Why Do We Need Lubricant Additives?

Lubricants keep the world turning. Once something moves, a lubricant should be present to reduce friction or wear between the surfaces. But what makes lubricants so unique in our industry? Is it just the base oil?

No, this is where the power of lubricant additives truly shines, an area many overlook.

Why Do We Need Lubricant Additives?

Before getting into the world of additives, let’s step back to the basics: why are they needed? A lubricant is composed of base oil and additives. Depending on the type of oil, different ratios of additives will be used for the various applications. Additionally, each Lubricant OEM will have its unique formula for its lubricant.

To simplify this, we can think of making a cup of tea. The first thing we need is some hot water in a cup. This can be our base oil. It can be used on its own (some people drink hot water or use it for other purposes), but if we want to make a cup of tea, we must add stuff.

Depending on the purpose for which you’re drinking the tea, you may choose a particular flavor. Perhaps peppermint for improved digestion or to help improve your concentration or chamomile to keep you calm.

These flavors can represent the various types of oils: gear oils, turbine oils, or motor oils. Different blends are suited for different applications.

Now, while we’ve added the tea bag to the hot water (and some people can drink tea like this), others need to add sweetener or milk. These are the additives to the base oil (hot water).

Depending on the preference of the person drinking the tea, there will be varying amounts of sweetener (honey, stevia, or sugar) and varying amounts of milk (regular, low-fat, oat, dairy-free). The combinations are endless!

The same can be said of additives in finished lubricants. Depending on the type of oil (tea flavor, think gear or turbine oil) and its application (the person drinking the tea, with dietary preferences of being dairy-free or sugar-free), the combination of lubricant additives and their ratios will differ. The percentage of additives can vary from 0.001 to 30% based on the type of oil.

Additives have three main functions in a finished lubricant. They can;

  • Enhance – improve some of the properties of the base oil
  • Suppress – reduce some of the characteristics of the base oil
  • Add new properties – introduce new features to the base oil

The finished lubricant will have properties from the base oil and additives combined.

Want to read the entire article? Find it here in Precision Lubrication Magazine!