SINCE THE INVENTION of the internal combustion engine, regular oil changes have been essential to engines to maximize performance and equipment lifespan. Nevertheless, an increasing number of solid waste fleet managers across the country are learning they can save money, decrease vehicle downtime, extend engine life and help the environment by reducing or even eliminating regular vehicle oil changes by using onboard bypass oil filtration systems.
Oil changes have long been a standard maintenance requirement for vehicles, and fleet managers are all too familiar with the costs associated with regular oil changes, which include vehicle down time and paying for new oil, labor and filters. However, according to Richard Ford, CEO of puraDYN Filter Technologies Inc., Boynton Beach, Fla., it is a myth that engine oil breaks down and wears out. Oil needs to be replaced regularly due to contamination and loss of vital additives over a relatively short period of use.
To reduce the typical maintenance, onboard bypass filters work in tandem with standard engine full-flow filters to constantly remove harmful contaminants and replace vital additives. Top-of-the-line bypass filters can reduce contaminants to as low as 0.25 microns — versus the 15 to 40 micron range typical of standard full-flow filters, according to Ford. Bypass filters also can help keep oil quality within the range of original oil and engine manufacturer specifications. So bypass filters reduce or eliminate the need for oil changes.
Ronald Kleintop, fleet service manager for Miami-Dade County's General Services Administration, says his department has experienced first-hand the benefits of onboard bypass systems and reduced oil changes. The county encompasses 2,000 square miles, which requires more than 400 pieces of heavy equipment to collect waste and service two landfills and five transfer stations. After incorporating the bypass filtration systems, on average, Miami-Dade County has saved between $1,200 to more than $5,000 over the life of each vehicle, including up to a 90 percent reduction on oil purchases. “We expect our savings to increase each year with the use of the filters, he adds.
Traditional upkeep of the new systems is limited to replacing the primary filter element at the original equipment manufacturer's specified oil change intervals. At that time, engine oil samples are taken to determine the condition of the oil and the engine, and to evaluate whether the current oil supply is suitable for continued operation.
A longer oil change interval is not the only benefit of equipping fleets with the bypass systems. By constantly running on clean and conditioned oil, engines equipped with onboard bypass oil filtration systems typically have an extended lifespan and higher level of performance, Ford says. The relatively low equipment and installation cost means that the return on investment for the equipment is usually less than one year, he adds.
Using the bypass oil filtration system has allowed Miami-Dade County to improve detailed inspection efficiencies on each of its trucks. According to Kleintop, mechanics no longer need to perform basic tasks (oil changes) so instead, they can focus on other areas of preventative maintenance and provide more detailed inspections.
“As with any government department, we're always looking for ways to conduct the county's business in the most effective and cost-efficient manner,” he says. “Identifying savings in our operation can lower our cost of doing business and is obviously a cost savings to our tax payers.”
The bypass oil filtration systems installed on Miami-Dade County's trucks also are being tested by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Washington. The DOE has been conducting ongoing tests on the system since October 2002 to evaluate the benefits on federal vehicles. The testing program is part of the Freedom Car and Vehicle Technologies Program by the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Idaho Falls.
— Robert Cadogan Communications Group Delray Beach, Fla.