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Level III Machine Lubricant Analyst (ISO 18436-4, III)

To become certified, an individual must meet the following requirements:

  • Education and/or Experience - Candidates must have 36 months experience in the field of lubricant-analysis-based machinery condition monitoring (based on 16 hours minimum per month of experience).

  • Hold Level II Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA) certification. 

  • Training - Candidate must have received 32 hours of documented formal training as outlined in the Body of Knowledge of the MLA III. For online or recorded training, exercises, lab tasks, practice exams, and review exercises may be included in the training time total but shall not exceed five hours of the required course time. These 32 hours are in addition to the previous 48 hours of training required for MLA I and MLA II, for a total cumulative training of 80 hours. Candidate shall be able to provide a record of this training to ICML that shall include the candidate’s name, the name and signature of the instructor, the dates of the training, and the number of hours spent in the training.

Note: ICML does not require, recommend, endorse or authorize any specific training course as official or approved. It is the responsibility of each candidate to research the training options available in his/her area and make a decision as to the training provider of his/her choice. ICML recommends the outline of the course of choice be compared to the exam's Body of Knowledge. It is in the person's best interest and their responsibility as an ICML candidate to ensure they are being trained in the same subject areas in which they will be tested. It is also the candidate’s responsibility to ensure each instructor is currently certified at the level of instruction. (Candidates can do this by checking for an instructor’s name in our real-time directory of certified professionals.) ICML's Bodies of Knowledge are of public domain and can be utilized by companies in the development of courses, as well as by any prospective candidate for evaluating the appropriateness of chosen training.  

  • Examination - Each candidate must successfully pass a 100 question multiple choice examination that tests the candidate's mastery of the body of knowledge. Candidates have three hours to complete the closed-book examination. A score of 70% is required to pass the examination and achieve certification. Contact ICML about the availability of the exam in other languages.

The Level III MLA Body of Knowledge is an outline of concepts that a candidate shall have in order to pass the exam, in accordance with ISO 18436-4, Category III, Annex A.

References from which exam questions were derived can be found in the Domain of Knowledge.

I. Lubrication Fundamentals (20%)
   A. Lubrication Regimes
       1. Hydrodynamic
       2. Elasto-hydrodynamic
       3. Boundary
   B. Base oils
       1. Common mineral oil characteristics
            a) Paraffinic
            b) Naphthenic
       2. Common synthetic oil characteristics, advantages and disadvantages
            a) Synthesized hydrocarbons
            b) Phosphate esters
            c) Dibasic acid esters
            d) Polyglycols
   C. API and other base oil classifications
   D. Basic lubricant additive functions
       1. Antioxidants/oxidation inhibitors
       2. Rust inhibitors
       3. Corrosion inhibitors
       4. Demulsifying agents
       5. Viscosity index (VI) improvers
       6. Detergents
       7. Dispersants
       8. Pour-point depressants
       9. Foam inhibitors
       10. Anti-wear (AW) agents
       11. Extreme pressure (EP) agents

II. Fundamentals of Machine Wear (15%)
   A. Common Machine Wear Mechanisms
       1. Abrasive wear
            a) Two-body abrasive wear
            b) Three-body abrasive wear
       2. Adhesive wear
       3. Surface fatigue
       4. Corrosive wear
       5. Fretting wear
       6. Erosive wear
       7. Electrical wear
       8. Cavitation wear
            a) Gaseous cavitation
            b) Vaporous cavitation
   B. Common Machine-specific Wear Modes
       1. Gearing
       2. Plain bearings
       3. Rolling element bearings
       4. Hydraulics

III. Wear Debris Analysis (21%)
   A. Analytical ferrography
       1. Wear debris analysis techniques
            a) Light effects
            b) Magnetism effects
            c) Heat treatment
            d) Chemical treatment
            e) Morphology
            f) Surface detail
       2. Wear particle types, origins and probable causes
            a) Cutting wear particles
            b) Spherical particles
            c) Chunky particles
            d) Laminar particles
            e) Red oxide particles
            f) Black oxide particles
            g) Corrosion particles
            h) Non-ferrous particles
            i) Friction polymers
   B. Atomic emission elemental spectroscopy
       1. Basic determination of wear particle metallurgy from elemental composition
       2. Evaluating sequential trends
       3. Evaluating lock-step trends
       4. Particle size limitations of common atomic emission spectrometers
       5. Advanced techniques
            a) Acid/microwave digestion
            b) Rotrode filter spectroscopy
       6. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and other advanced elemental spectroscopy methods

