Given the cleaning efficiency of centrifugal oil cleaners, you might wonder why they aren't common among consumer vehicles. The higher cost of these systems is one reason. But another reason has to do with the generally undemanding nature of normal highway driving. Commuting back and forth to work or to the mall puts much less stress on engine oil than off-road driving. Still, some auto manufacturers are fitting their vehicles with the more advanced oil-cleaning systems. In 1998, Land Rover started equipping its 4x4 Discovery (now the LR3) with centrifugal oil cleaners as standard equipment. The vehicle could go an additional 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometers) before needing an oil change.
Despite their successful debut in the Land Rover vehicle, centrifugal oil cleaners, especially the portable varieties, are used predominantly in industrial settings. That's because off-road environments common to the mining, construction, excavation and agricultural industries expose diesel engines to extreme operating conditions. Diesel oil gets dirtier faster and requires frequent changing. Centrifugal cleaners extend oil drain intervals, even in these hostile environments.
And while diesel engine oil is the most common type of lubricating fluid cleaned by portable centrifuges, other fluids are fair game. These include hydraulic engine oils, gearbox oils and transmission fluids. For example, MANN+HUMMEL has installed its centrifugal cleaning system on the transmissions of certain Massey Ferguson tractors, extending the transmission fluid life to 1,000 hours -- approximately 10 times longer than one might get with a traditional filter [source: MANN+HUMMEL online brochure].
Obviously, extending the life of lubricating oils has several benefits. Vehicles don't have to be serviced as much, which lowers maintenance costs. And because portable centrifugal cleaners remove more contaminants, engines experience less wear and tear and perform more efficiently. This is another major cost-saver for companies with large fleets.
But the biggest winner is the environment. More and more countries are proposing or have already passed legislation calling for safe disposal of all engine waste products. In the United States, several states prohibit disposal of oil products and oil filter elements in landfills. Centrifugal cleaning systems separate oil from contaminants so efficiently that the waste is considered harmless and can be disposed of accordingly. More importantly, these systems allow oil to be reused many times, which means less oil makes it into soil and water.
For all of these reasons, but primarily for their ability to turn black oil green, portable centrifugal oil cleaners may become more common across a variety of industries and applications.
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Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Hanlon, Tim. "A New Oil Cleaning System." Gizmag. (June 14, 2009) http://www.gizmag.com/go/2793/
- Industrial Diesel Products, Inc. "Spinner II Centrifugal Oil Cleaners: How the Centrifuge Works." (June 14, 2009) http://www.dieselproducts.com/spinner/sp_works.html
- MANN+HUMMEL. "Centrifugal Oil Cleaners: Maintaining the Life-blood of the Industry." Online brochure. (June 14, 2009) http://www.mann-hummel.com.sg/EN/centrifugal/doc/coc.pdf
- McNeely, Mark. "Lube oil cleaning centrifuge for multiple applications." Diesel Progress, North American Edition. September 2004. (June 14, 2009) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FZX/is_9_70/ai_n6211810/
- Oil Solutions N.Q. "How does a centrifuge work?" (June 14, 2009) http://www.oilsols.com/centrifuge.html
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. "You dump it, you drink it." Public service campaign brochure. (June 14, 2009) http://www.epa.gov/wastes/conserve/materials/usedoil/campgn/en-dumpbr.pdf
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Common Wastes & Materials" (June 23, 2009)http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/materials/usedoil/oil.htm