Paying particular attention to the lubricants used, lubrication suppliers selected and overall approach to management of the lubrication maintenance functions and practices can return many benefits. Through lubrication excellence, maintenance costs are lowered, vehicle productivity is increased, equipment reliability is improved and downtime is reduced.
To maximize lubrication effectiveness, minimize cost and reduce the risk of application-induced failure, the appropriate choice of lubricant is essential and needs to be determined by the nature of the environment in which it will be used. Different types of lubricants excel at various uses, depending on their precise combination of ingredients and formulation. Therefore, when selecting lubricants, a number of factors need to be considered.
The first and most crucial function of lubricant is its ability to minimize friction and wear, says Molly Brown, a technical product manager with Amsoil, a manufacturer of synthetic oils, lubricants and greases. Lubricants do this by providing a protective film that separates two rubbing or moving surfaces, which helps reduce the friction between them, improving efficiency and reducing wear, adds Martin Currie, national sales manager for Justice Brothers, a manufacturer and distributor of fuel and oil additives for automotive, industrial and agricultural applications.
In addition, Brown says a lubricant must also maintain internal cleanliness, cool through the absorption of heat, seal out contaminants, cushion mechanical shock, prevent corrosion and transfer energy (hydraulics).
Different lubricants are formulated for specific applications, says Manny Gutiérrez, director of marketing for Lucas Oil Products, a manufacturer of petroleum additives and oils for high performance engines. Selection of the proper lubricant will save money in the long run.
“Additives play an important factor in the overall quality and performance of a lubricant,” Amsoil’s Brown points out. “Well-formulated lubricants have a precise balance of additives to ensure proper performance for the specific lubricant function.”
The additive packages that are blended into the finished product make for increased performance capabilities, adds Spencer Mackenzie, president and CEO of Omni Lubricants, manufacturer of Green Grease, a waterproof, high-performance synthetic polymer developed for trucking, mining, manufacturing, marine and off-road applications. By way of example, he says that in a recent comparison of 14-ounce grease cartridges from nine different manufacturers, only one of the greases had any extreme pressure (EP) additives.
“EP compounding is important because it gives the grease the ability to prevent wear under heavy duty conditions and extreme pressures,” he says. “EP additives, when added to grease, help boost significantly the Timken Rating which measures the load-carrying ability of a grease.”
Other additives important for a high-performance grease include synthetic polymers, anti-rust and corrosion inhibitors and anti-wear additives, notes Mackenzie.
Another “extremely important” differentiator of lubricants is base oil selection, Gutiérrez of Lucas Oil Products says. The quality levels among lubricants vary greatly, says Amsoil’s Brown. “Base stocks are the foundation of a lubricant and should be of high quality.”
The American Petroleum Institute developed a classification system that divides base oils into five groups, she says. Groups 1 and 2 are mineral oils. Groups 3 and 4 are classified as synthetic oils. Group 5 is a catch-all group and includes all oils not classified under groups 1 to 4. Group 4 base oils are polyalphaolefins (PAO) which are chemically-engineered synthesized base stocks that “offer excellent stability, molecular uniformity and improved performance over mineral oils.”
After making sure an ATF meets the specific requirements instructed for a vehicle, another question that might be asked is whether to use synthetic ATF or petroleum ATF.