Warmer Weather Effects on Lubrication

When weather changes, so does your strategy against wear.

The northeast U.S. has probably had one of its worst winters on record. The upper mid-west as well. The entire western U.S. was warmer than average with very little moisture.
It seems as if the weather has finally started to warm up, maintainers should be conscious of this change in that it will have an effect on their battle plan against the machine killing wear they fight every day.

Lubricants have a working range in temperature. The viscosity changes drastically with extremes in temperature and to have a working understanding of what this means can save you countless hours, money, and resources.

Increases in temperature has a degrading effect on the lubricant and any additives present. Some additives may release themselves by evaporating completely, others may simply degrade and lose their qualitative properties in part or in full. Lubricants degrade faster as temperature increases which may require additional change out and/or machine inspections. Increased temperatures can also have a negative effect on seals, causing them to degrade or leak. Grease applications change because grease can separate into its parts (oils from thickeners), and become useless. When temperature increases significantly tars and gums can form inside equipment. The biggest enemy of lubricants is oxidation, which occurs twice as fast for every 18°F increase in temperature.
Understanding heat signature recognition and the fact that machinery running at typical operating norms have a stable and working temperature, what happens to the equation when increases in ambient temperature occur naturally?

This short list of action items could help you to combat the increase in temperature and subsequent potential for additional wear.

  1. Flush equipment at each oil change – any old oxidized lubricant will mix with the fresh oil immediately and will simply speed up the oxidation process in the new lubricant.
  2. Use the right oil for the job – changing seasons may mean changing lubricants, know the best oil for the operating temperature by creating temperature charts for each piece of equipment and following them.
  3. Use your oil analysis program – every world class maintenance plan has oil analysis as one component, when the weather changes, use this analysis to monitor the condition of the lubricant and document those changes. Knowing your oil on this level means everything, you’ll see changes which will allow you to adjust lubricants and optimize against the threat of oxidation increases due to rising temps.
  4. Control the storage climate – Lubricants degrade with temperature even in storage, where possible store lubricants in a climate controlled area to lessen these negative effects.

This short list could help you to properly maintain working lubricants even in the most extreme conditions, while some of these items seem trivial and others impossible, they will make a difference.

When temperatures increase, you can be ready to make the most from your lubricant and protect your equipment as well as possible.

For more information about lubrication management or to have a Trico team member provide answers to any of your questions, don’t hesitate to call us directly at 800.558.7008


Contamination Control is Critical | War on Wear

Contamination kills oil, machinery, and morale.

Wild Rock GolfIt’s a great day today, you think as you get out of bed at 8:00am on a Saturday. You’re happy because for the first time in about 8 months, you’re going golfing. Somehow you have this weird knot in your stomach because you know a pump at work has been making a high pitched noise lately and you know what can go wrong. It’s now 9:15 and you pack the car your buddy Mike calls and says he’s ready to go but you have to go and get him. You open the car door, then hit the garage opener and your phone goes off. It’s the office and so your mind goes into panic mode wondering if you should even answer the call…if you don’t answer the call…this call…it will be something bad…if you do answer it it’s probably going to be someone looking for a tool that magically only you know the location of. You answer it, it’s the Plant Manager. “John, I need you here quick!! The pump just quit and we cannot go down today!”


Has this already happened to you?

If not, consider yourself lucky.

The chances of a weekend ruining critical equipment failure is more likely than you can imagine. Know why? Less than 20% of all manufacturing facilities in the US and even less outside the US have implemented a real life lubrication management program that meets best practices.
This example, which is probably pretty normal, doesn’t have to happen. Contamination could be the culprit in as many as 80% of critical failures in any given scenario. Once contamination is in your oil, it must be filtered out, even new oil must be filtered. Contamination degrades viscosity, degrades surface area, and in the story above, degrades weekend fun.
Whenever performing an equipment audit, poor breathers such as J-Tubes are consistently installed in equipment. I have encountered these open breathers in all sorts of equipment from units operating in moist conditions such as steel mills, paper mills, even systems operating outdoors. Seems to me it makes more sense than ever to ensure the most critical of equipment is functioning correctly. Practices which will help to eliminate breakdowns as much as possible in order to continue making products or servicing clients. The lesson here is that it is less expensive to keep contamination out of machine systems than removing them after they get in and already cause damage, if not machine failure.

