Grease Guide – Colours, Thickeners, Additives

Moly Lithium Grease

What Is Grease?

Grease is a paste designed to lubricate moving parts, reducing friction to enable efficient motion.  Without sufficient grease in place between moving components of machines, the friction would cause a loss of energy transfer to heat and noise.  This friction, in time, will cause the parts to wear down or seize up completely, causing possible widespread damage to the entire system.  Grease is made from oil, suspended in a metallic soap; aka salt of a fatty acid.

Grease vs Oil

Oil is too thin (has low viscosity) for use on its own in most situations – it will soon drain away.  A suitable grease will remain in place between the moving parts, only needing periodic top-ups.  For this reason, grease is ideal for bearings, bushes, wire ropes, chains, pins, and prop shafts where oil alone would be too thin, leaving the surface liable to friction wear or failure.

As specialist grease and lubricant suppliers to the plant and construction sector, our range currently focuses on the needs of excavators, crane booms, dumper trucks, and so on.

Why Are Some Greases Coloured?

Grease colours do not necessarily indicate a particular type, as there is no industry standard for use of different colours, leaving manufacturers to determine their own colour-coding if they choose.

Natural colouring is caused by the different base ingredients – for instance, lithium grease usually takes on a white tint, whereas those containing graphite will be black.

Some manufacturers add dye to their greases to differentiate the various grades within their brand, for instance, red to indicate higher temperature grease, blue for low-temperature grease etc.  Others use red for synthetic oils or blue for conventional oils – so you should always check the label or data sheet for sustainability.

It can also happen that colouring grease fades over time so this could be an indicator the product is breaking down and should be sent for recycling.

Grease Thickener

What distinguishes all the ‘chemical element’ terminology that is thrown around – lithium, calcium, and so on?

These terms – lithium, magnesium, copper etc – are the metallic soap thickeners that are blended with lubricating oils and give grease its characteristic paste-like consistency.

The lubrication is done by oil that is blended with the thickener which holds the oil in-situ.  This video from South African lubricants supplier Herschell is very helpful in understanding house grease is made.

Grease is really a bearer substance where the thickener soap fortifies lube oil with solid lubricating additives for anti-corrosion and water resistance into a viscous product that ‘sticks’ in place to exclude dust or water and ensure smooth operation.

Grease Additives

The basic oil and thickener mixture might then have additives mixed in, to give the grease special properties.  For example, extra graphite is be added to make a hammer grease.

So, what is hydraulic hammer grease?  A hydraulic hammer, or breaker, is a demolition tool for smashing concrete and masonry and it is often found on a 360-degree excavator such as might be made by Hitachi, JCB, Volvo, or Liebherr. 

Our hammer grease uses a high-temperature thickener blended with graphite and top-quality base oils which gives the EP (extreme pressure) grease the ability to withstand the thumping shocks that such machinery endures during daily tasks.

White lithium grease, sold as pin and brush grease, lasts for extended lubrication periods even in dusty conditions that are typical on construction sites. 

Please call us on 01244 390528 or head over to our range of greases.

Hammer Grease