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Construction equipment engine performance degradation due to environmental and operation factors in Latin America

Kurt Azevedo (Department of System Engineering, Walter Scott, Jr College of Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA)
Daniel B. Olsen (Department of Mechanical Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA)

Journal of Quality in Maintenance Engineering

ISSN: 1355-2511

Article publication date: 12 February 2019

Issue publication date: 13 August 2019




The purpose of this paper is to determine whether the altitude at which construction equipment operates affects or contributes to increased engine wear.


The study includes the evaluation of two John Deere PowerTech Plus 6,068 Tier 3 diesel engines, the utilization of OSA3 oil analysis laboratory equipment to analyze oil samples, the employment of standard sampling scope and methods, and the analysis of key Engine Control Unit (ECU) data points (machine utilization, Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) and engine sensor data).


At 250 h of engine oil use, the engine operating at 3,657 meters above sea level (MASL) had considerably more wear than the engine operating at 416 MASL. The leading and earliest indicator of engine wear was a high level of iron particles in the engine oil, reaching abnormal levels at 218 h. The following engine oil contaminants were more prevalent in the engine operating at the higher altitude: potassium, glycol, water and soot. Furthermore, the engine operating at higher altitude also presented abnormal and critical levels of oil viscosity, Total Base Number and oxidation. When comparing the oil sample analysis with the engine ECU data, it was determined that engine idling is a contributor for soot accumulation in the engine operating at the higher altitude. The most prevalent DTCs were water in fuel, extreme low coolant levels and extreme high exhaust manifold temperature. The ECU operating data demonstrated that the higher altitude environment caused the engine to miss-fire and rail pressure was irregular.

Practical implications

Many of the mining operations and construction projects are accomplished at mid to high altitudes. This research provides a comparison of how construction equipment engines are affected by this type of environment (i.e. higher altitudes, cooler temperatures and lower atmospheric pressure). Consequently, service engineers can implement maintenance strategies to minimize internal engine wear for equipment operating at higher altitudes.


The main contribution of this paper will help construction equipment end-users, maintenance engineers and manufacturers to implement mitigation strategies to improve engine durability for countries with operating conditions similar to those described in this research.



Azevedo, K. and Olsen, D.B. (2019), "Construction equipment engine performance degradation due to environmental and operation factors in Latin America", Journal of Quality in Maintenance Engineering, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 499-524.



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