“The area of application for a lubricant is possibly the biggest determining factor, and the area can include temperatures reached, metals involved and the cost of repair for the particular area,” Justice Brothers’ Currie says
“Make sure the proper lubricant is selected for the proper application,” says Gutiérrez of Lucas Oil Products. “Many times failure to do this results in misapplication of the lubricant and inefficient operation or potential failure.” He recommends referencing the owner’s manual to determine the proper specifications of fluids - ATF, SAE grade of engine oil, power steering fluid, hydraulic fluid, etc. - used in each vehicle.
“The application, duty cycle and environment during use are all important factors when choosing a lubricant,” Brown of Amsoil says. “Ambient temperatures also play a role when selecting a lubricant.”
Also look at the conditions that the lubricant is going to be used in, Gutiérrez says. By way of example, if a grease is going to be used in wet applications, the grease needs to have that has excellent water resistance.
Lubricant manufacturers say that simply using a different lubricant will not some how magically make up for under- or over-greasing, inattention to lubricant condition, poor preventive maintenance practices, etc.
Saving money by buying “cheap” lubricants is almost always a false economy. On the other extreme, buying quality lubricants to remedy bad lubrication may also save money at the beginning but over time results in more money being wasted.
“Buying ‘cheap’ grease only leads to using more grease, more time to re-apply the grease more frequently, increased parts failures and increased downtime,” says Omni Lubricants’ Mackenzie. “That translates into reduced productivity and lost profits,”
“You get what you pay for,” says Lucas Oil Products’ Gutiérrez. “If you want to extend the life of your equipment, extend your oil drain intervals, reduce maintenance costs and improve economics in the long run, it is always a good idea to use high quality lubricants. You may save money in the short term by using ‘cheap’ lubricants but will pay for it in the long run with increased maintenance costs and downtime.”
Justice Brothers’ Currie advises using the cost of repair of the lubricated parts, along with the downtime and associated costs, when determining how much to spend on the lubricant. “Using both of these criteria may lead you to a realization that saving money on a cheaper lubricant or additive package could actually be costing you.
“A properly operating piece of equipment is like your personal health,” he says. “It is taken for granted until a breakdown happens. It is at a time like this that you may wish you spent the extra money for better operation and longer equipment life.”
There is much debate about whether synthetic lubricants are better than conventional mineral-based lubricants. When considering which type to use, lubricant manufacturers says the question should be not whether a synthetic is any better than the equivalent mineral-based lubricant, but rather, which lubricant provides the best overall combination of performance properties, based on the assessment criteria.
“You should always look at what lubricant is going to give you the best performance,” says Gutiérrez of Lucas Oil Products. “While synthetic lubricants hold up over a longer service interval, some feel they would rather use conventional lubricants and change them more often to remove the contaminants that accumulate in them,” Currie of Justice Brothers says.
There are many areas where synthetic oils excel when compared to conventional oils, says Amsoil’s Brown. “Synthetic oil does not contain paraffin (wax) and can flow easily at cold temperatures to deliver better protection during cold starts. Synthetic oil has a uniform molecular structure to maintain viscosity during temperature extremes, as well as the ability to resist high temperature volatilization (evaporation) better than conventional motor oils. Better high temperature performance helps to reduce oil consumption and emissions. Synthetic oils also have been shown to increase fuel economy when compared to conventional lubricants.”
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.