Part of our cleaning and maintenance program involves the most basic of items: a grease gun.
Cars built 50 years had a myriad of grease nipples dispersed throughout the suspension and steering. Modern Car manufacturers seem to have eliminated the need to grease altogether. However much of our heavy equipment, and our excavators in particular, are still populated with grease nipples galore.
Grease itself is an old ingredient, dating back as far as early Egyptian or Roman times. The first greases were thought to be prepared by combining lime with olive oil, to make a soap and oil mix that would stick like … how do you say… ‘faecal material’ to a blanket. The technology these days has advanced dramatically, and the consistency (and adhesion) has also improved. And it’s not due to an improvement in blankets!
At Upper Hutt Hire we use a special grade of Castrol grease in all our maintenance work. It contains some lithium and other secret additives that Castrol are reluctant to tell us about. The main base is a petroleum product with some water based ingredients to help the grease withstand heat and wear. It’s probably a far guess that it also contains a bit of molybdenum and a few other things to reduce wear. Regardless what’s in it, it works.
We never really gave it much notice until someone pointed out the importance of regularly greasing the machinery. For instance:
• Grease is used in joints where normal engine or transmission oil can’t be pumped. No grease or oil soon results in excessive wear.
• Grease has to maintain a film between the moving parts, irrespective of the pressure or the temperature, so the chemistry behind a good grease is quite smart.
• Grease needs to have some degree of water resistance, to prevent the invasion of moisture into joints.
• Pumping in sufficient grease not only adds an additional layer of lubrication but is also great for expelling any moisture or dirt that might affect critical surfaces.
It pains us to see many second-hand excavators being sold with “a bit of wear in the pins”. It really doesn’t need to be so. While our IHI excavators have probably 25 – 30 grease nipples, it doesn’t take long to pump a few shots in. The Japanese manufacturers have also got smart and located most of the grease nipples in easy locations or recessed them slightly to reduce the risk of damage.
While we’ve had to replace a few squeaky bearings in various pieces of equipment in the last three years, we haven’t had any unforeseen catastrophic failures due to insufficient lubrication (touch wood). The neat thing about regular greasing is that it costs very little, and really only our time.