There are lots of aftermarket lubricant additives with claims of enhancing the performance of your industrial grease or oil. How true are these claims? And what makes after market lubricant additives special?
The claims of these additives improving lubricant performance are largely unsupported. If you visit an automotive store and look at the data sheets for their additive products, you will find that almost all are identical. Most of the supposedly special aftermarket lubricant additives use SAE 50 base oil and the typical additives found in your standard lubricant packages. An exemption are the lubricant additives that use polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE.
However, PTFE has been found out over and over to have no beneficial effects. PTFE was designed more than five decades ago. The company behind the compound stated it offers no advantage as an active ingredient in lubricant additives and oil packages for internal combustion engines.
PTFE lubricant additives have also been tested by NASA. Their tests revealed that the products offer no improvement in the performance of the lubricant. In some cases, the use of the additives had negative effects. The solids in the additives had the tendency to gather at inlets or paths, preventing the passage of oil and depriving parts of lubricant.
Simply put, there are no trustworthy studies that support the claims of these aftermarket additives. There is a reason why there are a lot of fines and legal actions being taken against companies that produce these additives. There is also a reason why machine and car manufacturers don’t recommended these sort of products.
Grease is essential to keep equipment running efficiently and minimize wear damage. In order to accomplish this task, the lubricant must be in good working condition. Industrial grease and other kinds of lubricants start to degrade once put into service. Working conditions like heat, loading forces, and contamination can cause the grease to deteriorate, negatively affecting its lubricating capability. If the lubricating capability is compromised, so does equipment life and performance.
The primary purpose of lubricant analysis is to prevent the aforementioned problem from happening. After the grease is put into service, periodical testing is performed to determine the rate of deterioration which is then used to determine the schedule for reapplication. The aim is to replace or reapply grease before deterioration can affect equipment performance and health.
Aside from being a preventative maintenance process, lubricant analysis is also used for troubleshooting. The result of the analysis can be used to detect problems in their early stages which can help full-blown failures from occurring. The condition of the grease is helpful for identifying problems way before equipment shows signs of trouble.
The frequency of grease analysis differs according to equipment. Lubricant analysis can be costly if done unmindfully. Lubricant analysis must be frequently performed for critical equipment. Critical equipment refers to those that have the highest value to the operation. These are the equipment that when experience failures can really affect productivity or halt the operation.
There are various kinds of industrial grease that are available. Certain kinds of greases are more popular than the others. This is the case with aluminum-complex and lithium-complex grease with the latter being the more popular kind. More manufacturers produce lithium-complex greases and this is not only because of the demand of the consumer.
In terms of performance, the two kinds of grease are very similar with the aluminum-complex grease edging out in certain aspects. The issue with aluminum-complex grease that hinders its popularity is its higher price. To many operations managers, its advantages in terms of performance not enough to justify the price. The end result is that aluminum-complex greases becomes a last resort. It is only selected if there is no other choice.
The difference in performance between the these two kinds of greases depend on the manufacturing process and formulation used by the lubrication company. In order to accurately evaluate whether it is worth using one over the other, comparison information from the lubrication company itself must be seen and analyzed.
Although the cost by and large puts aluminum-complex grease at a disadvantage, there are aspects in which it normally has advantage over lithium-complex greases. Aluminum-complex greases are generally more resistant against oxidation and water washout. These properties, however, are still dependent on the actual formulation. A weakness of aluminum-complex greases is work stability.
Work stability is the ability of a grease to withstand recurring working while having only minimal change in its consistency or structure. In other words, these aluminum-complex greases might break down more easily and not be able to maintain its consistency.