June 24, 2021
Lubricants play an essential role in a machine’s life and must carefully be monitored so its unexpected short life does not ruin your equipment. An old or dried-out lubricant can wreak havoc on your machines and lead to their downtime costing your industry millions of dollars.
A lubricant that is kept in good condition with the right physical and chemical properties, optimal additives’ levels, and minimum contamination and wear can perform the following functions:
On the other hand, an old lubricant can cause permanent damage to your machine’s components as it will not regulate friction, and create contamination between the moving parts.
For this reason, maximizing the life of a lubricant is critical. Below are the various factors that can make a lubricants’ life shorter. Preventing these factors can help prevent unscheduled downtimes and stoppages in your company’s production line.
In general, industrial lubricants lose their optimal functionality and efficiency after some time. However, this time is usually pre-determined by its manufacturer. If the lubricant goes bad before this time, it can lead to machine malfunctioning. Factors that can lead to shorter lubricant service life include:
This is a chemical reaction that occurs when the base oil comes in contact with free oxygen. It greatly reduces the lubricants life and its effectiveness as a lubricating agent. This is because oxidation leads to an increase in oil viscosity, resulting in varnish deposits. The accumulated sludge decreases machine efficiency by reducing heat transfer, blocking oil ways, promoting foam and emulsification, and ultimately resulting in seizures and machine breakdown.
Machines that operate at high temperatures cause lubricating oils to undergo higher degradation rates in the absence of oxygen. This yields volatile gases and carbonaceous residues that contribute to heat build-up and machine damage. It is best to keep your machines at the lowest possible temperature to avoid this degradation and increase your lubricating oils’ service life.
Oil contamination is the most common cause of oil degradation, which also facilitates other chemical reactions. These hinder basic machine processes such as aeration, foaming, air release, and demulsibility.
Lubricating oil contaminants include water, airborne, dust particles, fluid soluble and insoluble materials, and the degraded oil components themselves.
This constitutes the formation of froth/bubbles in the lubricants oil due to excess air that determines its poor quality. Air or oil foam can easily escape the reservoir and accumulate in the headspaces of gearboxes, crankcases, sumps, and other components with air spaces. It can also be ingested into the circulation pump and interfere with the gears and bearings’ effective lubrication.
Air release is a necessary action that allows air to escape through bubbles in the oil. Poor quality lubricants are unable to perform this task effectively, and hence, contribute to oil foaming. Air release is greatly influenced by oil viscosity, temperature, and the presence of contaminants. Therefore, employing a good quality lubricant is an ideal solution to avoid this.
This constitutes the lubricant oil’s ability to release water, which is imperative when the machinery is operating in a humid atmosphere. The oils’ inability to demulsify results in the corrosion of ferrous metals. A significant reduction in the fatigue life of ball bearings, roller bearings, and gears. It also hinders the removal of rust inhibitors, anti-wear, and lubricity additives from oils.
The service life of lubricating oils is determined by their capability to avoid degradation. Good quality lubricating oils generally have an increased service life which you can further extend by operating the machinery at low temperatures, maintaining the oils and keeping it clean, preventing water ingress, and minimizing air contamination.
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