Case study - Kitsap transit avoids two engine failures in three months with on-site oil analysis


Courtesy of Spectro Scientific

Kitsap Transit is a public transportation agency, based in Bremerton, Washington and serving the county of Kitsap, which operates routed bus service, foot ferry service and service for elderly and disabled passengers. The agency has long been concerned with preventing engine failures and optimizing maintenance schedules for its fleet of approximately 362 pieces of equipment including transit buses, cutaway small buses, vans and three passenger only ferries.

Previously, the maintenance department monitored the engines of vehicles in its fleet by sending oil samples to an outside laboratory. The analyses provided measurements of heavy metal content, fuel and radiator fluid contamination, etc. The problems with this approach were cost and time: it cost $40 per sample using a thirdparty lab, and it took 14 to 21 days to receive the results. The cost limited the number of samples that were analyzed and the lead time created the possibility that a failure might occur before the results were received.

Kitsap Transit purchased an OSA4 TruckCheck® automated oil analysis system from Spectro Scientific in 2014. The system enables the maintenance team to perform on-site analysis of oil samples previously done in the lab including Total Base Number (TBN) results for less than $1 per sample in less than 15 minutes.

“Bringing oil analysis in house made it possible to begin analyzing all of our bus engines on a regular basis,” said Dennis Griffey, maintenance supervisor with Kitsap Transit. “Within the first few months, the analyzer identified two engines that were close to failure. We saved about $40,000 by eliminating the need for an outof- frame rebuild in one case and by getting the rebuild done by the dealer as part of the warranty in the other.”

The agency operates 43 bus routes and ferry service from Bremerton to Port Orchard, Washington. Kitsap Transit’s ACCESS service provides door-to-door and curb-to-curb service for the elderly and disabled. It runs 32 worker/driver commuter routes operating to and from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Naval Base Kitsap/Bremerton in which the drivers are full-time shipyard employees. The agency’s fleet includes nine 2012 Arboc, 17 2010 Arboc, 2 2003 ElDorado, 45 Gillig models from the 2000s and 42 MCI worker/driver coaches from the 1990s, 50 e-350 and e-450s, 11 g-4500s in ACCESS service, 124 vanpool and vanlink vans and various cars and trucks.

“We have long been aware of the potential of oil analysis to maximize uptime and minimize repair and replacement costs, but we were missing out on much of its benefits due to the fact that we only were able to do infrequent spot checks on our engine oil,” Griffey said. Oil analysis determines the amount of various metals in the oil, making it possible to gauge the amount of internal wear. Oil analysis also helps determine the condition of the oil by measuring solids formed by oxidation and by determining the viscosity of the oil. Tracking the condition of the oil helps reduce the risk of catastrophic failure and it can also reduce the high cost of changing and disposing of oil in heavy machinery.

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