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What is Fluid Analysis

For many years, fluid inspection and testing has been used to help diagnose the internal condition of components and to provide valuable information about the serviceability of that fluid. The first test methods used for this purpose included such simple procedures as physical ordor detection of excess acids, checking visually for obvious signs of contamination and monitoring additive effectiveness.

Modern day analysis is built on these early efforts. The importance of using a combination of physical and spectrochemical tests to monitor fluids and component conditions is not universally accepted. Fluid analysis test procedures are established and reviewed by such agencies as the International Standard Organization, the American Society of Testing Materials and the Society of Automotive Engineers. Today, little doubt remains that a comprehensive fluid analysis program is a very valuable tool.


All fluid analysis programs are designed to be performed as a trend analysis. This is a regularly scheduled set of samples over a span of time. A trend is a unique history of what is happening to a unit within its specific application. To establish a trend, at least three samples are needed.

All the test data on a sample is relevant to:

Hours or miles on the fluid

With time, the fluid is accumulating more and more detectable metals

Time on the equipment itself

Each system has a life span and there will be differences in results along the way

One fluid sample, taken after a failure, does not show the history of how the failure developed or how long it existed. Only a trend can do this. With failure analysis it is very difficult to reconstruct what caused the problem. The test data for an fluid sample will sometimes fail to support the problem or failure when the service is used as a one-sample failure analysis.

With waiting until there is an indication of a problem to use fluid analysis, the true value and purpose has been lost. Establishing a trend will give an early alert so that corrective action can be taken to prevent a major failure.