When it comes to the winter season, there are multiple threats faced by mechanical equipment. If you operate an enterprise or live in part of the country subjected to harsh winter weather, your equipment may have to contend with freezing temperatures, snowfall and salted roads. To protect machinery and maintain it effectively under these conditions, it will need rigorous attention both outside and in.
A grease schedule is an essential part of winter maintenance, and an often overlooked part of many mechanical care plans. The grease selected will play a critical role in defending equipment from severe elements, and it is unwise to assume a lubricant you use over summer is still the right choice for colder winter weather. Picking the incorrect product when the temperature drops can result in grease becoming stiff, leading to subpar performance and even damage, with unwanted problems that cannot be fixed by themselves.
Understanding the types of grease available
For most machinery and equipment uses, there are two main types of grease. NLGI #1 and NLGI #2 are commonly known as “number one” and “number two” grease, but what exactly is the difference?
All greases are comprised of three different parts. Providing lubrication in the base oil, and a thickener is then added to create the consistency. Finally, a specialist additive package is included, containing different ingredients depending on its formula. Number one grease is thinner as it contains less thickening agent, making it more viscous and slippery. The thicker Number two grease is far stiffer, making it an all-purpose option that is suitable for a wide range of applications.
Prepping for the winter season
A common misconception is that a grease application need only be performed once during winter. Number one grease contains less thickener and in cold conditions is not as stiff, which means that it typically works much better over the wintertime. Although it’s always a wise move to consult a guide on grease compatibility or your owner’s manual first, when temperatures begin to fall, an application of grease number one is advised.
It’s important to remember when selecting grease that it must be compatible, so that the product’s components can bond effectively with your equipment to protect its innerworkings. Examine the grease your equipment uses presently and the new product’s labels and ensure that any thickeners used are compatible with one another.
Steps to take if you didn’t update your grease schedule
If your equipment becomes sluggish or experiences excessive friction during operation in colder weather, don’t simply ignore the problem. The grease you have applied has become stiff, and while it might be tempting to try and warm it up by keeping equipment running, this is ill-advised. The warmth caused by friction may not create enough heat to loosen up the grease and end up causing harm to your machine parts. If possible, take equipment into a sheltered and heated area and fully remove the all-purpose number two grease you have been using over the warmer months and apply a number one grease instead.