IV. Analyzing lubricant degradation (25%)
   A. Oxidative base oil failure
       1. Causes of oxidative base oil failure
       2. Recognizing at-risk lubricants and applications
       3. Strategies for deterring or mitigating base oil oxidation
       4. Recognizing the effects of base oil oxidation
       5. Strengths, limitations and applicability of tests used to detect and troubleshoot base oil oxidation
            a) Acid number
            b) Viscosity
            c) Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) analysis
            d) Rotating Pressure Vessel Oxidation Test
            e) Sensory inspection
   B. Thermal failure of base oil
       1. Causes of thermal degradation
            a) Hot surface degradation
            b) Adiabatic compression induced degradation
       2. Strengths, limitations and applicability of tests used to detect and troubleshoot thermal failure of the base oil
            a) Acid number
            b) Viscosity
            c) Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) analysis
            d) Thermal stability test (ASTM D 2070-91)
            e) Ultracentrifuge detection of carbon insolubles
            f) Sensory inspection
   C. Additive depletion/degradation
       1. Assessing risk for common additive depletion/degradation mechanisms
            a) Neutralization
            b) Shear down
            c) Hydrolysis
            d) Oxidation
            e) Thermal degradation
            f) Water washing
            g) Particle scrubbing
            h) Surface adsorption
            i) Rubbing contact
            j) Condensation settling
            k) Filtration
            l) Aggregate adsorption
            m) Evaporation
            n) Centrifugation
       2. Strengths, limitations and applicability of methods for measuring additive depletion/degradation
            a) Atomic emission spectroscopy
            b) Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy
            c) Acid number
            d) Base number
            e) Viscosity index (VI)
            f) Rotating Pressure Vessel Oxidation Test
            g) Blotter spot test
   D. Detecting wrong lubricant addition
       1. Viscosity
       2. Neutralization number (AN/BN)
       3. Elemental spectroscopy
       4. Fourier Transfer Infrared Analysis
       5. Other Tests

V. Oil analysis program development and program management (19%)
   A. Machine-specific test slate selection
   B. Optimizing frequency of analysis
   C. Setting alarms and limits
       1. Setting goal-based limits for contamination
       2. Statistically derived level limits
            a) Editing data
            b) Calculating averages
            c) Calculating standard deviation
            d) Setting upper and lower limits using the mean and standard deviation
            e) How changes in system operation or maintenance influence statistically derived inferences
       3. Rate of Change Limits
            a) Calculating rate of change
            b) Slope-based alarms
            c) Statistically derived rate of change limits
       4. Setting aging limits for fluid properties
            a) Physical properties
            b) Chemical properties
            c) Additive properties
   D. Managing oil analysis information
   E. Creating and managing oil analysis procedures
   F. Scoping oil analysis training for reliability technician, trades people and management
   G. Performing cost/benefit analysis for oil analysis and contamination control programs
       1. Calculating program costs
       2. Estimating program benefits
       3. Calculating return on investment metrics
       4. Generating an effective business proposal
   H. Quality Assurance
       1. Of onsite oil analysis
       2. Of offsite oil analysis providers

Domain of Knowledge

  • ASTM D4378-20, Standard Practice of In-Service Monitoring of Mineral Turbine Oils for Steam and Gas Turbines
  • ASTM D6224-16, Standard Practice for In-Service Monitoring of Lubricating Oil for Auxiliary Power Plant Equipment
  • Bloch, H. (2016) Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities. Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, USA
  • Denis, J., J. Briant, & J. Hipeaux (1997) Lubricant Properties Analysis & Testing. Editions TECHNIP, Paris, France
  • Roylance, B., & T. Hunt (1999) The Wear Debris Analysis Handbook. Coxmoor Publishing, Oxford, UK
  • Evans J.S., & Hunt T.M. (2008) Oil Analysis Handbook. Coxmoor Publishing Co., Longborough, England
  • Toms, L.A., & Toms, A.M. (2008) Machinery Oil Analysis. Co-published by STLE, Park Ridge, Illinois, USA
  • Troyer, D., & J. Fitch (2010) Oil Analysis Basics. Noria Publishing, Tulsa, OK USA

These references can be purchased from the following organizations:  

Barnes and Noble
Noria Corporation

MLA III Certification is valid for three years from the date of issue. Individuals certified as Machine Lubricant Analysts (MLA) must recertify their competency every three years. The purpose for recertification is to ensure that certified individuals keep their skills current and up-to-date.

Recertification is achieved by a points system. To recertify by points, individuals must accumulate 15 recertification points over the three-year period and submit a completed application to ICML. Points may be claimed using the following criteria:

Training1 point per day10 pointsProof of attendance (certificate, badge or letter from training company on its letterhead) and a copy of the course outline
Employment4 points per year12 pointsLetter from employer, on company letterhead, with title of signer shown
Article Publication2 points per article6 pointsCopy of article and table of contents of the book, proceedings, magazine or journal in which it was published
Conference Attendance1 point per conference day6 pointsProof of attendance (certificate, badge or letter from conference organizer on its letterhead) and copy of program


Criteria of Acceptability

  • Employment - Employment must be in a field related to industrial lubrication and/or oil analysis.
  • Training/Conference Attendance – Training/Conference topics related to oil analysis, lubrication or other topics important to effective equipment maintenance and management will be accepted.
  • Article Publication - Articles published in journals, magazines, books or proceedings should be related to a topic within the body of knowledge for oil analysis, lubrication or equipment maintenance or management.

All points must be earned during the time the MLA III certification is in effect. Points earned before or after the certification period will not be accepted. Points may be applied to multiple ICML certifications held by the individual, assuming that the points are applicable and approved for each individual recertification.

If a candidate’s only source of recertification points is employment, the extra points required may be earned via participation in employment-related best practices activities, as per below criteria:

  • Lube related failure elimination and/or prevention activities
  • Lube procedure and best practices development
  • Lube program auditing tasks
  • Lube specification development
  • Lube related work management system development