Nine things you might not know about lubricants

Science & technology

Chances are, you’ve heard of motor oil. But do you know why it’s important?

And what about grease?

Or gear oil?

Lubricants like these are actually fairly similar and serve roughly the same purpose – protecting machinery from everyday wear and tear. But what makes them different from one another, and why are they important for keeping our world moving? We’re here to explain.

1. So, what are lubricants?

Oil, grease – they both help mechanical equipment run smoothly, improve efficiency and reduce wear. Oil and grease both fall under the lubricant umbrella but are slightly different from one another, mostly when it comes to consistency. Most lubricants are petroleum-based. Performance boosters such as anti-wear agents or rust inhibitors are then added to create the perfect mix that keeps engines and gears happy.

2. Lubricants help the wheels go around and CO2 go down.

When engines are properly lubricated, there’s less friction between moving parts (this is true for high- or low-viscosity lubes). That means vehicles can run more efficiently and increase fuel economy by up to 2%. Beyond saving money at the pump, better fuel economy also helps lower a vehicle’s overall CO2 output.

3. Synthetics are the real deal.

Full-synthetic engine oils provide better performance and protection than conventional or synthetic-blended oils. That’s because synthetics contain fewer impurities (keeping engines cleaner), retain a relatively consistent viscosity and provide longer engine wear protection than their counterparts.

4. They help make generating wind energy a breeze.

When it comes to wind energy, it’s all about the spin. But without proper lubrication, wind turbines can’t make their rotations. Mobil lubricants currently help keep more than 40,000 wind turbines around the world in motion. ExxonMobil and its partners have even designed a special truck for China, the largest producer of wind energy, to help remote wind turbines there spin smoothly.

5. Oil changes aren’t one-size-fits-all.

How often should you change your oil? You’ve probably heard that 3,000 miles is the gold standard. While that used to be the case, many conventional oils now can last as long as 5,000 or 7,500 miles. Even more impressive? Mobil 1 Annual Protection only needs changing every 20,000 miles or once a year, whichever comes first.

But even if you choose a long-lasting synthetic, the frequency with which you change your oil still depends on a number of factors, such as how much you drive and the conditions – especially weather – where you drive.

6. Lubricants are known as the “blood of the car.”

Why do racing technicians love lube? Besides helping race cars reach their maximum potential, it also gives insight into the health of the engine. Formula 1 technical advisors Sean Dunnett and Dario Izzo take samples of used engine oil, much like a doctor might take a blood sample, to look for underlying issues so they can be addressed before any major problems arise.

7. They stay smooth even at 35,000 feet.

A plane’s engine needs lubricants to allow for a smooth flight and safe landing. Jet oil has to endure some of the toughest conditions of any lubricant, withstanding extreme temperatures from as cold as -40°F (-40°C) to as hot as 356°F (180°C). ExxonMobil spent nearly a decade developing and testing Mobil Jet Oil 387, the same oil that’s used in the world’s longest commercial nonstop flight: from Singapore’s Changi Airport to New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport.

8. Color doesn’t matter.

Change the color of the grease and it will work just the same. Manufacturers add dyes to help operators distinguish one product from another since different greases are often used in different parts of the same machine.

9. They’re here to stay.

Demand for lubricants continues to grow as new technologies – like wind turbines and electric vehicles, as well as traditional applications, like food processing equipment and ship engines – emerge.

Sources:
Mobil Oil, Synthetic vs. Conventional Oil
Mobil Oil, Car Maintenance
Mobil, Wind Energy
Mobil, The Grease Experts
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