Replacing engine oil and other lubricants can be costly, and Powers recommends having the fluids tested as an option to extend the life of the fluids and, ultimately, the machine. The tests can reveal dozens of metals or contaminants that may be present in the fluid, which can be linked to specific problems within the machine.

Farmers typically have the option of either working with their equipment manufacturer or directly with an oil analysis company. Some manufacturers cover the cost of the test within a warranty program or provide the tests as a separate option at service centers. Farmers should consult with their dealers to see what is available in their areas.

For instance, Case IH offers a program called SystemGard, which is available as a service option through Case IH dealers. SystemGard monitors both the engine and hydraulic system condition through oil and hydraulic fluid analysis, says Brian Spencer, Case IH product marketing manager, maintenance products.

“I think that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a small or large farmer — there are benefits to oil analysis both now and in the future,” Hendrix says. “Right now it helps them to understand what’s going on internally and it also gives them the opportunity to avoid a catastrophic failure in the future, which is always more expensive to repair.”

In addition to the value of individual oil tests, trending over time can be even more beneficial.

“We always say the real value of oil analysis is regular trending [and] regular sampling,” Papacek says. “An individual sample is a snapshot. At that moment in time, dirt contamination might be high or there might be a lot of bearing wear, but what the single sample doesn’t do is offer much insight in terms of, ‘Was it a sudden change?’ It could be due to sample collection or some factor that can be traced to the increase. You would know that through trending. The value of the trend is that it tells a story of the equipment.”