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Engine oil is no longer considered to be “just” engine oil in the trucking world anymore. In fact, most lubricant manufacturers believe engine oils – and the services geared to support it, such as oil analysis programs – now play an even more critical role in helping fleets keep truck productivity up, minimize downtime, as well as significantly extend the life of the engine.

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Within the lubricant world, however, there are many different ways to achieve those goals for truckers – some that are radically different from others.

Let’s start with Mark Betner, product manager for heavy-duty lubricants at Citgo Petroleum Corp. He believes thinner (read as lower viscosity) engine oils can play a tremendous role in giving fleets not only better wear protection, but also better engine “startability” in cold weather. Using 5-weight oil instead of the standard 15-weight oil used in trucking may seem way outside the box for some fleets, but Betner’s long-term field research backs him up, he believes.

Watch Betner explain his thinking as to why thinner may be better in the clip below. I’ve talked to him before on this subject and he’s got a compelling story to tell – one that could benefit fleets in several ways – so it bears repeating.

Another school of thought, though, is the use of a new and unusual additive package – Liquid titanium, now blended by ConocoPhillips into its Kendall brand of CJ-4 truck engine oil. T. Shawn Ewing, technical service coordinator-commercial lubricants for ConocoPhillips, told me liquid titanium helps improve metal-to-metal contact within the engine, alleviating wear and corrosion.

Watch and see what your impressions are in the interview with Ewing that follows.

Of course, it’s no longer just about the oil itself. Every lubricant maker has stressed to me over the years that fleets really need to add in an ongoing oil analysis program to their maintenance practices in order to make sure the oil is not only doing what it’s supposed to do, but also as a way to get an early warning if something else goes wrong.

Shell Lubricants is taking that one step further with its Video Check program, designed to augment oil analysis if a program is detected in an engine. Rather than take a truck down for a few days to perform a time-consuming and expensive partial teardown, Shell’s system uses a thin fiber-optic cable containing a high resolution digital camera to conduct a detailed interior inspection of the engine in a matter of hours, requiring only that an injector be pulled.

Dan Arcy, Shell’s OEM technical marketing manager, showed me how the system works and why it’s a beneficial “backstop” for fleets.

All of these efforts just go to show that engine oils are no longer considered simply black fluids poured in and drained out with boring repetition anymore. They play too vital a role in keeping a fleet’s trucks up, running, and making money to be taken that lightly.

What's Trucks at Work?

Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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