How to Make Sure Your Equipment’s Oil is as Clean as it Should Be


If you want to make sure your equipment runs as long as it can, you don’t want to miss this episode of The Dirt.

It’s a topic that doesn’t get much attention, but it can mean the difference between equipment achieving its optimal life or failing much too soon. We’re talking about clean oils and lubricants.

Many equipment manufacturers have higher standards for oil cleanliness than your typical new oil provides. That’s where Chevron steps in with its ISOCLEAN Certified Lubricants program.

Chad Bertrand, who oversees the program for Chevron, explains how ISOCLEAN can help your equipment last longer by making sure your oil meets the equipment manufacturer’s specifications. ISOCLEAN will filter the oil of impurities before it gets to you, saving you time and money.

Bertrand also oversees Chevron’s LubeWatch oil analysis program, where for about $20 per analysis, you can find out what impurities are entering your equipment’s oil. The information will determine how often you need to change it. Many times the 500-hour rule just doesn’t apply. In some cases, you might need to change the oil sooner. Other times, you can wait longer.

So to learn more about making sure your equipment’s lifeblood is as clean as it should be, check out the latest episode of The Dirt.

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In This Episode:

00:00 - The Dirt at CONEXPO-CON/AGG

00:42 - What Is ISOCLEAN?

01:02 - Why Is New Oil Not Clean Enough?

01:54 - How Do Lubricants Become Dirty?

02:32 - Should You Follow the “500 Hour Rule”?

03:23 - How Does the ISOCLEAN Program Work?

03:43 - Why You Shouldn’t Pre-filter Your Own Oil

04:39 - Can the ISOCLEAN Program Be Tailored to Fit My Business?

05:28 - How Long Does ISOCLEAN Oil Last?

05:59 - What Size Company Is the ISOCLEAN Program For?

06:48 - My Equipment Works Fine, Why Do I Need ISOCLEAN?

Partner Insights
Information to advance your business from industry suppliers

09:05 - Testing Oil: Is It Worth the Cost?

10:13 - How Oil Testing Can Extend Oil Drain Intervals

11:18 - What Does Lubewatch Test For?

11:56 - How Will ISOCLEAN Get Better?

12:51 - What’s Stuck Out This Year at CONEXPO-CON/AGG?


Bryan Furnace (00:12):

Welcome back, and down at the end of the table Chad, will you introduce yourself?

Chad Bertrand (00:16):

I will. I'm Chad Bertrand, with Chevron Lubricants. Glad to be here.

Bryan Furnace (00:20):

Glad to have you.

Rick Valko (00:20):

What's your role?

Chad Bertrand (00:21):

So my role is really, all things reliability. What that means is, I oversee our Lubewatch oil analysis program, as well as our Chevron ISOClean Certified Lubricants program.

Rick Valko (00:32):

So what is ISOClean?

Chad Bertrand (00:33):

So ISOClean was born because OEMs realize that clean oil means, "Hey, we can get that equipment lasting longer." And so because of that, we developed our line of ISOClean products so we can provide those clean oils for our customers to extend the life or get the full life out of that equipment.

Bryan Furnace (00:52):

So for an ignorant person who doesn't get the lubricant industry, you're producing good clean oil. That's not sludge.

Chad Bertrand (00:58):


Bryan Furnace (00:59):

But it's not clean enough?

Chad Bertrand (01:00):

So what typically we produce and what most oil companies produce is something we call typical oil. So it's clean and it's good oil, but however, OEMs over the years have developed specifications for even cleaner oil. And the reason is because they've understood that the connection between clean oil and getting the full life out of the equipment. So for example, a lot of companies, maybe with gears, they have such tight tolerances on gears, there's just enough room for that lubricant film to get in there. If we get dirt particles in that tolerance, then it causes the gears fail quicker than they should. So that's why ISOClean is what's created and in the value of having clean lubricants in your equipment.

Rick Valko (01:44):

So how does lubricants even become dirty?

Chad Bertrand (01:47):

So there's a lot of different ways that dirt can in ingress into a piece of equipment. Airborne particles. So just walking through the show here at CONEXPO, there's dirt in the air and if you open up, say a drum of oil, dirt's going to get in there. So it's airborne particles. It's wear from the equipment. So if you aren't lubricating correctly and it's metal on metal contact, little pieces of metal can come off and get into the equipment. And so that can cause a lot of damage to the equipment and the stuff that ISOClean and where it's really focused is getting rid of those really small particles.

Bryan Furnace (02:23):

Well, I was just going to ask if we've taken all of the small particles out, but the engine is recontaminating that oil, how do we go about figuring out when it's time to change or is it just go by the 500-hour rule?

