Choosing the best grease for farm equipment can be confusing, but if the right grease is chosen, the return on investment will be substantial. When considering the current economic condition, the vast majority of farmers may want to consider how utilizing the correct grease can have a big impact on their bottom line. There can be lots of room for improvement in regards to the quality of the grease being used, the amount of grease consumption that is being experienced, the amount of time required to grease farm equipment, how well their equipment is being protected by the grease, the number of bearings being replaced, bushings, pins, etc. All of these factors can be improved exponentially by choosing the best grease for farm equipment.
There are five important factors to consider when deciding what is the best grease for farm equipment.
1. EP grease abilities – Greases are exposed to a lot of strain and stress due to extreme pressure in the applications, such as pounding, vibrations, shock loads, jolting, etc. This extreme action will force greases to be pounded out or displaced. If a grease is pounded away or displaced, there can be dangerous metal-to-metal contact, which leads to unnecessary wear and exposure to contaminants. In these kinds of extreme shock load conditions, what would be desired is a grease that can withstand the most brutal shock loads without being displaced and stubbornly stays in place, all the while acting as a barrier to any outside contamination. One important specification to look out for when considering whether the grease can be considered a true EP grease is to look for what is called the Timken OK Load Rating. This is a industry standard test that was created by the Timken Bearing Company. The industry average extreme pressure rating for most greases runs in the range of 55 to 60 Timken OK Load pounds. For those farm operators looking for a better EP grease, you’ll have to turn to a more specialized type of grease. There are a few such greases with a Timken OK Load rating that ranges from 80 to 100 Timken Ok Load pounds. In most instances, the higher the OK Load Rating, the better the grease is at dealing with extreme pressure and shock load environments. For example, in the case of a grease that has a 100 Timken OK Load rating, expect a much better safety factor and better performance during extreme pressure and shock load applications than your more conventional lower rated 50 to 60 Timken OK Load greases.
2. Resistance to water and moisture – If your farm equipment operates in wet environments or your grease is being displaced due to over washing, it is important to consider the consequences when operating in such extreme conditions. How well a grease is resistant to water or resists water washout can directly impact your grease consumption, the frequency in needing to grease your equipment, the potential for contaminants being exposed to metal surfaces due to water washout, the impact on the cost of parts, downtime, etc. As you continue your analysis, an important specification to check is to compare the water washout specification, which is called the ASTM D 1264 Water Washout Test, among competing greases. The industry average for conventional greases that are considered water resistant greases ranges from 5% to 10% water washout when put through this test. Again, if the environment exposes the farm equipment to above normal amounts of water, then there are even better choices for a water proof grease. There is a small number of specialized lubricant manufacturers that can offer water resistant greases that rate from .65% to 1% water washout. The lower the number, the greater the benefit.
3. Friction and wear reduction – One of the main reasons to lubricate farm machinery is of course to prevent unnecessary wear. A good indicator of a grease’s ability to reduce wear is to check the grease’s rating when put through the ASTM D-2266 4 Ball Wear Test. In simple terms, the 4 Ball Wear Test was designed to measure the amount of wear allowed to a metal surface when that metal surface is protected by a particular grease. Test results are published in millimeters (mm.) The industry average for most conventional greases falls within a range of .5 mm to .65 mm in wear. The goal in this test is to get the lowest possible number. There are a few high performance greases available that test out as low as .25 mm to .33 mm wear score. The lower the wear score, the longer the life of the equipment.
4. High operating temperature – Most greases specify dropping points between 290 and 390 degrees F. Their maximum operating temperature is typically in the mid 200s to low 300s degrees Fahrenheit range. When farm equipment is asked to perform hard and long during the hotter times of the year, you expose the equipment to much higher ambient temperatures. These higher ambient temperatures will begin to thin out oils and greases will start to break down. When a grease reaches closer to the maximum of its capabilities, the performance starts to diminish. The extreme pressure or Timken OK Load performance starts to drop. Water washout occurs much easier. Thus, choosing a grease that offers a much higher operating temperature than traditional greases can only provide a welcome safety net for the farm equipment operator. What kind of temperatures do these specialized high temperature greases offer? In some instances, they are rated to have 570 degrees F of continuous operating temperature, along with a 630 degrees F dropping point. That is a superior rating. When you start comparing such a grease with the industry standard, it is doubtful you’ll come across any grease that can compete. Yes, there are some ultra specified high temperature greases that are extremely prohibitive in price and do reach some incredibly super high temperatures. Those unique high temp greases can reach in the high 600 to low 700 degrees F operating temperatures, but their Timken OK Loads are only in the 30s and their water washout rates are usually a much too high 15+. When looking for the best grease for farm equipment, it is important to have balance across all performance parameters.
5. Oil Separation – Oil separation or a lack of it is what can separate the majority of conventional greases from a superior grease. Most heavy equipment operators who’ve ever inventoried and used grease will have picked up a tube of grease off the shelf and then noticed a ring of oil left on the shelf. Then, you remove the cap off the grease tube and when looking inside, will see that the grease is cracked or there is oil laying on the top of the grease. What is occurring is that the oil is separating from the thickener. In simplistic terms, grease is a combination of a specific thickener and lubricating oil. The number one piece of advice for those heavy equipment operators who buy grease to protect their expensive equipment would be the following. If your grease is leaking oil in the tube, don’t buy it and don’t use it as part of your maintenance program. If it will separate in the tube while sitting in your parts store, what will happen when it’s in your equipment? This is really one of the most important factors to think about when choosing the best grease for farm equipment. Look for a grease that offers “ZERO” 0% separation. There are only a handful of manufacturers that truly understand and put in the painstaking effort necessary to manufacture a “ZERO” 0% oil loss grease. It takes a full 4 days to manufacture such a grease, not to mention an understanding of the correct ratio of ingredients that is necessary. Such a grease will never bleed, crack, and there will never be oil laying on the top or sitting on the bottom.
To recap, 1) look for an EP grease with a 100 pound Timken OK Load, 2) seek out a water washout specification of .65% or less than 1% water washout, 3) look for a grease with a 4 Ball Wear score of .33 mm or less, 4) look for a grease with a 630 degrees F dropping point and a 570 degrees F continuous operating temperature range, and finally, last but not least, 5) look for a grease offering a ZERO 0% oil separation. A grease offering all 5 performance parameters will undoubtedly be the best grease for farm equipment.