Greases 101

Authored by: Allan Zieser, STLE, CLS

Greases are often misunderstood by most equipment owners and operators. They are assumed to be the same regardless of the manufacturer or components that they are made with, but they can be very different.

Probably the biggest property that is misunderstood is color. The actual color of a grease tells us nothing about the grease’s properties. In fact, companies can make greases in any color that they choose. The color is typically a way of identifying the grease in a series of greases that lubrication companies produce.

We often get calls asking for a “red” grease or a “blue” grease. Our first question after getting that is going to be “well that depends, what is the application and the temperature(s) the equipment the grease will be operating in?” Using these two facts, we can direct you to a grease that is designed for your equipment. From there, we can dig in further and find out more specific details such as speed and size of bearings or types of gears in a gearbox. Specifics such as these help us choose the correct grease for your application, ensuring you are getting the best grease for your money.

Most base oils that are used in today’s greases, either mineral or synthetic, are clear.  Base oil is what gives the grease its properties. After all, grease is just a way to get oil into an area where it would not be able to stay on its own. The main part of the grease that is visible is the thickener. Most thickeners offer nothing that contributes to the actual lubrication of your equipment. Thickeners are just a way to hold the oil and release it when it is needed in the application. This release of oil is accomplished by temperature. The higher the temperature, the quicker the thickener will release the oil. Some thickeners release oil faster than others which is why we often use a lithium complex thickened grease for on the road equipment as it can handle higher temperatures and release a steady release of the oil for over the road conditions.

One last word on greases, there is no such thing as a general-purpose grease. All greases are designed for specific applications and have special properties that make them better for one purpose rather than an entire series of different purposes. However, it is possible to get your total number of greases down to one or two depending on your applications. We would suggest considering the type of grease needed when purchasing new equipment to help keep your lube room efficient.

Questions on which grease is best for your equipment, application, or temperature? No problem! Call our Ottsen Experts and we can help you work through what the best choice will be for you.