Chad Bertrand (02:34):

No. It's really important. It's a great question because some people live and die, they say, "We're going to just do it 500 hours or 250 hours." Or whatever, and they maintain a very strict schedule. But what they're doing is, here's a couple things. They may need to do it even sooner, and if you do oil analysis or fluid analysis, it will tell you the health of the lubricant. Whether it's too dirty, too contaminated, or maybe you don't need to do your oil change or drain interval at that level. And what we see a lot of times is customers, they do fluid analysis and they realize they can get even more out of the oil. So it's kind of counterintuitive. We're an oil company and we're saying, "Well, you don't need to buy as much oil."

Bryan Furnace (03:08):

"Use less of our product."

Chad Bertrand (03:08):

Use less of our product.

Rick Valko (03:11):

So I got a question for you. How does ISOClean work and how do we get our hands on something like this?

Chad Bertrand (03:18):

So ISOClean, what we do is we filter the oil before it's delivered to a customer. So many companies, they understand that OEMs require certainly cleanliness level of the oil, but what they do is they will buy their own filter carts or have their filtration system and do their own filtering. And what happens is there's a couple different things that could go wrong. There's some risks involved. One is if you don't have the right type of filters, you may be filtering important additives out of that lubricant, so then now the lubricant's going to fail even sooner than it should. And so you're doing more harm than good. The other thing too is the time and money it costs to do that on your own. Maybe you have to dedicate an employee, you have to buy the filtering machine, the cart, the filter. So what we want to do with ISOClean, it takes all the guesswork out, reduce the risk, and customers know that they're getting clean oil delivered with a certificate of analysis saying, "Hey, Chevron certifies that this oil is clean to the specification you need." So that's how the ISOClean program starts and in the combination of using fluid analysis, you're able to maintain the cleanliness of your lubricant.

Bryan Furnace (04:29):

So is this something when, I come to Chevron and I say, "Hey, this is what I need. I need a 50 gallon barrel of 15 W-40 and I need it to meet this particular spec." And is that kind of how that system works? And then when you guys deliver that drum, I know for a fact that it is certified within that spec?

Chad Bertrand (04:47):

Correct. Yeah. So what we do is we work with you and understand the type of equipment that you have. What are you running? What kind of yellow iron, whatever it may be that you're running, so we know the OEM specification around cleanliness, and then yeah. We can filter that oil to the level that you need to meet the requirement, and then what we deliver, we deliver it with a certificate of analysis. So that certificate says we've tested the oil before we've delivered it and we certify it's at the coolest level that you need to ensure that you're going to get the maximum value out of that.

Rick Valko (05:18):

So how long can ISOClean work in a system, for example?

Chad Bertrand (05:22):

So, great question and it goes back to what we were talking about before. Oil analysis is so important to make sure you maintain the health of the oil. So at Chevron, we believe start clean, stay clean. And so we can start you clean with the ISOClean program and certified lubricants, but in order for that to really work, you're going to need to do that oil analysis, that fluid analysis to ensure that you're maintaining the cleanliness of the oil throughout the life of it.

Rick Valko (05:49):

So is this for big logistic companies? How big of a range is this all the way down to a small company?

Chad Bertrand (05:55):

Rick owns a skid steer. Is it worth it for Rick to do it for a skid steer? Absolutely. Here at the show this week, I've talked to a variety and a range of owners and operators. Some guys only have 8 to 10 pieces of equipment, and we've talked to larger construction companies. And so whether small or large, there's value in this. And even more so in my personal opinion is for the smaller companies, because they've made a huge investment in that equipment. They may not have the financial resources to go out and buy a brand new loader or grater. You want to optimize the value or the life of that equipment. And so if you are able to start clean and run clean oil through your equipment, and you do fluid analysis, you're going to be able to get that full life of equipment from the manufacturer.

Bryan Furnace (06:39):

Now, hang on a second here, Chad, I'm just going to say this. I got an old 1996, 580 backhoe, and I've been running the same oil in it, and I don't do any of this newfangled oil analysis. I don't go in and get it all clean and this thing is running like a top. Why do I need to get involved in this?

Chad Bertrand (08:15):

That's a great question. We get that too. That's some of the feedback or questions we get is what you just mentioned there, Brian, and everyone, regardless of a new piece of equipment or older piece of equipment, we'll see benefits and value in doing this because I equate it to us as humans. Just because we get to a certain age doesn't mean we stop taking care of ourselves and this let ourselves go. And the same thing with our equipment. We can get, whether it's another 5 years, 10 years, 15 years out of that equipment, that's value. That's money that you're not having to spend to go buy a new piece of equipment that you can continue to make a small investment now to keep it running for, again, another 5, 10, 15 years, whatever it may be.

