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Wear 259 (2005) 10481055

The effect of lubricating oil condition on the friction and wear of piston
ring and cylinder liner materials in a reciprocating bench test
John J. Truhan a, b, , Jun Qu b , Peter J. Blau b
a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA
b Oak Ridge National Laboratory, P.O. Box 2008, MS 6063, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6063, USA

Received 3 August 2004; received in revised form 15 October 2004; accepted 22 January 2005
Available online 10 May 2005


A test method has been developed to evaluate the friction and wear behavior of candidate piston ring and cylinder liner materials for
heavy-duty diesel engine applications. Oil condition and its effects are important aspects of this test method and are the focus of this work.
The test uses actual piston ring segments sliding on flat specimens of liner material to simplify alignment and to multiply the stress to the
level normally seen in engine operation. Reciprocating tests were conducted at 10 Hz and 10 mm stroke at 100 C. Test oils consisted of
fully formulated lubricating oils that were conditioned in ASTM standard engine tests. The point contact between the ring segment and flat
counter-face, the applied load and elevated temperature, all result in boundary lubrication, which simulates the environment near top-ring-
reversal. The oil condition was defined by variables, such as spectroscopic elemental concentrations, soot level, oxidation, and contaminant
particle concentration. Compared with engine-measured wear rates, ring wear was magnified by at least an order of magnitude and the liner
by about 1.52 orders of magnitude as needed for an accelerated test. However, the basic wear mechanism, abrasive wear, was the same as in
the engine. The soot concentration also had a strong effect on liner wear but no effect on ring wear. The oil viscosity has a mild effect on the
friction at high load in boundary lubrication conditions. The viscosity of the conditioned oils tested here was related to the soot content rather
than the oxidation levels.
2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Piston ring; Cylinder liner; Oil condition

1. Introduction quickly rank various candidate materials or processes as to

their relative performance in an operating engine by mak-
Improved materials or processes for the in-cylinder com- ing the test harsher without changing the basic mechanisms.
ponents of heavy-duty diesel engines have long been sought Materials, which have a long history of use, can be used for
for better friction and wear performance. The use of labo- correlation purposes.
ratory testing to simulate the engine environment has been In many of the reported laboratory tests measuring pis-
carried out for many years to save the time, expense and ton ring and cylinder liner friction and wear, the lubricant
complexity of solely relying on full-scale engine tests during employed is a fully formulated oil in the new condition [3].
the development process. It is extremely difficult, even with Obviously, the oil would not stay in that condition for very
the most well-designed laboratory test, to actually predict long in actual service since it will degrade with use, and will
performance in the engine since the operating environment pick up both external and internal contaminants. It is expected
is so complex chemically, thermally and mechanically [1,2]. that some of these contaminants and degradation products
However, a well-designed laboratory test should be able to will have an effect on friction and others on wear and some
on both. Despite the fact that used oil represents the typical
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 865 574 1057; fax: +1 865 574 6918. condition for the ring and liner, little research has been done in
E-mail address: (J.J. Truhan). this lubricating environment due to the complexity and range

0043-1648/$ see front matter 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
J.J. Truhan et al. / Wear 259 (2005) 10481055 1049

