Lubricants are an important part of any machinery, and there are a variety of different types on the market. One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a lubricant is viscosity: how thick or thin the liquid is. Additionally, monitoring changes in viscosity helps you track lubricant condition and identify potential equipment issues before breakdown. We’ll cover all of the essentials you need to know about high vs. low viscosity lubricants.
What is Oil Viscosity?
Simply put, viscosity is a fluid’s resistance to flow. The higher a fluid’s viscosity, the greater its resistance to flow. For example, honey has a higher viscosity than water.
When it comes to lubrication, high viscosity oils are typically used in heavy-duty applications where high loads and/or high temperatures are present. Heavy-duty engine oils, gear oils, and greases are all examples of lubricants that fall into this category.
Low viscosity lubricants, on the other hand, are typically used in light-duty applications where lower loads and/or lower temperatures are present. Engine oils for passenger cars and light trucks are common examples of low viscosity lubricants. Furthermore, low viscosity lubricants tend to evaporate more quickly than those with a higher viscosity.
Why is Viscosity Important to Lubrication?
To recap, high viscosity lubricants are typically used in heavy-duty applications while low viscosity lubricants are typically used in light-duty applications. The majority of machinery or equipment used in an industrial setting falls more on the heavy-duty side. This means that low viscosity lubricants are less effective at reducing component wear and building a sufficient film strength under the high loads or temperatures of your assets. Viscosity affects how well the lubricant will cling to surfaces, how well it will lubricate, and how long it will last.
In this case, the higher the viscosity, the thicker the oil, and the better it will lubricate. The lower the viscosity, the thinner the oil, and the less it will lubricate. Also, viscosity is a great indicator of asset health. If your lubricant viscosity changes suddenly, you can run through all of the potential root causes of viscosity changes. Alternatively, if your lubricant viscosity remains steady, that’s a good sign that none of those issues are present.
The Danger of Low Viscosity
Lubricants are used in many industrial applications to reduce friction between moving parts and to protect surfaces from wear. The viscosity of a lubricant is its most important property, as it determines the lubricant’s ability to flow and to form a film that separates two surfaces. However, lubricants can degrade over time, causing them to lose viscosity and become less effective. Additionally, a lubricant’s viscosity will change with temperature changes. At higher temperatures, the viscosity decreases. Low viscosity can result in increased wear and tear on machinery, ultimately leading to reduced efficiency and higher maintenance costs. In some cases, lubricant degradation can also cause unexpected failures which can be costly and dangerous. For these reasons, it is important to monitor lubricant viscosity levels closely and take steps to prevent degradation.
The Danger of High Viscosity
While it may seem that high viscosity lubricants are better for most industrial uses, there is a limit. If your lubricant has a high viscosity, it will provide good lubrication at operating temperature. However, it may also cause excessive friction at lower temperatures, such as at startup and while the equipment is still warming up. That’s because viscosity increases at lower temperatures. It is critical to choose a lubricant with the appropriate viscosity for the operating conditions of your equipment.
Preventive Measures for High and Low Viscosity Problems
You can use additives called viscosity modifiers to improve the viscosity of your lubricants. These additives can either increase or decrease the viscosity of a lubricant, depending on the desired properties of the lubricant. Furthermore, you can use regular lubricant analysis to detect issues sooner rather than later. There are many factors that can cause changes in lubricant viscosity, including temperature, contamination, and shear force. By understanding the causes of lubricant degradation and monitoring lubricant condition, companies can take steps to prevent it and keep their operations running smoothly.