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NVCP Fluid Analysis Facts

The Science Behind the Scenes

We all accept that the doctor can diagnose medical conditions by analyzing our blood. The doctor can tell if you have a viral or bacterial infection, detect numerous diseases including cancer, and treat your condition accordingly. As we all know, early detection is very important—and that’s what our Fluid Analysis is all about. Much like a blood test, analyzing the used oil from your engine or transmission will uncover the earliest signs of trouble, and can help prevent major problems in the future.


A technician draws a fluid sample from both the engine and transmission. Next, we perform a battery of tests on those fluids, including Infrared Spectroscopy and Optical Emission Spectroscopy. By Infrared Spectroscopy, we monitor the physical properties of the oil (oil serviceability) including the presence of water, fuel, and coolant; as well as oxidation, nitration (gasoline engines), Soot (diesel engines), Total Base Number (gasoline and diesel engines), and Viscosity. Optical Emission Spectroscopic testing identifies wear metals and contaminants. These wear metals are microscopic particles generated by the moving parts of the engine, and contaminants are compounds, which have somehow found their way inside of the lubricated portions of the engine and transmission (i.e. dust, dirt, water, coolant, etc.)

The wear metals we detect are Aluminum, Chromium, Copper, Iron, Lead, and Tin. The contaminant elements are Silicon, Potassium, and Sodium. The presence of these metals or contaminants may indicate an existing or imminent problem. Different substances indicate different, specific problem areas. The following is a list of various metals and compounds, and where they are found inside a modern engine or transmission.

  • Aluminum: pistons, bearings, housings, thrust washers, bushings
  • Chromium: compression rings, low friction bearings, liners, chromate cooling system
  • Copper: bearings, bushings, thrust washers, oil cooler, clutches, and in some cases an oil additive.
  • Iron: crankshaft, camshaft, valve train, cylinders, gears, liners, and bearings
  • Lead: bearings
  • Molybdenum: possible coating on rings, or an oil additive in some lubricants
  • Tin: pistons, bearings, bushings
  • Silicon: most commonly dirt, seal material, oil or coolant additive
  • Potassium: coolant additive
  • Sodium: coolant additive, environmental contaminant (road salt)

The contaminants and physical properties we detect are: Water, Oxidation, Antifreeze / Glycol, Fuel, Nitration (gasoline engines), TBN (Total Base Number... diesel and gasoline engines), Soot (diesel engines), and Viscosity (Index).

  • Water: can be an indication of condensation due to a cold running engine, coolant leak, or outside contamination
  • Oxidation: the result of oxygen in the air interacting with the oil at elevated temperatures, and a normal process as the oil ages. Values greater than 25 indicate that the oil needs to be change
  • Antifreeze: the presence of “glycol” indicate a coolant leak
  • Fuel: can indicate faulty combustion, too rich air / fuel mixture, injector problem, or internal fuel line leak
  • Nitration: nitration products are formed during the fuel combustion process. These products are often corrosive and can accelerate oil deterioration
  • TBN (Total Base Number): a measurement of the oil’s alkaline reserve, or (additive) package. Monitoring the oil’s TBN allows you to determine correct oil drain intervals. A low TBN (generally less than 3) is an indication of depletion of the oil’s additive package, over extension of the oil drain interval, or overheating of the engine.
  • Soot: Soot is a combustion by-product of diesel fuel and appears as a contaminant. Higher than normal soot levels can indicate an improper air / fuel ration, defective air intakes or injectors and can cause deposits, oxidation and deplete and oil’s additive package.
  • Viscosity: an indication of the oil’s ability to flow, circulate, and lubricate the moving parts of the engine. If the oil is too thick, or thin, it can cause oil starvation of the valve train and other critical engine parts. The Viscosity is reported in Centistokes.

Oil analysis has long been used to reduce maintenance costs and ensure equipment “up-time” in the trucking, heavy equipment, and mining industries. In addition, our fluid analysis process has been tested and approved by major oil companies, engine manufacturers and the U.S. military, among many others.

Let us put Science to work—for YOU!

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