Jon Woetzel, Technical Services Manager, CHS
Grease is often the most disregarded step of a proper equipment maintenance plan, even though it plays a vital role in protecting machinery from harsh elements. When thinking about next season, don’t always assume that the grease used during the summer is appropriate to use once the weather starts changing. Using the wrong product when temperatures drop can lead to grease stiffening, which can result in subprime performance and potential damage – problems that will not resolve themselves.
“If you choose the wrong grease, you’re going to hear about it from your equipment,” says Jon Woetzel, technical services manager for CHS. “That’s when it will start talking to you.”
NLGI #1 Grease versus NLGI #2 Grease
There are two basic types of grease for most equipment and machinery applications: NLGI #1 grease and NLGI #2. Every grease has three parts:
- A base oil that provides lubrication.
- The thickener which determines the grease’s consistency.
- Various additives that serve a variety of roles depending on formulations.
Less thickener makes a #1 grease more pliable and slippery, while #2 grease has more thickener, making it stiffer and great for all-purpose applications.
Choosing what you need
When temperatures start to drop, so should the number of your equipment’s grease. “To maintain lubrication during fall and winter, get a grease that’s built for cold weather utilization,” says Woetzel. “This will not affect the consistency or efficacy of the grease, but it will flow better because the ingredients are designed to maintain their viscosity during lower temperatures.”
A lower number grease has less thickener and is not as stiff in the cold, it generally performs better during the winter. When temperatures dip between 10 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit, start applying a #1 grease like Cenex® Molyplex 500 or ML 365®.
Similarly, a full-synthetic grease is a better choice for colder temperatures. The majority of mineral oil-based greases are formulated with a paraffinic thickener – or wax. A wax-based thickener tends to stiffen faster than something that is polyurea- or polyalphaolefin-based (PAO) like most synthetics. “By lowering the NLGI grade and switching to something synthetic, you can get equal performance in every way for your grease, but it will just work better in the colder weather,” says Woetzel.
It’s crucial to remember that grease compatibility isn’t about the color in the tube, it’s about the specific chemical components in the product that bond with the equipment to protect its moving parts. Always check the label for both products – the current grease in use and the new grease being applied – to determine what thickeners are used in each and if they’re compatible. Be sure to use the equipment owner’s manual and a grease compatibility guide to determine which grease type is recommended.
Protect your investment
Even if the equipment won’t be used much for work during colder months, changing up the grease program can still be wise. Colder temperatures may mean the grease doesn’t move as much, but it does mean grease has to work harder to keep out moisture from the snow and salt and dirt from the road. “People should be just as vigilant with their grease program during the winter as they are during the warmer months,” says Woetzel. “Even if you’re storing your machinery, give it a thick coating of grease to ensure debris stays away.”
As we continue seeing temperatures drop, take time to evaluate what lubrication steps you’re taking on your operation. Being proactive in your grease routine now can keep save headache down the road.
“Grease lubricates,” says Woetzel. “But it also protects.”
For more insights and information on your grease program, check out Jon’s other articles on the Cenexperts blog.