Off-road fleet equipment owners have a large financial investment in carefully chosen equipment that they depend on to help them get their jobs and projects done on time and within budget. Unscheduled downtime is the worst situation for an owner/operator if this were to happen in the middle of an important job. To protect this large investment in equipment and to minimize the potential of costly downtime, it is imperative that the best possible lubricants are chosen. When considering what would be your choice for the best grease for a tractor loader, there are a number of factors to consider. The majority of heavy equipment is exposed to extreme working environments. They operate in a broad range of temperatures and weather. They are exposed to abnormal amounts of dirt, dust, mud, and water. In addition, they must withstand extreme pressures and shock loads. Their most important function is to minimize downtime and earn the owner/operator profits. They can’t earn their keep if their equipment is sitting in the repair shop rather than on the job site. Choosing the proper grease is more of a decision based on its ability of delivering performance rather than on the lubricant’s cost. Deciding on a grease based on the lowest price could, in the long run, be the most expensive mistake an operator could make.
Let’s discuss what constitutes a grease that can earn the reputation as being the best grease for a tractor loader. Some of the conditions that front-end loaders are exposed to and have to deal with would be extreme pressure and shock loads. Whether the surfaces of metal parts are turning, sliding, creating an oscillating motion, or if there are heavy shock loads present, it is important that the grease be formulated with the best possible extreme pressure agents that are proven to withstand extreme pressure and shock loads. Beyond choosing the best EP additives, there is an additional additive that takes a good grease and makes it a world class performer.
This unique natural additive is called molybdenum disulfide. When a grease is formulated with molybdenum disulfide, it provides the grease with amazing extreme pressure capabilities. If one were to take a powerful magnifying tool and look at all the metal surfaces that a lubricant or grease has to protect, the metal surfaces are not smooth but are actually rough and show many micro-size valleys and hills. When a moly based lubricant is utilized, the MoS2 will start to fill in all the micro hills and valleys with this dry film lubricant, building up above the peaks of the hills and valleys, creating a tenacious and tough protective film. The object of a lubricating oil is to keep two metal surfaces separated under frictional and extreme pressure situations. If the film of lubrication is ruptured, then unfortunately, the two metal surfaces come in contact with each other. Depending on the amount of pressure or friction generated, the metal’s surfaces start to wear away. Utilizing a grease that contains molybdenum disulfide adds a secondary layer beyond the lubricating fluid. If this lubricating oil’s film is ruptured, the moly still will keep the two metal surfaces separated during extreme pressure or high frictional applications. When metal parts are plated with moly, the metal surfaces can withstand up to 500,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. Any piece of equipment would be happy if lubricated with such a grease. Before we proceed any longer concerning a grease’s extreme pressure capabilities, it is important that a grease has been tested in the industry standard Timken OK Load Test. A score of 80 pounds Timken OK Load earmarks such a grease as a top-of-the-line lubricant for withstanding heavy shock loads. A heavy duty moly grease has been proven to reduce friction and wear, as well as minimize scuffing and galling. These accomplishments bring about cooler operating temperatures for bearings and parts which can lead to longer equipment life and downtime can be dramatically reduced. Since moly actually plates itself to metal surfaces over time, it can provide dry film lubrication for a short time, even if the grease for whatever reason were to deplete and be lost completely. Also critical is the minimum percentage of moly used. If the grease meets the military specification MIL-M-7866, then the grease contains 5% of molybdenum disulfide. At the same time, it is a good idea to check the performance of the grease while tested using the 4 Ball Wear Test (ASTM D-2266). If it scores a 0.25 mm scar, you’ve found an excellent anti-wear extreme pressure grease that will protect your equipment during the severest of environments. Think of moly as a lubricant insurance policy.
An important consideration is what type of base oil is the foundation for the grease. Like all high-performance lubricants, they should be formulated and blended utilizing highly refined, solvent extracted, hydro treated base oils. These types of base oils are thermally stable, have had all unnecessary byproducts removed, and offer an excellent foundation for additives to be blended together effectively. To this superior base oil, the next consideration would be the additive chemistry. A top tier grease needs robust amounts of the following: antioxidant agents, EP additives, adhesive/cohesive additives, demusibility additives, corrosion inhibitors, friction modifiers, and of course moly. By looking at a grease’s specifications sheet, one can learn a lot about the quality and performance engineered into the grease. A low 4 Ball Wear score, a high Timken OK Load rating, and a superior Water Washout score, are clues that the lubricant manufacture went beyond the norm in producing a specialty product.
One of the important functions of a high performance heavy duty grease is its ability to keep out harmful contaminants such as dirt, dust, moisture, water, etc. A key characteristic designed into a top tier heavy equipment grease is adhesive and cohesive capabilities. This sticky or tacky consistency allows a grease to stay adhered to metal surfaces and gives it superior ability to not be pushed out or pounded out when exposed to extreme pressure forces. This tackiness creates a tenacious seal around the metal parts it is applied to, thus keeping out harmful contaminants. Also, such a adhesive and cohesive grease makes it almost impossible for it to be spun off moving parts.
Critical parts that are exposed to water and moisture, if left unchecked, can cause damaging rust and corrosion. When looking for the best grease for a tractor loader, checking its water resistant capabilities is one of the determining factors. Look for greases that have been tested in the ASTM D-1264 Water Washout Test. This industry standard test illustrates a grease’s ability to withstand large amounts of water. Any score less than 2% for this test is considered a superior water resistant grease. Whether equipment is used in trenching operations or other extreme water environments, an adhesive and cohesive grease typically is a water resistant grease. Such a grease has superior clingability, creating a seal of protection around parts, keeping moisture out and eliminating rusting, corrosion, and minimizing seizing.
We’ve covered the basic areas one should investigate and look into when trying to find a heavy duty grease that can perform multiple tasks in the severest of environments. We’ve briefly compared petroleum based greases versus the more modern synthetic based greases. Petroleum based oils have a much longer history and have been around a lot longer. Still, times have changed and moved on. The economic climate demands that heavy equipment operations do whatever they can to maximize their investments and provide services that outperform the competition. Much time has been devoted by the owner in choosing what piece of equipment to invest in and we highly suggest the same amount of effort be used when choosing carefully the best grease for a tractor loader. When considering all technical data and real life field experience, specialty or custom blended lubricants and greases are becoming the best choice for professionals. They offer across the board superior benefits that go way beyond conventional lubricants. They protect better, longer, and can deal with extreme operating conditions that conventionally formulated lubricants are technically not equipped to handle. In terms of whether they are worth the added initial investment? The answer clearly would be yes if the goal is to maximize the life of expensive heavy equipment and also radically minimizing unwanted downtime. Let’s recap some of the common questions you need to ask when choosing the best grease for a tractor loader. Does the grease have the ability to stay put under heavy shock loads? Is it resistant to water so it’s not washed away? Does it contain 5% molybdenum disulfide (MoS 2) or moly, which has been proven to dramatically reduce wear, maintenance, and repair costs? Was it blended utilizing highly refined, solvent extracted, hydro treated base oils? Can it be used in a broad range of applications such as bearings, ball joints, open gears, crane bearing pins, chassis points, slide and cam mechanisms, etc.? Can it withstand high temperature operations or low temperature exposure? Can it do the job of multiple greases, thus reducing inventory? If the answer is yes to all these issues and questions, then the decision can be made that you’ve found the best grease for a tractor loader.