of the used oil chemistry. Because of that, there has been a To avoid issues of matching conformal curvatures of the
lack of consensus as to the specific or standard composition ring and liner, a flat cast iron liner specimen is used instead.
for used oil for the purpose of laboratory testing. The use of flat liner specimens also magnifies the effect
The objective of this investigation is to define an improved of load through Hertzian contact to simulate loads seen in
laboratory test to evaluate the friction and wear behavior operation, which are an order of magnitude greater than the
of ring and liner materials by using more realistic (engine- capacity of the test rig. The specimens used for these tests
conditioned) lubricants. The more realistic lubricant can ei- were gray cast iron similar to that used in cylinder liners with
ther be oil aged in an engine, or synthesized in such a way as dimensions of 25 mm 25 mm. The surface was finished
to reproduce the behavior of used oil in specific ways. The with 600 grit SiC paper immediately prior to testing. This
purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of a variety surface finish does not represent the initial honed finish, but
of oil characteristics, including physical properties such as that of a worn liner near top-ring-reversal. The as-polished,
viscosity and chemical properties such as soot level, additive unetched optical photomicrograph image in Fig. 1b shows
composition, and contaminant levels to affect friction and the graphite morphology on the sliding surface.
wear. These relationships will help in the specification of the New and engine-conditioned 15W40 fully formulated
conditioned oil in a way that supports the development of oils were tested. The used oils were conditioned by a variety
standard tests and procedures. of ASTM standard engine test cycles, which are currently re-
quired for American Petroleum Institute (API) certification.
The names of the tests, their ASTM reference numbers and a
2. Experimental procedure brief description of each are given in Table 1. The oil labeled
simply as used was not from any standard engine test as
Because of the different measurement requirements for the described in Table 1, but represents a typical on-highway
determination of friction and wear characteristics, separate duty cycle after a standard service interval (48 K km). A
procedures are required for each. The first is a description of selected list of characteristics for each test-oil is given in
aspects common to both tests, followed by procedures unique Table 2. Iron and chromium represent wear metal concen-
to friction and wear, respectively. trations measured by emissions spectroscopy for particles
about 1 m in diameter or less. Although the iron can come
from any ferrous engine component, the liners represent, by
far, the greatest surface area. The only source of chromium
2.1. Materials is the plated rings. TAN and TBN represent the total acid
and total base numbers, respectively. These numbers are
Ring specimens are segments of actual heavy-duty top determined by titration and are roughly analogous to pH
rings approximately 25 mm in length. The particular ring used but for an organic fluid. Chemicals to increase the basicity
in this study has a plasma-sprayed chromium coating 200 m are added to the oil to neutralize combustion acids, so that
thick on a ductile iron substrate. An optical photomicrograph a high TBN represents relatively fresh oil, while a high
of the as-polished, unetched cross-section of the chromium TAN represents one in which the additive package has been
coating is shown in Fig. 1a. The ring segment is mounted in depleted. Soot is a result of partially combusted fuel forming
a holder, which consists of a segment of the matching piston on liner surfaces and consequently, scraped into the oil.
in the ring groove area, which is, in turn, attached to the It is usually determined by infrared (IR) spectroscopy or
reciprocating arm of the tester. A flat has been machined in thermogravimetric analysis. Silicon content is a result of
the crown of the holder to allow the ring segment to stand external dust contamination. IR Ox refers to the oxidation
proud by about 3 mm. level of the oil by looking for specific oxidation products by

Fig. 1. As-polished, unetched optical micrographs of the piston ring and cast iron flat specimens. (a) Shows a cross-section of a chromium-plated piston ring
and (b) shows the graphite morphology of the cast iron liner specimens.
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Table 1 with very careful successive, but extreme, dilutions. For

Engine tests used to condition the oil used in this study simplicity of comparison, the concentrations of particles
Engine test Test objective Conditions greater than 10 m in diameter are reported for each oil.
M11 high soot Evaluate oil Cummins M11
(ASTM D 6838-02) performance with engine run for four
regard to valve train 50 h stages. First 2.2. Test rig and common running conditions
wear sludge deposits, and third with
and oil filter retarded timing to A Cameron-Plint T-77 high-frequency test rig was em-
plugging. make soot, second ployed with the ring segment mounted in a holder on the mov-
and fourth at high
able arm as described above. The flat specimen was mounted
load for wear.
M11 EGR (standard Determine the effects Similar to above in a resistively heated shallow tray containing the lubricant
pending) of cooled EGR on but with cooled with a thermocouple for temperature control. Approximately,
valve train, ring and EGR installed (?) 10 ml of oil was used in the tray, immersing the liner flat and
liner wear and oil temperatures were controlled to 1 C. All tests were con-
filter plugging.
ducted with a 10 mm stroke at 10 Hz as recommended by an
Mack T8 (ASTM D To evaluate the E7-350 engine run
5967-99a) viscometric at full constant ASTM task group consisting of engine-industry representa-
performance of engine load and 1800 rpm tives. Samples were mounted to ensure proper alignment by
oils in turbo-charged for 250300 h. checking perpendicularity of load and a level-reciprocating
and inter-cooled arm. Shims were employed as necessary to achieve proper
four-cycle diesel
Mack T9 (ASTM D Evaluation of diesel E7-350 V-MAC II
6483-99) oils for performance run at full constant 2.3. Friction test procedure
characteristics load and 1800 rpm
including lead for 75 h and
corrosion and wear of 1250 rpm for Friction tests were conducted with a run-in ring segment
piston rings and 425 h. but a freshly prepared flat specimen. Approximately, 1 h at
cylinder liners. 240 N was required to run in the ring segment. The use of a
Mack T10 (standard To evaluate the wear E-TECH V-MAC new ring segment results in variable friction results, since it
pending) performance of engine III with EGR run
oils in turbo-charged at full constant
is running-in. If testing at elevated temperatures, the oil was
and inter-cooled load and 1800 rpm heated to the desired temperature and allowed to stabilize
four-cycle diesel for 75 h and before starting the test. During heating, the oil was stirred with
engines equipped with 1200 rpm for the ring and ring holder assembly, unloaded, at approximately
EGR. 225 h. 1 Hz to ensure temperature uniformity.
The load was applied, starting at 20 N, in 20 N increments
to a maximum of 240 N and the friction force was measured
IR. Oil oxidation is a result of excessive operating temper- for each step. The time at load depended on obtaining a stable
atures and is not usually a problem in normal diesel engine level of friction force. Some run-in of the cast iron flat occurs
operation. Since these ASTM tests can be abusive to the during the course of the loading and could account for some
oil, this is included for completeness. The afore-mentioned initial friction force variation. If this occurred, the load was
information is commonly available by commercial oil also stepped down from 240 to 20 N in 20 N increments to
analysis. Also included here is a measure of oil cleanliness, check for repeatability. Occasionally, specific intermediate
that is, the concentration of particles as a function of loads were checked as necessary. Once running-in occurred,
particle diameter. Not normally a part of a commercial repeatability was very good.
lubricant analysis package, the particle size distribution can The data was plotted in either a Stribeck curve format
be determined by using laser particle counting techniques to determine the lubricating regime for each lubricant,

Table 2
A list of selected characteristics for the engine-conditioned oils in this study
Used M11 HST M11 EGR Mack T8 Mack T9 Mack T-10
Fe (ppm) 26 185 448 113 128 206
Cr (ppm) 1 13 26 2 2 3
TAN 6.02 3.28 3.17 2.89 3.59 2.86
TBN 0.46 4.10 1.96 2.21 4.67 2.13
Soot (wt%) <0.1 6.7 9.3 5.2 2.1 5.8
Vis@100 C (cS) 15.4 22 24.9 21.2 18.6 20.9
Si (ppm) 8 9 18 15 35 26
IR Ox (absorb/cm) 37 12 10 12 15 17
No. > 10 m/ml 1584 2892 4726 3141 1748 1584
J.J. Truhan et al. / Wear 259 (2005) 10481055 1051

or simply as friction coefficient versus load. Tests were that takes into account the compound curvature of the ring
conducted at room temperature (about 20 C), 40, and segment and the curvature of both wear scars. This model is
100 C. The latter two temperatures also correspond to described in more detail in a previous paper [4]. The post-
viscosity index measurements and 100 C is close to the test measurements serve as input to the model to calculate the
average oil sum temperature during engine operation. The wear volume. The wear of each sample can be expressed as
friction force for each lubricant was also measured as a (a) weight loss (if measurable), (b) wear coefficient, and (c)
function of temperature during cool down from 100 C at the depth of wear. The last measure can be used to compare
low (20 N), medium (100 N), and high (200 N) loads. rig test results with engine test data. The individual wear
measures and the total system wear should be reported for
each test. Each wear test was repeated at least twice.
2.4. Wear test procedure

A new ring segment and freshly polished flat specimen is

used for each test. Each sample is ultrasonically cleaned and 3. Results and discussion
weighed prior to testing. The ring curvature and transverse
profile is measured using a profilometer to establish the ini- 3.1. Friction results
tial geometry. The samples were installed in the test rig, the
alignment checked as described above, and the oil added. The The effect of load and temperature on the friction coeffi-
oil was heated to 100 C before the application of the load. cient is summarized in Figs. 2 and 3, respectively. At 100 C,
A load of 240 N was applied in a slow continuous manner the coefficients range from about 0.9 to 0.13 at low loads and
(about 1 min ramp up) and the friction force was monitored converge to about 0.100.11 at higher loads. The range indi-
during the test. The test duration was typically set for 6 h, cates boundary lubrication for all conditions. This is further
although longer duration tests may be needed to produce verified by calculating the oil-film thickness and comparing
measurable wear if using higher wear-resistant materials. it to the composite roughness of the mating surfaces. The
After testing, the ring segment and liner flat were removed, nominal oil-film thickness at the stroke mid-point was cal-
ultrasonically cleaned, and re-weighed. culated for each used oil using the Hamrock and Dowson
The ring segment wear scar diameter was measured op- equation [5], as shown in Table 3. The oil-film thickness will
tically at 100X and the profile was re-measured using the be thinner during the rest of the stroke due to the lower slid-
profilometer. The flat specimen wear scar width was also ing velocities, and virtually zero at turnaround points. The
measured optically in at least three locations to determine ring and flat specimens had the initial composite roughness
the average width and the length was measured as well. Pro- () about 0.30.4 m, and roughened to 0.50.8 m after the
file traces transverse to the wear scar were taken in at least wear tests. Therefore, the (h/) ratio was <1 along the whole
three locations to determine scar depth. stroke for the entire test duration. This indicated that the ring
A geometric model has been developed for this project to on flat wear tests were conducted under boundary lubrication
calculate the wear volume of both the ring segment and flat conditions as defined in [6].

Fig. 2. The effect of load on the friction coefficient for the various conditioned oils. Each datum represents a two-test average.
1052 J.J. Truhan et al. / Wear 259 (2005) 10481055

Fig. 3. The effect of temperature on the friction coefficient measured at 50 N applied load for the various conditioned oils.

The effect of temperature on the friction coefficient, as

seen in Fig. 3 shows a much greater dependence despite the
addition of viscosity improvers, which are designed to reduce
the temperature dependence. This effect implies that temper-
ature control during testing is important to reduce variation.
One of the oil characteristics that could be reasonably as-
sumed to affect the friction coefficient is oil viscosity. This is
certainly the case for hydrodynamic and, to a lesser extent,
mixed lubrication conditions, which exist during engine op-
eration in certain locations, such as at piston mid-stroke and
bearings. The purpose of this test procedure is to evaluate
ring and liner materials under the worst-case conditions
at the high-temperature, high-load, boundary-lubricated top-
ring-reversal position. Here, it is not expected that the friction
coefficient will vary significantly with viscosity. Fig. 4 shows
Fig. 4. The effect of oil viscosity at 100 C on the friction coefficient.
this relationship and there appears to be, at most, a weak de-
pendence of friction on viscosity. effect on friction for this test under boundary lubrication
The viscosity of the oil is known to change with soot conditions is slight, there would be a more noticeable effect
content as is demonstrated in Fig. 5. The effect on viscosity for hydrodynamic lubrication conditions in addition to
is illustrated at 40 and 100 C. The fact that the slopes increased parasitic pumping losses in the engine.
of both curves look the same is usually interpreted as a
lack of an effect of oxidation on viscosity. Although the

Table 3
Oil-film thicknesses of ring and flat wear tests (100 C, 240 N, 10 Hz, 10 mm)
Oil Stroke mid-point oil-film central
thickness h (m)
Unworn Worn
surfaces surfaces
New 15W40 0.10 0.11
Used 15W40 0.10 0.11
M11 HST 0.13 0.14
M11-EGR 0.13 0.14
Mack T-8 0.12 0.13
Mack T-9 0.11 0.15
Mack T-10 0.12 0.16
Fig. 5. The effect of soot on oil viscosity.
J.J. Truhan et al. / Wear 259 (2005) 10481055 1053

Fig. 6. The correlation between the volumetric wear rate and the depth wear rate.

3.2. Wear results One likely explanation for the difference in this case is the
mismatch of materials between the ring and liner flat. The
As mentioned previously, wear can alternatively be plasma-sprayed chromium ring coating is normally matched
expressed as mass loss, volume loss, or depth of wear. to a more wear-resistant induction-hardened cylinder liner.
To better compare with wear measurements in operating The liner flat used in these tests did not attempt to repro-
engines, wear depth is preferable. To show the equivalence duce these surface conditions. Another explanation for the
between the wear volume and depth using our geometric inverted ratio between ring and liner wear may have to do
model described in [4], Fig. 6 shows the correlation for the with differences in the geometry between the rig test and the
cast iron flat specimen. The ring shows a similar relationship. engine. In an engine, the ring and liner experience the high-
Considering this equivalence, the remaining results will est loading near top-ring-reversal with the compression and
refer to wear in terms of wear depth in micrometers and combustion of the fuel and air. As the piston is lowered, the
wear rates will be expressed with the units of m/h. load decreases and wear is reduced [2]. Only the small ele-
Fig. 7 summarizes ring and liner wear rates for each of ment of the liner near this top ring position will experience
the tested oils. The results here are the average of at least two enhanced wear when in contact with the ring. The ring, on
tests. Subsequent graphs will show the individual test results the other hand, is in continual contact with the liner, but with
to demonstrate reproducibility. In general, liner wear rates varying load and oil-film thickness. On the bench test, the
are twosix times greater than ring wear rates in this test. load is constant so that, instead of a wear gradient, it will be
In an operating engine, this relationship is reversed [7,8]. high and constant.
In evaluating ring and liner materials, it is important to
report both ring and liner results, since it is an objective to
keep the overall system wear to a minimum. It is possible
to introduce, for example a ring coating to reduce ring wear.
However, if that coating results in enhanced wear on the liner,
then it may not be suitable for engine use.
The greatest total (system) wear was observed for the
M11HST and M11EGR oils. These tests are designed
to enhance the production of fuel soot and other organic
contaminants by retarding the engine timing. Since soot is
chemically active, it may react preferentially with boundary
film-forming additives, such as zinc dialkyl dithiophos-
phate (ZDDP), which has an affinity for the cast iron
liner surface. For this reason, the liner side of the couple
should be more sensitive to soot content than the ring
Fig. 7. A summary of the wear results for the ring segment and liner flat for
material. This relationship will be shown in more detail
the various conditioned oils. below.
1054 J.J. Truhan et al. / Wear 259 (2005) 10481055

Fig. 8. Typical wear scars after the wear test procedure. (a) Shows an optical picture of the wear scar centered on the ring segment while (b) shows an SEM
image of the abrasive wear scar of the cast iron flat specimen worn in the M11 HST oil.

