Early adopters of cleanable filtration: "It works"

By Richard LeFrancois

As a 15-year member of the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (formerly the Equipment Maintenance Council) I can remember a small filtration company exhibiting at our 1996 annual meeting and displaying a cleanable, full flow oil filter.

At the time the concept intrigued me. But, I was skeptical of the technology. However, after a little investigation I learned that Scania Trucks, a Swedish truck manufacturer, has outfitted their engines with a cleanable "spinner" type filter for about 40 years.

Embracing such a concept requires a complete change in a core business practice within our industry. At one time the OEMs in our industry had us on a 250 hour/10-15,000 mile oil change intervals, and I did not think many equipment managers were ready to challenge this practice (especially if warranty coverage ever became an issue and it was known that you were defying the conventional recommendations of the OEMs in regard to oil change intervals).

Today, our oil suppliers are pushing extended drain oils and manufacturers are getting on board and telling us we can extend our drain intervals beyond those old established intervals.

Mike Pierce, director of fleet maintenance for Brinks Inc, the armored car people, began testing a cleanable, full flow oil filter with integral cotton by-pass from Vortex International, Maple Plain, MN, nearly five years ago. According to Pierce, "It just works."

Mike has in place a structured oil sample program and is using Delvacl oil with his cleanable filters. "It screws on, I can pull it off at any time to see what is in the filter, and my testing has shown it to reduce soot levels," he says.

Roger Burdick, fleet manager for Southwest Concrete Pumping, Englewood, CO, is another early adopter. Burdick has equipped 45 of his Schwing Concrete Pumpers with the same filter. "I use LE (Lubrication Engineers) Best Oil, have a good oil sample program in place, and I have units with over 850 hours without an oil change," he says. Previously all his units received an oil change at 250 hours.

Parker Hannifin Corp., Cleveland, OH (Racor Division); System 1 Filtration Group, Tulare, CA; and T.F. Hudgins, Inc. (Spinner II) of Houston, TX, also manufacture cleanable filtration products.

According to Richard Earp of System I Filtration Group, their cleanable filtration product line "evolved from the early l 980's with applications for the 1/4-mile drag racers." Earp went on to say that cleanable filters "give better flow with minimal pressure drop versus a paper pleated filter, are environmentally friendly and can reduce excessive inventory."

"Forty engine manufacturers worldwide use centrifuge filtration," according to Tim Wold of Spinner II. Transit operations such as Oakland Transit and the heavy duty truck operations of the US Postal Service use the Spinner II filter.

And, according to Dave Cline, Oil Filtration product manager for Parker Hannifin's Racor division, "The County of Sacramento, CA, over time is going to convert all their vehicles to our cleanable filters." Cline went on to say that the US Military is a user of cleanable filtration and their usage "helps reduce inventory costs and the waste stream" associated with conventional filters.

The use of cleanable filtration is not without its critics though. Darry Stuart, president of DWS Fleet Management says it is "all about time management." He estimates that, "It costs eighty cents a minute on the shop floor, and at that rate the time it takes to work with cleanable filtration overrides its benefits."

Changing a core business practice is not an easy thing to do.