Lubricant Storage and Dispensing Systems

Tips for lubricant storage and dispensing systems in the shop.


According to Murphy, if volumes don’t justify it, kegs or drums can be used instead of tanks. Kegs are typically put on a dolly and rolled right to the vehicle. “This works well for low-volume, high-value lubricants, such as synthetic gear oils, especially now that the new wireless control systems can record the dispensing of rolling kegs.”

Drums are usually stationary and require an operator to switch over when empty. “This can be minimized by using a low-level cut-off to stop the pump when the drum is empty, and wall-mounting the pump so that a technician just has to move a stinger, and not the whole pump assembly,” he says.

“If the product that you need is not available in bulk, our suggestion is to install a tank anyway and transfer the product into the tank from the drum or tote. That way, you are not tying up space for containers and not changing drums partway through dispenses.

Pumps - Oil systems use air-powered pumps almost exclusively because they are simple, inexpensive and they can produce a variable flow rate and “stall out” under pressure, says Murphy. Automotive shops require about 2 gpm; heavy truck shops usually 3 to 4 gpm.

“In order to generate the pressure to deliver these flows, these pumps need to be a minimum of 5:1 ratio,” he explains. “That means that 100 psi of air pressure gets multiplied to 500 psi of fluid pressure.”

Hose Reels - “The ideal layout is to have one set of hose reels for every two bays,” Murphy recommends. Typically, hose reels are spring rewind and usually need to be 50 feet long to reach from the ceiling to the floor and then to the vehicle.

“Spring rewind reels can be as long as 75 feet if the bay layout permits it and you are willing to have hoses stretched out on the floor. Theoretically, a single 75-foot reel can cover a 17,000-square-foot shop.”

Dispense Valves - The “gun” on the end of the hose is available in a variety of configurations. These can range from an unmetered trigger, a metered valve to count the oil, a presettable metered valve that shuts off at a predetermined amount or a wireless controller that communicates back to a computer in the parts room that puts the dispense job on the work order.

Grease - Grease can be distributed to hose reels or supplied in one or two rolling kegs that supply the shop. Either way, Murphy says, they use a 50:1 ratio pump that delivers 5,000 psi pressure or more to the dispense valve.

“For this reason, it is critical that all hoses, especially the flex extension on the dispense valve, be rated for high pressure. Underrated grease flex extensions that fail after they get worn can cause serious grease injection injuries and are a significant safety issue in the industry.

“It takes less than 100 psi to inject a substance through human skin.”

He notes that there are systems, like the Graco Topper-Inductor grease pump system, that ensure all the grease is removed from a drum or keg, and include an air-elevator to help swap out drums without damaging the pump. “These are not practical for portables but we highly recommend them for stationary applications.”

Used Oil - Most fire codes classify used oil as a “combustible” product because it can contain amounts of fuel. For that reason, the typical tank needs to follow the local fire code, says Murphy.

“This likely will require a contained, certified, steel tank vented and equipped with an evacuation connection. It may also require mechanical protection from vehicle damage.”

Used oil is best transferred with a 1-inch air-powered double diaphragm pump, he says. This will evacuate from containers and drain trays at 5 to 10 gpm and will transfer it from the evacuation station to the storage tank.

“We do not recommend having a splash-fill location on the tank itself since this inevitably ends up as a cosmetic and environmental problem. Fill it with a pump and make sure you have some type of overfill protection to prevent spills.”

The size of tank is a function of how often the pick-up company needs to come and collect the used oil and what volume is generated.

Control Systems - Fluid monitoring and inventory management and control systems have evolved from the traditional console at the parts counter to hard-wired options and wireless systems that can put the dispense right on the work order, observes Murphy.

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