Bryan Furnace (08:55):

So let's dive a little deeper into the oil analysis side. Now I've decided I'm going to at least participate in the ISOClean. We're going to get a little cleaner going in. I can't afford to add another expense to my business. This is testing oil now. It's just a sunk cost. This is just costing me more money and I haven't needed it up until this point. Well, what's your response to that?

Chad Bertrand (09:13):

Again, I'm going to use another analogy. You go and you get your physicals and you do your health checks as a human and so, this is part of being a good operator, good owner is doing those health checks on your equipment through fluid analysis. So again, I view it as a small investment for a long-term payoff that you're going to get out the value of equipment. So sampling oil, it's very important because it does give you a reading or a good picture of the health of your equipment in the oil, because 82% of equipment failure can be attributed to contaminated lubricants. And that's a high percentage, and so if we can reduce that, we can reduce the amount of dirt and contaminants in your oil, you're going to get the full value out of that equipment. So again, I look at it as a small investment for a big payoff.

Bryan Furnace (10:03):

Well, and we had a discussion a little earlier about oil analysis and Rick and I were sitting here talking. We've been, we'll just own it. We've been a firm subscriber of, you change oil every 500 hours and that's just how you do it. But we started talking and if an oil analysis is going to cost you, let's say just on average 20 bucks, is that a safe number?

Chad Bertrand (10:24):

Somewhere around there.

Bryan Furnace (10:24):

So right around there it's going to cost you 20 bucks. But now you learn that instead of changing it every 500 hours, you can change it at 750 or you might even be able to squeak out a thousand hours out your engine oil. And what did you say it costs roughly to change oil in the skid?

Rick Valko (10:37):

Just material alone, probably $150, labor all in $500, $600 so, if you added roughly another 250 hours of run time on it, you just cut that oil change down really to about 300 because you just extended the life.

Bryan Furnace (10:51):

So you spent $20 to save a hundred-ish dollars, maybe, give or take.

Chad Bertrand (10:56):


Bryan Furnace (10:56):

And so that's where I think there's a lot of misconception in the understanding about oil analysis in the industry is it's not a sunk cost. It's not something that's costing you more money. It's actually saving you money in the long run, and that's not even getting into some of the diagnostics you can do. Can you talk more about that?

Chad Bertrand (11:13):

Yeah. With Lubewatch and the oil analysis program, we look at all different varieties of what's going on with the oil, whether the metal count, the cleanliness codes of it, a lot of different things and depending on if it's a hydraulic oil or a motor oil, we can do all different types of testing. So it's not just one type of oil. It's going to be all different types that we can test, and so the diagnostics are really important that we test that, again, to maintain the equipment and make sure that it's running because you made the investment in the equipment, it makes sense to make the investment to do the oil analysis.

Rick Valko (11:46):

So we keep talking about testing, we keep talking about how ISOClean works. You build a good concept, you build a good practice. How do you guys keep pushing the bar from just saying, "This is good enough?"

Chad Bertrand (12:02):

We're always trying to evolve and with, for example, our ISOClean products, we had to reformulate some of those. We had to make sure that they had the right additives and that was we filter the oil, that we're keeping all the additives in. So we're always looking for the newest technology, product technology. We put the customer at the forefront of what we're trying to do. We try to make sure if I'm a customer and the roles were reverse, what would I want from my supplier? And so that's the way we focus is, let's put the customer first and find out what are their needs? What are they seeing? And get that feedback. So we're developing products that, again, that will help them meet their goals and be successful.

Bryan Furnace (12:41):

So I'm going to shift gears on you.

Chad Bertrand (12:43):


Bryan Furnace (12:44):

We've been here for three, four days now. What stuck out to you at this CONEXPO?

Chad Bertrand (12:49):

Man, I'll tell you what, if you've never been, this is just an all-encompassing comprehensive show. I mean, whether you're looking for a new hose for your hydraulics or just anything, it's all right here. So if you come in here with an open mind, you can learn a ton. I mean, just the time I've been here and just the conversations I've had with different companies, you learn so much. So I mean, that's the thing here is great education and learning opportunities as you're here.

Bryan Furnace (13:18):

Absolutely. Well Chad, thank you so much for coming on. We appreciate all the knowledge.

Chad Bertrand (13:22):

You're welcome. Thank you guys for having me.