Protecting agricultural equipment with correct transmission fluids

Agricultural equipment is a major capital investment. Yet many farmers risk compromising their equipment and experiencing failures due to using incorrect or poor transmission fluids in their tractors, bailers, trucks and other machinery.

The purpose of transmission fluid is to lubricate the components of a vehicle’s transmission and to act as a coolant. Known as automatic transmission fluid (ATF) or hydraulic fluid, this substance needs to be suited to its particular application. It requires specific properties, including viscosity, shear stability, fluid behaviour and the ability to transfer kinetic or potential energy.

Llewellyn Owen, national marketing manager at Lubrication Engineers (LE) South Africa, says that agricultural ATF products are used to lubricate everything from automatic and powershift transmissions to power steering and hydraulic pump applications, to combination gear-hydraulic systems, hydraulic transmissions, wet brakes and hydrodynamic and hydrostatic transmissions.

General purpose tractor fluids are commonly known as universal tractor transmission oils. “However, caution must be used before applying these oils to some of the new transmission systems because of the new friction, seal and hose materials now in use throughout the industry,” says Owen.

“To ensure optimum performance and minimise breakdowns, it’s important to use a product suitable for the specific machine or application at hand. It’s also key to understand that beyond the hydraulic drive of your assets, ATFs can also introduce other benefits. For example, there are detergent packages that reduce sulphated ash residue, heat dissipation, wear protection, lubrication, foam prevention and gear shift quality.”

Correct lubrication of moving parts is one of the simplest ways to protect against equipment failure. Inadequate lubrication makes assets vulnerable to oxidation and contamination. “Oxidation is accelerated by heat, light, metal catalysts, and the presence of water, acids, or solid contaminants,” says Owen.

“As temperatures increase, the rate of oxidation is accelerated, and the required pressures increase the fluid viscosity, resulting in an increase of friction and heat. Oxidation and deposit formations occur, as well as wear, brake chatter, erosion and corrosion. Contamination ingress is another huge cause of failure in the agricultural industry. However, quality lubricants with advanced additive packages can help to prevent these conditions, protecting equipment, improving performance and extending asset life.”

LE has developed a number of specialised lubricant solutions that can benefit the agricultural industry and can be used in tractors, dozers, trucks and other machinery. The advanced LE formulations have been designed to keep moving parts cool.

“Our transmission fluids are resistant to oxidation. They prevent thickening and the formation of sludge and varnish deposits,” says Owen. “LE’s transmission fluids also resist condensation and acid formation, while ensuring efficient operation in cold temperatures. By significantly reducing downtime and maintenance costs, LE lubricants are also cost-effective, returning the initial price of the lubricant many times over. LE’s enhanced lubricants are made of highly refined or synthetic base oils as well as proprietary additives.”

For agricultural applications, LE offers four core products:

  • Almasol: a solid wear-reducing additive, able to withstand extremely heavy loads, chemical attack and temperatures up to 1 038°C. It is attracted to metal surfaces, forming a microscopic layer but not building on itself or affecting clearances.
  • Monolec: a liquid wear-reducing additive that creates a single molecular lubricating film on metal surfaces, vastly increasing film strength without affecting clearances.
  • Duolec: a dual-acting additive that imparts synergistic properties to lubricants, providing both wear-reducing and extreme pressure protection. It increases film strength and is temperature-activated to provide a protective layer.
  • Quinplex: an impact-resistant additive that contributes to outstanding water resistance, tackiness and mechanical stability, and helps to form a barrier against corrosion.

Owen advises farmers to work with an expert to develop a comprehensive lubrication reliability program, featuring quality lubricants and best practices to protect equipment, increase production, and save time and money.

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