As specialists in lubrication reliability solutions, the team at Lubrication Engineers (LE) South Africa frequently comes up against myths relating to lubricants. “People believe things or are taught things about oils and greases that are not necessarily true, and by implementing this bad advice or outdated practices, they risk compromising their equipment,” says Callum Ford, national marketing manager at LE South Africa. “We try to educate the market about best practice to help raise the bar and fight misinformation.”
These are the three most common myths the company comes up against:
- The colour of a lubricant affects its efficacy
“We often have people phoning us up and saying things like, ‘I want the red lubricant because it’s the best.’ In truth, the colour of a lubricant is normally something that is added as a marketing tactic or to differentiate it from other products – it has no bearing on the effectiveness of the lubricant itself,” says Ford. “The most important aspect of lubrication choice is selecting a product that is best suited for your particular application.”
Ford explains that LE South Africa uses colour in its products to differentiate between product types. Edible lubricants are white; lithium-based lubricants are yellow; open-gear lubricants are purple and lubricants for cars and trucks (especially oils) are red. Some companies, on the other hand, will colour lubricants to match their brand colours.
- Grease it until it leaks
Ford says that this line of thinking holds that greasing machinery with more lubricant means you will have to re-apply the product less often. However, overlubricating can create problems instead of resolving them.
“Overgreasing equipment will mean the lubricant begins to work against itself, causing internal friction,” he explains. “This can lead to temperatures rising in the machine, seals collapsing, and even eventual equipment failure. For optimal performance, you need the right lubricant applied at the right frequency and in the right dosage. This is why lubrication schedules are important, and why many companies are moving to single-point lubrication systems, which automatically dispense lubrication into machinery in optimal quantities at set intervals.”
- A grease is a grease
Not all greases are created equal. Some are the consistency of honey; others of peanut butter; still others of toffee. Naturally, these greases will behave differently.
“When it comes to grease viscosity, there’s a scale created by the National Grease Lubricating Institute (NLGI) ranging from 000 to 6, representing very low to very high viscosity greases,” says Ford. “Equipment manufacturers will specify the NLGI grade required on the equipment. If it specifies NLGI 002 and you are using NLGI 3, you are going to run into problems, because the grease penetration is different.”
Furthermore, even greases with the same NLGI rating will behave differently depending on the base and additives with which they are made. “For example, I use a test machine we call a ‘rat trap’ to show clients how two lubricants with the same NLGI grade react to the same force or pressure over time. The one lubricant disperses from the joint where it’s been applied much quicker than the other, loses its tackiness and heats up far more quickly. This is why we take the time to understand what the specific lubrication application is, and what a customer needs before we recommend a product. Each of our unique, proprietary additives has been designed to yield specific benefits.”