Contamination comes in three types:

  • Particulate Contamination
  • Water/Moisture Contamination
  • Heat Contamination

Built in particle contamination describes both the contaminants which are in new fluid and contaminants which are in new (or rebuilt) systems from either the manufacture or improper care for the storage of machine components. Typically lubricants are pre-contaminated due to storage and handling practices which allow infiltration of moisture and particulate. Improper storage and handling can occur at various places such as the transportation, blending facility, and distribution chain. From one end to another, the lubricant is pumped into tanks, barrels, trucks, through pipes, pumps, and back again. If any of these areas are not flushed and cleaned properly the fluid could be cross contaminated or worse, for instance, what if the transporting tanker was just carrying used gear oil out of one plant just before transporting your new hydraulic fluid to your plant? Elemental Analysis such as spectroscopy or FTIR (Fourier Transform Infra-Red), Viscosity, Particle Count and TAN can determine the quality of the “new” lubricant, and provide a baseline for what you need to do to condition it for use.

Built-in contamination in new machines and maintenance generated contamination can be in many forms. These issues have simple solutions. All new equipment before it is put in to service should be cleaned if possible then thoroughly flushed with a lighter oil in the same family as what it is going to be used. For maintenance generated contaminants, after a rebuild and before storage on the spares rack, the equipment should be flushed out much the same way and then all open ports and area should be sealed using clean material such as a compatible plastic film. The storage area itself can be the problem; most often these areas are dusty, dirty, maybe even humid and wet. If a clean room is not possible then sealing the equipment as much as possible and flushing the component before use would be recommended.

While in-service machines can bring contaminants into the system in various ways. The most common way that contaminants enter machine systems are through breathers which can be J-tubes, screens, or even just small holes. Gearboxes, pumps and reservoirs will ‘breathe’ some way or another when the air expands and contracts, as well as, when incoming fluid displaces air or air is drawn in when internal parts move around. Each time the unit breathes in; it brings with it everything in the environment. In order to eliminate contaminants entering the system, you must know the enemy. Understanding what might be in the ambient environment will tell you what can possibly get into your equipment. Spin on filters make great breathers because they are made to trap particles, the type and size can differ greatly. Steel mills, paper plants, oil production facilities have three different operating environments. You must know and understand what’s out there, in the air. Spin on filters are not the best option when eliminating water and as the pores get blocked by built up debris the machine can build up pressure and seals can fail. If water is your primary contaminant, then a desiccant breather may be used which has the same issue; possible pressure build up. Closing the system and adding expansion chambers is probably a better option in these cases, no-pressure build up and closed to ambient conditions kills two birds with one stone.

Watchdog Desiccant Breather on Gearbox

Watchdog Desiccant Breather on Gearbox

Gaining popularity for smaller to medium sized pumps and gearboxes is sealing the systems with the use of expansion chamber(s) and a closed system oiler. The expansion chamber is a bladder type pressure balancer that contracts and expands which allows the system to breathe, but entirely eliminates all contaminants from entering. Closed system oilers have a pressure balancing line allowing the fluid level to change by venting to the closed system, as opposed to, the atmosphere.

Another way contaminants can enter machine systems is through poor seals. Taking a critical asset down to replace a non-leaking seal is probably never going to happen. It would be nice if hydraulic and lubricant circulating system reservoirs were located in a clean controlled environment, reality is they are not. In most plants, opening the cover would probably expose the system to more contaminants than a faulty gasket could. Reservoir gaskets should be inspected during fluid changes and replaced as necessary. Hydraulic cylinder seals are another great way for contaminants to enter; the cylinder extends, gets covered with debris and when it retracts it brings the debris in with it. This type of debris can be limited with the use of protective boots designed for cleaning the ram.

Keeping contamination out of your machines is the goal for your lubrication contamination control program. Particulate, water, and heat combine to accelerate the degradation of the lubricant. Removing these factors, as much as we practically can, will extend the life of the lubricant, and increase the reliability many fold. Once we understand our enemies, we can win the war!

Trico Products Can Help

In a world where you cannot control the environment, you can still keep your lubricant clean. Using desiccants, filtering new stock, and closing your systems will do just that. Contact a Trico distributor for more information and to order trico products.

Pump Lubrication | Protecting A Critical Asset

Critical? What does that mean?

Environments can damage lubrication and equipment

Environments are sources for contamination

There are many versions of the definition as stated by various associations and engineering groups. The definition also varies by industry and that makes it outside of the scope of this article. For the purposes of this article let us agree that we are talking about equipment or a system identified as critical to the manufacturing or processing operation and that provides direct safety or indirectly can cause a safety system to fail. In the maintenanceforums.com thread on the definitions, user: Lynn R states there is ambiguity as to the criteria associated with “critical” and what that means. It’s a fair statement that I agree with completely.
Pumps in many cases are firmly placed in the realm of what is considered critical and most pumps that I know of, or have been exposed to in many industries will in fact stop production or become a safety hazard if they are not in use…so we will consider them critical equipment, at least for the considerations here.
In a paper mill the pump is generally used to pump water and also to create vacuum. In an oil refinery they are used to pump sludge, oil, and gas to storage and around the facility. In food production they can be utilized to move raw materials from one process to another. In water treatment operations they move water through the entire process.
Lubrication of pumps is done in a number of ways based on the type of pump, the driver of the pump, and the configuration needed for continuous operation. One common denominator in all types of pumps are the bearings. These bearings can take the form of many styles or types and either be grease lubricated or oil lubricated. Most industrial applications utilize oil, which resides in the bearing housing itself. More typically the pump has a bearing housing which is in the form of a sump or tank if you will. The ideal level of lubricant to achieve the bearings life expectancy and for the equipment to run reliably is always the middle of the lowest ball or roller.
Viscosity is the most important factor when lubricating an industrial pump. The operating environment, duty, cycle and speeds have a direct impact on an oils viscosity. Most pump OEM’s recommend viscosity ranges and sometimes specific brands of lubricants based on what is considered “typical” operating environments. Keep in mind the lubricant is part of the design criteria of any piece of rotating equipment, in this case pumps. OEM recommendations should be used as a guideline only. Determining the correct oil for any application requires you to understand the operating environment and conditions which will have a direct impact on the oils viscosity. If you think about it in everyday terms, vehicles operating in colder climates require a lower viscosity fluid for the simple fact that lower temperatures tend to increase an oils viscosity.

Opto-Matic Oiler Color Collars

Spectrum Tag & Opto-Matic Oiler Collar

In terms of plant operation the main purpose of an external oiler is to insure the correct oil level is maintained in the bearing housing. Other benefits to an external oiler allow maintenance and operations to visually inspect the level of oil and the condition. If the oil has a hazy or milky tint to it the typical cause is moisture ingression or if it’s dark and burnt looking the oil is most likely no longer suitable for use. Based on very harsh operating environments such as food and beverage plants which have water wash-downs, chemical and oil refineries which deal with outside weather conditions, and dust and paper mills dealing with severe moisture and particulate issues it is important to outfit the pump with the proper bearing protection aimed at mitigating the ingression of contaminants. A great option to control ingression is a closed system oiler and extreme environment desiccant breather. In situations where mild environments exist a vented oiler with a standard desiccant breather will work. Remember, lubricant selection and proper bearing protection is dictated in most part by the operating environment. The goal is to protect the integrity of the lubricant and maintain the correct level which is at the mid-point of the lowest ball bearing.
Case study after case study show that doing these simple things when lubricating your pumps can save you worthy amounts of time, resources, and capital when considering the life of the lubricant, equipment life, and cost of downtime. In a particular application, the cost benefit went something like this:

In a paper mill there were 100 pumps, which needed lubrication change out is every 6 months. The cost of changing this lubricant was $40,000 which included oil, labor hours, downtime, etc.. They were using the correct lubricant for the application and environment they were in but wanted to get more life out of the lubricant. Something had to change to achieve a different result. They installed a closed system oiler with an extreme environment breather at a cost of $350 per unit the customer was able to extend oil change intervals to 12 months. So for approximately a onetime cost of $35,000, a savings of $5,000 was realized in the first year. In year 2, 3, 4, & 5 the savings was $40,000 per year. Total savings over a 5 year period amounted to $165,000. Certainly a worth while investment in your critical asset care program. This is an over-simplified example, but one that plays out on a daily basis in facilities around the globe.

If you’d like to know more about how to properly lubricate your industrial pumps, contact one of our professionals, or if you’d like to purchase parts to build a proper pump lubrication system visit one of our authorized distributors.