Monday, 20 May 2019 18:44

Lube Tip 14: Thermal failure in lubricants

Lubricants can thermally degrade for a variety of reasons and causes. Unlike oxidation, thermal failure can occur in new lubricants with healthy additive packages. However, many of the symptoms of oxidation are also symptoms of thermal degradation.

One of the most common causes of thermal failure in hydraulic fluids and some lubricating oils relates to aeration, i.e. entrained air bubbles. These bubbles can become rapidly compressed in hydraulic pumps and in the squeeze zones of bearings. This results in high localized temperatures. Hot surface carbonization is another form of thermal failure. When an oil thermally degrades, problems associated with sludge, varnish, deposits, viscosity change and additive decomposition will often occur.