How To Interpret Your Oil Analysis Report

How To Interpret Your Oil Analysis Report
  • Opening Intro -

    You may remember seeing all the numbers, letters, and colors on your oil analysis report for the first time and worrying about how you’ll ever understand it.

    The good news is you’re not alone; even experienced mechanics and managers sometimes feel this way.


Once you know what to look for, everything else becomes so much easier. Let’s learn how to interpret an oil analysis report so you can make better and more informed decisions for your machinery.

Understand the Types of Oil Analysis Tests

We’ll start by mentioning that you do not have to be an oil expert to read an analysis report, nor do you have to be intimately familiar with every test. However, knowing what analysis the sample will run through and what these tests look for is beneficial.

When we break down the anatomy of a lubricant, we know that its viscosity plays a huge role in its function. A viscosity test will tell you if your lubricant is within its ISO grade or has changed. If it has, you may want to compare these results to your water and contamination levels. If they’re high, these are the likely culprits.

Review the Summary

Your report won’t give you advice on what to change and how to change it, but it should give you a one or two-sentence summary about the condition of your oil. It should tell you whether your oil is in good condition, whether it’s time to take action, and if the general conditions tested for are within normal limits for the oil’s performance period. If your results aren’t normal, then it’s time to move to the next step.

Identify the Parts While Looking Over Results

If your report states the sample isn’t within a normal range, you’ll likely see some color-coded highlighting: green being good, yellow being fair, and red being caution or emergency. While the format of reports varies widely, you should be able to identify the part or machinery number. This information will help you identify the problem and why it’s happening. For example, if the part is very old and the oil has a high number of wear particles, it’s likely time for a part change. If you’re having trouble identifying a part or understanding a result, the laboratory can explain it to you.

Compare Them to Your OEM’s Instructions

You don’t have to know the normal range for every test and every machine in your application. Consult your OEM’s instructions if you aren’t sure whether a result is within normal range, what the range for your machinery is, or what steps to take.

The OEM instructions should tell you what normal, abnormal, or critical results look like in your machine, which you can compare to your oil analysis results. For instance, if your report says your fuel dilution is three percent, but your OEM manual says two percent is abnormal and three percent is critical, you must take subsequent actions. Your machinery may have a cooling system leak or condensation within reservoirs.

You don’t have to be an expert; you just have to take the time to learn how to interpret an oil analysis report.



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