– Fleet managers are trying to get every mile possible out of an oil change, and thanks to advances in additive technology in the past few years, many heavy-duty engine oils on the market help fleet managers extend intervals. According to Mark Betner of Citgo Petroleum Corporation, several factors need to be considered when setting drain intervals. In Betner’s May 2007 article, “Optimize Your Fleet’s Drain Intervals,” published in Machinery Lubrication Magazine
, many fleet managers may actually be overextending their drain intervals.
Overestimating the appropriate or optimized drain interval for the fleet could not only cause widespread engine failures, it could also quickly nullify any cost savings or profit margins resulting from the cost-cutting. To avoid this, one must move away from a mindset of “oil drain extension” to one of “oil drain optimization.”
To accomplish oil drain optimization, Betner advises fleet managers to consider the following steps: Reference the engine and/or vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines for oil intervals.
Know the drain interval recommended by the oil filter manufacturer.
Evaluate the fleet profile.
The more severe service the fleet regularly faces (for example, excessively hot or cold operating temperatures, loads, city driving pattern), the shorter the drain interval should be. Ask the following questions: What are my expectations from the fleet?
What improvements do I hope to achieve by pushing the drain interval?
What kind of load, weather and road conditions are the vehicles operating under?
What is the standard engine idle time? Long engine idle times may accelerate the rate of oil contamination and thus shorten oil drain intervals.
What is our average fuel economy? How much could we improve it?
How long will you keep the vehicles in your fleet.
According to Betner, though there is no magic formula for achieving the ideal fleet maintenance program, especially where drain intervals are concerned, taking many of the steps described above may help you get the most out of your budget and ensure your fleet is as productive as it can be.