I spy: Shell develops non-invasive video engine diagnostic tool

| 9/24/2009

It’s been referred to as the “big mystery of oil.” You pour it into a black hole. It does some stuff in the engine. It comes out of another black hole a different color and hopefully did its job.

Oil analysis and other diagnostic tools give truck owners a good idea of the overall health of their engines. But sometimes in the past the only real option to get to the bottom of a problem was to tear the engine down – a lengthy, costly process.

Not anymore.

Shell Lube division has developed VideoCheck, a state-of-the-art digital fiber-optic method of inspecting the components of an engine without a teardown. The handheld system allows technicians to visually inspect the cylinder head, valve, cylinder walls and piston crowns without dismantling the engine.

The non-invasive system requires trucks to sit for only a few hours, allowing the oil to drain to the pan and the engine to cool. Technicians can then feed a miniature digital camera into the engine and view the internal components in high-resolution video.

The image is so clear and precise technicians can read part numbers that are hard to discern by the naked eye.

The technicians can check for internal engine wear, deposits and many other maladies that can cause serious damage to the engine and shorten its life.

Mechanics and truck owners are provided recorded video of the findings and a detailed report, including observations, diagnosis and recommendations – if there are any.

The system can be used on any diesel – or gas – engine where fuel injectors or spark plugs can be removed. And that means any engine.

One case study Shell officials presented Wednesday at a gathering of industry media at Richard Childress Racing in Welcome, NC, was the diagnosis of a problem on a stationary Caterpillar generator.

The generator, about the size of a kid’s bedroom, had an oil analysis come back with excessive amounts of aluminum. None of the usual suspects were turning up an explanation for the aluminum. The company was faced with a teardown of the generator.

Shell’s technician was able to capture video showing that the heads, valves, cylinders, etc., were in good shape. Further investigation turned up a bad coupling on an auxiliary part that used the main engine’s oil.

The part cost $60. The generator was back up and running within a day.

Shell is providing this as an added value service to fleets and shops. For more information, click here.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor