Automotive System and Component Contamination Sensitivity
Excessive wear and malfunctions in automotive systems are often caused by contaminants or small particles that may be built-in, self-generated, or ingested from the environment. In addition to premature abrasive wear, these contaminants may cause blockage, lockup, and premature failure of valves, pumps, seals, fuel injectors, and other automotive components. Results may include machine performance degradation, shortened service life, customer dissatisfaction, and catastrophic failure. Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) engineers and scientists address these contamination problems using a multidisciplinary approach that employs failure analyses, laboratory testing, experimentation, field work, modeling, predictive correlation, design elaboration, and concurrent engineering.
The Institute's areas of focus include:
Because SwRI does not manufacture or endorse products, all investigations are impartial. In addition, client confidentiality is protected. SwRI's Engine and Vehicle Research Division has achieved certification to ISO 9001, ensuring compliance with stringent quality control procedures in design, development, and research.
Contamination significantly affects the performance and durability of fuel, air, and lubricant components and systems, especially with respect to automotive safety, vehicle performance, and warranty issues. SwRI uses advanced analytical tools, testing techniques, and simulation methodologies to assess the contamination sensitivity of fuel system, engine, and powertrain components. Institute services include:
Accelerated Life Testing (Key-Life Testing)
Working closely with industry, SwRI engineers develop accelerated-life testing methods to determine the expected life of components and systems, particularly those subject to premature failure. In establishing accelerated-life testing programs, engineers may:
Institute engineers have developed a series of fuel-system simulations representing 36,000 to 150,000 miles of vehicle operation.
Today's automotive components must be compatible with numerous environments, operating conditions, and automotive and industrial fluids. For example, fuel system components must be compatible with various fuel types, such as diesel, gasoline, ethanol, methanol, and blends, from all geographic regions. To help industry investigate these fuel-related issues, SwRI offers a variety of services, including:
Modeling and Simulation
During component and system development, performance predictions are often based on specific physical characteristics and deterministic operating parameters. System contaminants often modify operating performance, resulting in a change of deterministic equations to stochastic models involving time-varying, probabilistic random variables. Using contamination sensitivity analysis, testing, modeling, and simulation methodologies, SwRI engineers help manufacturers:
Test Procedure Development
Measurement of contaminant sensitivity is becoming more important as vehicle longevity requirements increase and production processes leave internal residue in the component. SwRI staff members, with extensive experience in measuring system and component responses to internal contamination, work with automotive manufacturers and their suppliers to develop effective simulants and test procedures. Institute engineers provide testing methods to evaluate contaminant impact on performance and longevity of automotive components such as:
Lubricity, Friction, and Wear
Engines and other automotive components, especially air, fuel, and lubrication systems, are continually subjected to wear-causing environments. Because fuel has a low viscosity, the ability of a system to maintain engine lubricity to reduce friction and wear is important. To measure friction and wear at critical components, SwRI offers a variety of services, including:
SwRI scientists and engineers subject components, subsystems, and final assemblies to simulated environments that are sufficient to measure acceptable performance and longevity. For production verification, sufficient environmental stresses are added to detect workmanship or process faults. SwRI offers numerous services to study and evaluate the durability of fuel, air, and lubricant systems and components. These services include:
Filtration plays an important role in delivery systems for fuel, air, and lubricants. Proper filtration strategies help industry reduce or eliminate malfunctions of air induction, fuel delivery, and lubrication components. Using advanced small particle and filtration-assessment technologies, Institute engineers provide the following services:
Emissions and Safety Issues
Understanding fuel properties, material compatibility, and component capabilities is essential to providing robust and environmentally friendly automotive fuel systems. SwRI engineers evaluate fuel-delivery components and systems with respect to a wide range of emissions and safety-related issues. The Institute provides the following services:
Component and Systems Development
SwRI has extensive experience in fuel and lubricant delivery systems, air induction systems, and automotive component testing. Engineers possess a comprehensive understanding of flow dynamics, contamination tolerance, and material life expectancy. Institute staff members provide component and system design and fabrication services for air, fuel, lubricant, and other engine and powertrain systems and components. These services include: