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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.