While it’s common for your lubrication oil to grow thicker and lose its viscosity with time and age, there may be several reasons that are causing its early and immature thickening.

Proper viscosity of lubricants is essential for rotary machines as abnormal thickening can lead to increased operational temperatures, increased friction, and decreased efficiency. Adequate oil levels and viscosity are vital for the maximum operational performance of your machines.

A slight spike in your lubricant's viscosity, seen in analysis reports, may perhaps be due to differences in lab procedures or sampling errors. A more significant increase indicates lubricant mixing or oxidation. However, if the trend of rising viscosity persists over several samples, it may signify other problems residing in your reservoir.

Here we discuss several factors that may cause thickening of a machine's lubricant oil.

Mixing Of Lubricants

One of the main reasons for oil thickening is mixing it with another oil of higher viscosity. During our on-site inspection, we often notice that people sometimes top up their pieces of equipment with whatever lubrication oil is available to them. If this lubricator is higher in viscosity, it will affect the thickness of the overall lubricant resulting in improper oil flow, decreased productivity, and power losses. To avoid this problem, you must always use the same product to lubricate your machine parts or use products that are similar or miscible with the previous ones.

Oil Degradation: Oxidation

Degradation is another possible reason why your lubricating oil may be getting thicker. If the oil is allowed to work under increased temperature and pressure, it breaks down, causing oxidation. According to the Arrhenius rate rule, the chemical reaction doubles for every 10 degrees C rise in temperature, reducing oil life in half. This results in early and fast degradation making the oil thicker and dense in viscosity. In simple words, oils degrade faster when placed under increased stress.

Oil Degradation: Contamination

Contamination is another form of oil degradation. If the oil has a significant level of contaminants like dirt, metal shavings, and water, it can impact oil's viscosity tremendously. When oil gets contaminated with water, it immediately reaches its emulsified state which is quickly noticeable in the oil analysis report. You can use these analysis reports to identify issues of degradation, allowing you to take precautionary measures.

Evaporation Loss And Poor Quality Lubricants

Although evaporation losses are less common, they can still form a possibility of an increase in oil's viscosity. When subjected to increased temperatures, poorly formulated oils cause lighter molecules to evaporate into the air, leaving the heavy particles behind. This change in the physical state of the oil makes it thicker and more viscous. In this case, it is considered best to change the lubricant being used in the application. While purchasing lubricants, make sure to contact a reliable and experienced lubrication supply company.

Solved By Implementing Strong Lubrication Program

An increase in lubricant's viscosity is often related to its oxidation, but other factors that form the root cause of oil's thickness may also be present. The inconsistencies in the thickness of oil can be avoided by implementing a strong lubrication program and educating all involved in the process. Regular oil analysis reports can also be used to identify problems in the viscosity of oils. This identification can lead to early solutions and better preventive measures for the future.

Micro-Lube is a full service industrial grade lubricant supplier based in Canada. Our high-quality lubricants are resistant to evaporation losses. We also provide on-site inspection to help you detect problems with your machine oils. Visit our website for more information or call us for a free quote.