Penny Wise and Pound Foolish Lubrication.

I was surfing the Internet the other day and came across a cheap grease gun that had 67 one star reviews! Here is the image:

I want to call your attention to a few things in this picture, first at the bottom of the picture on the left side of the T-handle is a small red drop forming.

On the stationary part of the pistol grip is another red drop forming.  If you look at the pump where the shaft goes into the pump, you can see a red line that appears to be where the oil forming the red drop on the pistol grip is originating from.  This is referred to in the industry as “oil bleed”.  “Oil Bleed” is typically expected as part of the normal grease operating conditions because it is the oil in grease that provides the lubrication.  In normal operating conditions, a grease manufactured with a lower viscosity oil will likely bleed more oil.  Since grease is not expected to be subjected to “normal operating conditions” while in a grease gun, the most logical question to ask is why is this grease bleeding?  From just the picture, there are no clues as to what is happening here other than the obvious.  The next question that seems logical to ask is “If my grease is already bleeding in my gun, then how long will it last (under normal operating conditions)?”  Again, an answer we simply do not have enough information available to provide given the picture.  Some people may say “hey, that grease is red, that must be one of those enhanced protection greases.”, and they may have to flip a coin to decide if they are correct or not.  Grease color is not standardized across the industry, and can only be relied upon to be of any possible indication of purpose within a specific manufacturer’s product line.  Some manufacturers use the same grease color across many different grease products within their line, so in those cases, the grease color may not even provide that much information.

So what is a grease user supposed to do to protect the investments he/she has made in equipment that needs greasing.  Perhaps a good place to start would be to buy a grease gun that does not have 67 one-star ratings.  A better quality grease gun is a relatively small cost upgrade that can deliver for many years and can take the punishing work of dispensing grease the entire time.  Below we have a suggestion for an upgraded grease gun.

Below is a similar gun we carry, the LX-1152:

Allow me to call your attention to a few items. Specifically compare the pumping head on the 2 grease guns.  The LX-1152 has an air bleeder valve pre-installed to allow you to release trapped air from filling.  It also has a filler nipple that connects easily into a filler socket on a grease pump for easy filling.  On the top gun, I can see nothing of this sort.  Downloading the instructions for the top gun I found that there is some bolt that must be removed from the pump assembly that will allow you to screw your grease gun onto a grease pump.  Sounds like a lot of work and lots of opportunity to get the threads cross-threaded and the entire gun becomes useless and possibly the grease pump too.  A filler nipple and a matching filler socket on the grease pump seems like a much easier solution and a great deal less opportunity for things to go very wrong as part of the filling process.  We carry filler pumps designed for 25-50 lb. pails of grease as well as filler pumps designed to fit 100-120 lb. drums of grease.  Our grease pumps come with an LX-1305 filler socket designed specifically to fit the Lumax filler nipples that are on most of the grease guns we sell.  If you have a grease gun with a non-Lumax filler nipple, you may be able to use our LX-1305P Larger Grease Filler Socket for the LX-1302 Filler Pump.  As a final difference, allow me to direct your attention to the grease coupler on the end of each hose.  The Lumax LX-1400 looks to be a much larger coupler and as such it makes it easier to push the coupler to one side, away from vertical, which is how you are supposed to remove a grease coupler from a grease fitting.

Finally, let’s talk about the grease.  As we pointed out early in this article, the oil seems to be “bleeding” from the other gun pictured at the top of this article.  In the review of the grease gun that has these issues there is no description of the age of the gun, grease, or of the environmental conditions the gun/grease was stored in.  All of these have an effect on “oil bleed”.  I can make all kinds of technical arguments about grease selection, but I believe that all manufacturers of grease do a pretty good job of specifying which grease in their specific line is designed for what application.  So, I want to ask the following.  You paid anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars to to several tens of thousands of dollars for your yard equipment, tractor, automobile, truck, or farm machinery.  Why would you buy the cheapest grease you can find to lubricate your, rather sizable investment in, your equipment?  Seems to me, and I personally look for and buy the highest quality grease I can find for lubricating my equipment, that I can easily justify paying $10.00 for a cartridge of good grease instead of under $3.00 for a cartridge of grease so that I can save money.  Seems that increases in the number and severity of repairs and in severe cases replacement of the VERY expensive equipment would be enough incentive to learn about the grease you are purchasing and ensure you are using a grease that will care for your equipment in the best way possible.  All greases are NOT created equal, and you can save yourself considerable time and grief by taking the time up front to learn as much as you can about the greases you are considering using on your investments!  Putting time into researching the best grease for your application will pay dividends by keeping your investment performing in top shape with fewer repairs for a much longer period of time!  BTW, while you are learning, see if you can get some documentation on what type and specifically what metallic soap/complex is used as a thickener for the grease in your equipment.  As our Grease Compatibility Page shows some greases are not compatible with other greases.  Filling a grease joint with an incompatible grease can cause the resulting mixture to have an unpredictable set of lubrication characteristics and that can allow serious damage to the grease joint and your expensive equipment!  These learning experiences really can save you considerable time and expense by helping you navigate away from using an incompatible mixture of greases in your equipment!