The Importance of Oil Filtration
Source: Fleet Equipment Magazine
Lube oil is one of those crucial aspects of truck engine life. It keeps the engine running by reducing friction, removes heat from the engine, and carries debris to the filters. Thus it makes sense that the engine’s filtration system would be similarly important. The filter prevents dirt, carbon, and metal particles from doing damage to the engine. It’s an important job, which is why fleets need the best lubricants for the job and need to stay current on emerging technology.
PC-11 lubricants are coming, and with them some significant changes for engine oils. However, it is likely that engine filtration will largely remain the same, with some additional benefits.
Donald Chilton, Wix’s vice president of product management, says that PC-11 will bring “only good things” to oil filtration. “PC-11 will prevent oil breakdown better then CJ-4,” he explains. “Oil breakdown is the primary contaminant source in modern diesel engines. Fewer breakdowns mean longer filter life and more uptime for the operator.”
“We expect to see some changes in the oil and additive compositions,” says Eric Miller, Donaldson’s product manager of engine liquid filtration. “For example, it is our understanding that the New Category Development Team is looking at PC-11 to feature two oil categories, one of which will exhibit lower high temperature and high shear viscosity. While lower viscosity can help with lower pressure drop and longer filter life, other changes in the oil formulations can have different impacts on filtration. The impact on filtration is somewhat unknown but should be minimal.”
“If anything, PC-11 may help improve oil filter life,” says Jonathan Sheumaker, Cummins Filtration’s technical adviser for liquid filtration research and technology. “PC-11 oils promise better oxidation stability, shear stability, resistance to aeration, and greater overall durability at higher operating temperatures. Anything that helps oil last longer should help the filter last longer, too.”
“Due to the low viscosity, a more efficient filter may be needed to keep engine protection at the same level,” Donaldson’s Miller says. “In order to deliver the expected benefits from next heavy-duty diesel engine lube oil category, it is our expectation that high-performance engine lube oil filtration will be critical to its success. Efficiency levels similar to what is already found with Donaldson Blue lube filters will likely become more important.”
PC-11 has two categories: A and B. The choice for fleet operators is based on the existing engine design and manufacturer specs. Whatever your engine needs, the existing filters are built to handle both types. Type A is the generally used variety right now, while the changes Type B will bring for filters are “so minimal they wouldn’t be noticeable” according to Gary Bilski, Luber-finer®’s chief engineer for filtration.
PC-11 will also bring more high-temperature, high-shear oils to engines, but rest assured that today’s filters are well prepared to handle them.
“High temperatures put more stress on adhesives and sealing components,” Wix’s Chilton says. “The higher the ‘normal’ operating temp, the more likely we have to change materials to handle the heat.”
“Lower viscosity oils will result with engine components being separated by a thinner film of oil. The challenge for the filter will be to provide increased separation efficiency against even small contaminants without increasing the pressure drop across the filter,” Donaldson’s Miller says. “In addition, manufacturers will have to validate their material compatibilities at higher temperatures in some applications. The validation will be needed assure the filter will perform in operating conditions at sustained higher temperatures for the life of the filter.”
“The only potential change could be needing a little bit better efficiency, but I don’t predict a need for that and I haven’t heard anything. Though I wouldn’t rule it out,” Bilski says. “Also, engine oil temperatures will be elevated slightly, so that might lead to a change down the line. I haven’t seen a need for it in our testing so far; but it could happen down the line.”
More innovations in filtration
Beyond PC-11, what other changes might we see related to oil filters? “You are seeing longer oil drain intervals, which mean better media,” Wix’s Chilton says. “Typically, this would be full synthetic or synthetic blended media. Plastic cartridge style filters are also increasing in popularity with the big engine companies.”
“Fuel filters are another interesting area. The new fuels and injector specifications are pushing the bar higher on performance and water removal. Look for more innovations in this space.”
Luber-finer®’s Bilski also points out that we are seeing more cartridge filters now, for reduction of waste.
“The combination of high efficiency and low pressure drop isn’t necessarily a new requirement but rather one of increasing predominance. Synthetic media technologies like Donaldson’s Synteq and Synteq XP will continue to be adapted for more engine lube applications,” Miller predicts.
“No matter what oil standard you use, when it comes to filtration the same best practices apply,” Sheumaker says. “Spec the proper efficiency filter for your application, and use the highest-quality oil available, especially if you plan to extend your drain intervals. Also, regular air and fuel filter changes will reduce restrictions and help your engine operate at peak efficiency.”
“Finally, talk to your engine, lube, and filter suppliers,” he concludes. “They can help you make an informed choice about which oil and filter are best for your specific operation.”