Application of Grease Review

Application of Grease Review

Grease is essentially a suspension of oil in a thickening agent, along with appropriate additives. The oil generally makes up between 75 and 90% of the weight of a grease, and it is held in place by the gel structure of the thickener to carry out its lubricating function.

The term grease is used to describe semisolid lubricants. The characteristic feature of greases is that they possess a high initial viscosity, which upon the application of shear, drops to give the effect of an oil-lubricated bearing of approximately the same viscosity as the base oil used in the grease. This change in viscosity is called thixotropy. Grease is sometimes used to describe lubricating materials that are simply soft solids or high viscosity liquids, but these materials do not exhibit the shear-thinning (thixotropic) properties characteristic of the classical grease. For example, petroleum jellies such as Vaseline are not generally classified as greases.

Greases are applied to mechanisms that can only be lubricated infrequently and where a lubricating oil would not stay in position. They also act as sealants to prevent ingress of water and incompressible materials. Grease-lubricated bearings have greater frictional characteristics due to their high viscosity.


Greases are a type of shear-thinning or pseudo-plastic fluid, which means that the viscosity of the fluid is reduced under shear. After sufficient force to shear the grease has been applied, the viscosity drops and approaches that of the base lubricant, such as the mineral oil. This sudden drop in shear force means that grease is considered a plastic fluid, and the reduction of shear force with time makes it thixotropic. It is often applied using a grease gun, which applies the grease to the part being lubricated under pressure, forcing the solid grease into the spaces in the part.

Lithium-based greases are the most commonly used; sodium and lithium-based greases have higher melting point (dropping point) than calcium-based greases but are not resistant to the action of water. Lithium-based grease has a dropping point at 190 to 220 °C (350 to 400 °F). However the maximum usable temperature for lithium-based grease is 120 °C.

The amount of grease in a sample can be determined in a laboratory by extraction with a solvent followed by e.g. gravimetric determination.

Lubrication: grease versus oil:

The choice between grease lubrication and oil lubrication is chiefly determined
by the following factors:

  • Grease should be used in applications where the following requirements apply:
    – Simplified maintenance
    – Improved cleanliness (fewer leaks)
    – Better protection against contaminants
  • Oil lubrication should be used in applications where normal operating temperatures are high as a result of an external heat source or excess heat generated by the machine or its bearings at high speed.

Note: A temperature rise due to friction as in abearing, is generally lower with grease than with an oil bath, provided that the appropriate type and amount of grease is used and that it is supplied to the bearing in a suitable manner. Oil lubrication should be used when the relubrication interval for grease is too short

Applications suitable for grease.

Grease and oil are not interchangeable. Grease is used when it is not practical or convenient to use oil. The lubricant choice for a specific application is determined by matching the machinery design and operating conditions with desired lubricant characteristics. Grease is generally used for:

(1) Machinery that runs intermittently or is in storage for an extended period of time. Because grease remains in place, a lubricating film can instantly form.

(2) Machinery that is not easily accessible for frequent lubrication. High-quality greases can lubricate isolated or relatively inaccessible components for extended periods of time without frequent replenishing. These greases are also used in sealed-for-life applications such as some electrical motors and gearboxes.

(3) Machinery operating under extreme conditions such as high temperatures and pressures, shock loads, or slow speed under heavy load. Under these circumstances, grease provides thicker film cushions that are required to protect and adequately lubricate, whereas oil films can be too thin and can rupture.

(4) Worn components. Grease maintains thicker films in clearances enlarged by wear and can extend the life of worn parts that were previously oil lubricated. Thicker grease films also provide noise insulation.

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