How to Protect your Machinery from Damage Caused by Falling Temperatures

Do you maintain a fleet of machinery or vehicles? If so, you’re probably aware that the right oils and lubricants can protect your valuable equipment from the preventable damage caused by high heat conditions that are part and parcel with heavy use. But did you know that cold temperatures also cause serious damage?

It’s true. Dropping temperatures can have a number of negative impacts on vehicles, equipment and other machinery used in a variety of industrial applications, such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and more. As a commercial fuel and lubricant supplier in California, the expert team at Greg’s Petroleum Service always recommends choosing the right oils and lubricants to protect your valuable investment from damage.

First, let’s get the facts. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when you’re making a decision.

How cold temperatures impact oils and lubricants

In general, cold temperatures thicken oils and lubricants. This “cold hard fact” is more important than you’d think.

When we think about maintenance issues, high heat usually tops the list because it can thin lubricants. The thinning can lead to increased friction, increased heat, increased wear, and parts to fail as they (essentially) burn up. This can lead to expensive costs and safety issues.

But on the other side of the spectrum, when the weather is extremely cold or even just cool and the vehicle or machinery has been sitting for a while – as it might overnight, for example – the fluids can harden or just thicken to the point that oils and lubricants don’t circulate the system properly.

When oils and lubricants fail to move through the system, you have the same problems caused by heat: increased friction between un-lubricated parts, and what is often called “metal on metal death.”

And the problems aren’t limited to engines and engine parts. Gear boxes, for example, as well as the internal gear tooth interfaces can be damaged as the oils fail to properly circulate, or even dislodge congealed oils and lubricants that travel and “gum up” the system.

Higher torque is just one issue created. In some cases, you can also see catastrophic failure and the release of energy.

Additionally, oils and lubricants can degrade in cold temperatures over time. The cold can cause the oils to separate into layers, a process called stratification.

Additives in the oils and lubricants are not necessarily the solution, either, as the wrong choice for the environment will also gum up or fail to circulate entirely.

So, what can you do? Look for the following in your choice of oils and lubricants when dealing with colder temperatures, and keep to following best practices when possible:

1. Choose the right viscosity (thickness) in oils and lubricants for your equipment, as recommended by the manufacturer or an expert in maintenance.
2. Check for the correct “pour point” – a term for how temperatures impact the thickness of the oils and lubricant in question.
3. Use heaters, and keep in mind that proper changing methods can have a positive (or negative) impact.
4. If you’re unsure what to choose, do your homework and/or check with an expert. The technology to improve oils and lubricants has come a long way in recent years. Find out if there are new solutions or options, based on your unique circumstances and needs.

Finally, please don’t hesitate to reach out if the team at Greg’s Petroleum Service can provide information, support, or better products for you this season. We look forward to working with you!