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Is it important to use wear particle analysis?

First, it is important to monitor the condition your lubricants. You can test the chemistry to determine if the lubricant can continue to do its job. You can also detect contaminants, both particles such as dirt and fluids such as water, because they can harm the lubricant and harm your machine. But if your oil analysis includes particle counting and can detect metallic elements, do you also need to perform wear particle analysis? The short answer is “yes”.

When wear occurs within a machine, small particles are generated. The shape, size and color of those particles indicates where they have come from and how and why they were created. For example, if contaminants caused the wear, the particles will look different to particles generated if there was excessive load. There is an “atlas” available that illustrates what the particles can look like.

The process used to count the particles, which is an important oil analysis test to perform, does not provide an indication of the nature and origin of the particles. And when the oil analysis report indicates that elements such as iron and tin are present, that is only because there were very small particles, less than approximately 9 µm in size, present in the oil. The wear particles we are talking about are a lot larger in size. When these wear particles exist, you may not see any real indication in the standard oil analysis report, and the information gained does not provide the critical diagnostic information need.