thermally inert on hot used oil.

* The engine has excess capability for the oil drain interval.

* Coolant treatment matches oil drain interval.

Avoid the largest risks with extended intervals, such as failure to continue oil sampling, failure to continually review the interval, unknown lube oil formulation changes and unknowingly extending the extended interval.

Change the oil when: * The dispersant is overloaded with soot, filters plug, viscosity increases unacceptably and heat transfer through the oil is unacceptable.

* The acid level becomes too high, and "higher" metals corrode.

* Excessive heat exposure causes oxidation, filters plug and viscosity increases unacceptably.

* Excessive piston deposits cause loss of oil control, carbon packing/ring scuffing and pin bore deposits stop pin rotation.

* Anti-wear additives deplete.

When extending drains, you run the risk of the oil dying and, thus, the engine dying. After the drain interval is established, oil typically can die due to changes in engine application, average fuel rates, idle time and performance.

Additional causes include oil performance changes, trace amounts of antifreeze and stretching the established drain interval.

The engine dies slowly if soot or sludge cause high wear, anti-wear additives are depleted or filters plug near the end of the drain interval. It dies quickly if filters plug early in the drain period, the oil filters fail mechanically, piston deposits produce ring scuffing/carbon packing, ring loss of function/oil consumption or skirt deposits/piston seizures and viscosity increases, and cold weather yields zero oil pressure at start up.

Oil analysis' time must have come, because you rarely hear a fleet manager say he has submitted duplicate samples and fooled the company analyzing its oil. But remember, used oil analysis is not a sole criteria for oil drain intervals. At best, it only permits estimating maintenance intervals.

Used oil analysis can advise if the oil is suitable for continued service, forewarn equipment problems, establish a drain interval, monitor progressive wear, detect corrosive acids and be a part of failure analysis. The report is divided into several sections and includes wear metals, additive metals, contaminant metals, non-metallic contaminants and vital statistics on the lubricating oil. When a report is bad, resample the unit immediately and check for other problem signs.

Oil drain intervals also can be extended by using synthetic oils, adding an additional oil sump, changing the full flow filter frequently and employing a by-pass filtration system.

Synthetics in transmissions and differentials offer extended component life, improved cold weather flow, reduced component temperatures by up to 50 degrees, more resistance to oxidation, reduced warranty claims, increased fuel economy up to 2 percent and reduced maintenance.

New engines and on-board oil supply systems can extend or avoid conventional oil changes through continuous oil replacement and electronic controls that monitor the engine and synchronize system operation with the engine's actual duty cycle.

Acquisitions American Disposal Services Inc., Burr Ridge, Ill., has completed the stock acquisition of Canton, Ohio-based R.C. Miller Enterprises Inc., one of Ohio's largest private solid waste companies.

Eaton Corp., Cleveland, has concluded the sale of its worldwide axle and brake business to Dana Corp. for $287 million. Prior to the sale, Eaton's axle and brake operation had 3,400 employees at nine facilities in five countries, with annual sales of more than $600 million.

Stone Bluff, Okla.-based Greenway Environmental Inc., a waste management company, has acquired Chief Supply Corp. in connection with Chief's Chapter 11 reorganization in the Eastern District of Oklahoma's U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Oshkosh Truck Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., has acquired McNeilus Companies Inc., a leader in the refuse body and concrete mixer industries. The companies have signed an agreement for Oshkosh to buy McNeilus for $250 million, which includes all stock and non-compete and ancillary agreements.

Eastern Environmental Services Inc., Mt. Laurel, N.J., has completed the acquisitions of Pine Grove Landfill Inc., a 174-acre municipal solid waste landfill, and Pine Grove Hauling Co., which provides commercial and residential collection services. Both are located in east central Pennsylvania and are projected to have revenues, net of internal disposal costs, of approximately $15 million on an annualized basis.

Allied Waste Industries, Scottsdale, Ariz., has acquired ECDC Environmental L.C., whose principal asset is the ECDC landfill located in central Utah, from Laidlaw Environmental Services of Delaware Inc. and RACT Inc. (a Utah Corp.). Total consideration paid in the transaction consisted of approximately $90 million in cash, about $51 million of assumed debt, a promissory note for $10 million and $10 million contingently payable upon the satisfaction of certain earnings targets. Allied also will reimburse LaidLaw approximately $14.7 million in cash for trust funds, securing the landfill's obligations.

Agreement PEI Power Corp., Wilkes-Barre, Pa., a subsidiary of Pennsylvania Enterprises Inc., has signed an agreement with the Keystone Sanitary Landfill, Dunmore, Pa., providing PEI intends to use this supply of methane gas to fuel its recently 25 megawatt co-generation plant in nearby