Photomicrographs of the wear scars are shown in Fig. 8. ring. The pairs of data points indicate the level of repro-
The ring wear scar is well centered on the face demonstrating ducibility. Oil cleanliness is a difficult variable to control
good alignment in the test rig. This alignment is necessary to since it is subject to many influences, including the perfor-
ensure an accurate wear volume calculation using the geo- mance of the filtration system, external contamination and
metric model. Both wear scars show abrasive wear similar to engine-generated contaminants. If oil cleanliness cannot be
that experienced in an operating engine, although polishing controlled, then it is important that it is measured to fully char-
wear can sometimes be experienced near top-ring-reversal if acterize the test oil; however, the measurement is not easily
carbon formation is occurring around the ring and in the ring carried out, particularly using optical techniques. Non-optical
groove. methods, such as the use of fine mesh screens to capture the
Compared with engine-measured wear rates, ring wear in contaminants are also effective to quantify cleanliness, but the
the rig test was increased by at least an order of magnitude equipment to carry out such measurements is not commonly
and the liner by about 1.52 orders of magnitude [710]. available.
This is desirable for a laboratory test since an acceleration Soot levels in low emissions engines are increasing in
of the wear is necessary to produce something measurable in much higher levels than previously experienced as engine
a reasonable length of time, but as seen in Fig. 8, the basic timing is retarded to reduce NOx production. Modern oil ad-
wear mechanism has not been changed. ditive packages need more effective dispersants to keep soot
Previous results for engine wear testing using surface layer in suspension and avoid agglomeration; however, the effect
activation to produce radioactive tracers in the ring and liner on oil viscosity has already been shown (Fig. 5). The mech-
demonstrated the quantitative relationship between oil clean- anisms of soot-related wear are still not clear, but as a pure
liness and wear [7,8]. Fig. 9 shows that such a relationship abrasive with a particle diameter of about 0.03 m it might be
also holds for the rig test. Similar to Fig. 7, the cast iron expected to produce a surface finish better than observed in
shows a stronger sensitivity to oil condition than does the Fig. 8b [2]. As a chemically active species, if soot interferes
with the formation of a solid film boundary layer on the cast

Fig. 9. The variation of ring and liner wear rates with oil cleanliness. Fig. 10. The variation of ring and flat (liner) wear rates with oil soot content.
J.J. Truhan et al. / Wear 259 (2005) 10481055 1055

iron liner by preferentially reacting with the ZDDP, then the their combined suggestions and advice. The authors would
effect observed in Fig. 10 is reasonable. Similarly, in engine also like to express appreciation to Jim Wells of Southwest
operation soot has been observed to have a greater effect on Research Institute for supplying the test oils and their anal-
the liner than the ring [9]. ysis, Barry Verdegan and Jim Neece of Nelson Products for
Other oil characteristics, such as wear metals levels, the particle size distribution analysis. Special thanks is given
TAN, TBN, and additive levels were also considered for to Sidney Diamond of the U.S. Department of Energy, Assis-
their possible effects on friction and wear, but did not show tant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy,
any measurable effects. For example corrosion-accelerated Office of FreedomCAR and Heavy Vehicle Technologies, for
wear of ferrous components was not observed for these funding this research under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725
relatively short-term tests, but it may be measurable during with UT-Battelle LLC.
the long-term exposure during engine operation.
For the purposes of choosing an engine-conditioned test
oil to evaluate ring and liner materials in a rig test, the References
M11HST oil produced both the highest friction levels and
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accelerate the test, particularly for wear, without changing measure in-cylinder wear in heavy duty diesel engines, in: Proceed-
ings of the Fourth International Filtration Conference, Southwest
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operation. This oil is available from laboratories, which run [2] M.G. Naylor, P. Kodali, J. Wang, Diesel engine tribology, in: B.
certification tests to qualify new additive packages through Bhushan (Ed.), Modern Tribology Handbook, CRC Press LLC, 2001,
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ignition engines, ORNL/TM-2001/184, Oak Ridge National Labora-
tory, Nov., 2001.
4. Conclusions [4] J.J. Truhan, J. Qu, P.J. Blau, A rig test to measure friction
and wear of heavy duty diesel engine piston rings and cylin-
Viscosity has a minor effect on ring and flat (liner) friction der liners using realistic lubricants, Tribol. Int. 38 (2005) 211
in the boundary-lubricated regime. Viscosity is, however, [5] B.J. Hamrock, D. Dowson, Ball Bearing Lubrication The Elasto-
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The test procedures described in this paper accelerates ring surface layer activation to measure wear in diesel engines, in: Second
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[9] Padma Kodali, John J. Truhan, Dan Richardson, A study of cylin-
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[10] John J. Truhan, Charles B. Covington, Effect of filtration on top
Acknowledgements ring face wear in heavy duty diesel engines, in: Fourth Interna-
tional Symposium on the Performance Evaluation of Automotive
Fuels and Lubricants, Paper CEC/93/EL18, Birmingham, UK, May
The authors wish to thank the task group organized under 1993.
the ASTM Subcommittee G02.40 on Non-Abrasive Wear for