There are 4 Main Reasons Lubes Fail:
1. Moisture Contamination
Water is the most abundant molecule on Earth - and the most problematic for lubricant users.
Corrosion and rust are the most common woes of moisture contamination, but water can also accelerate
fatigue wear, and cause hydrogen embrittlement and blistering. Water also facilitates the oxidation of base oils,
provides food for microbes and, when temperatures fall, creates nasty ice crystals.
There is extensive research showing that controlling water contamination will improve bearing life,
reduce equipment wear, and increase the service life of pumps. The first step is to set target levels that
are practical for your facility. Begin with the equipment manuals, and modify from there to achieve a
workable balance. Here are five good reasons to move your target moisture limit lower:
- Machinery is used at or near its design limit
- You are experiencing higher-than-average downtime on a particular hydraulic system.
- You operate systems that are costly to repair, or that use parts that are costly, or difficult to obtain.
- Equipment failure could pose a risk to personnel
- There are seasonal or other factors that heighten the risk of moisture contamination
Acculube has tools that can help you determine your facility’s “optimum” moisture target –
and ideas to help you achieve and maintain that level. Click here to learn more.
Oxidation is the Public Enemy #1 for lubricant that’s in active use. It is the leading generator of varnish and sludge,
and the leading cause of additive depletion, filter blinding, foaming, breakdowns in base oils, and corrosion in
all its forms. It also increases viscosity, because as oxidized components become insoluble, they thicken the liquid
and can eventually solidify. Worse, when some additives that are formulated to control sludging are added to combat
oxidation, they can be attacked, lose effectiveness and actually add to the deposits they were designed to prevent.
Oxidation comes from exposure to air, sunlight, or heat. There are many steps a facility can take to minimize oxidation,
including the addition of antioxidants of one of these types:
- Primary antioxidants (“chain breakers”)
- UV absorbers
- Peroxide decomposers
Ask Acculube about all the steps you can take to minimize the destructive effects of oxidation on your lubes.
3. Particulate Contamination
Particulate contamination mainly come from damaged containers, dirty dispensers,
and exposure to dust or fumes.
Most often, what allows it to occur is poor or inconsistent storage practices, fortunately,
this is, relatively speaking, easy to fix.
Correct unloading prevents damage to lubricant drums and personnel. Hydraulic gates on delivery vehicles,
or hand winch hoists, will lower drums to the ground or unloading platform without risking damage.
Lubricant drums can also be unloaded by sliding down skids. Before unloading with skids, set truck brakes
or freight-car bed securely. Never allow a lubricant drum to skid or roll under its own momentum.
Once unloaded, lubricant drums should go immediately to storage, preferably using a fork truck, with drums
secured on pallets or held by fork jaws. Jaws need adapters that take the shape or curvature of the lubricant drum;
standard straight jaws require too much squeeze pressure to keep lubricant drums elevated. If fork trucks are
unavailable, use barrel trucks or drum handlers.
If the floor between unloading and storage is flat and smooth, drums can be rolled into storage.
The drums’ hoops (“chimes”) protect it, but avoid rolling the lubricant drum over sharp objects.
And don’t allow the lubricant drum to slam on the ground when repositioning it from upright to its side.
Two workers should handle re-positioning and rolling, and maintain firm control of drum speed.
All lubricant containers should be handled with the care given drums.
Cartons should remain sealed until inside the storage area.
Indoor Lubricant Storage
Store lubricant in a designated area to simplify control and inventory management.
Racks and shelving that adequately protect containers should be used, along with a device to
hoist the lubricant drums. Avoid storing lubricant near steam lines or heaters.
Outdoor Lubricant Storage
If lubricant must be stored outside, use a temporary shelter or waterproof tarpaulin to protect
lubricant drums from weather. Place lubricant drums on blocks or racks several inches above the
ground to prevent moisture from contaminating the lubricant. Place lubricant drums on their sides
with bungs (port holes) horizontal to each other. For maximum protection, place lubricant drums on
end (bung end down) on a well-drained surface.
If the lubricant drums are stored on end with bungs on top, water may seep into drums through the
bungs and destroy contents, or form rust on the drum’s interior. Rain or condensation which collects
inside the chime can draw down through the bung as the drum breathes with the rise and fall of
pressure and temperature. (This occurs even if drums have never been opened!)
Drums stored outdoors with bung end up should be tilted on blocks,
with bungs parallel to the block to keep water away from bung openings.
Bulk Lubricant Storage
Bulk lubricant should not be stored outdoors because of the risk of moisture contamination as vents
and filler openings at the top of the storage tanks breathe. Temperature changes also have adverse effect
on bulk lubricant, as in drums. If outdoor storage is the only option, all openings on the bulk tanks should be
checked for tightness and secured. A tarpaulin or roof over the tanks will help protect against weather.
Storage vessels in a warehouse or oil house should be away from heat. Tanks should not be stored in cold areas,
or where temperatures cycle from hot to cold extremes. Finally, avoid galvanized tanks or piping for storing
lubricant that contains additives which react with zinc to form soap-like sludge.
Acculube has expert information on lubricant storage, and dispensing techniques to
avoid particulate contamination. Email us for some ideas you can use today.
4. Viscosity Break-down
Whether you do your own oil analysis, or outsource it, monitoring and trending lube viscosity should be one
of the most important components of your plan. Even relatively minor changes to viscosity become critical once
operating temperatures are reached. The result is often that a lube can no longer perform properly.
The key is to keep viscosity in a narrow, but manageable “sweet spot.” If viscosity moves below this level,
wear accelerates, oil films fail at higher temperatures (or with higher loads), or during start-up, energy costs rise,
and particulate contamination becomes a major issue because there’s less oil film to protect the metal.
If viscosity goes too high, the problems are different, though no less dire. They include lube starvation as a result
of reduced oil flow, cavitation caused by not enough oil flow to bearings and pumps, sludge and varnish formation,
slow cold-starting, and excess energy use in order to compensate for the increased friction.
Achieving and maintaining proper viscosity produces substantial benefits in terms of lube performance, equipment life
and reliability, and maintenance expense. Fortunately, it is neither difficult, nor time consuming.
For ideas on how you can efficiently manage lube viscosity, and get the most from your “liquid assets,”
talk with Acculube now.
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