What are the different types of lubricants?

Engine oil, which must be changed regularly, is normally a petroleum-based lubricant.

There are basically two types of lubricants: petroleum-based and synthetic. Each of them is suitable for particular purposes and conditions. The different types are also subject to various levels of oxidation and degradation and are only compatible with certain types of machine components, demands and environments.

Everyone who owns an automobile knows that the engine oil must be changed regularly to prolong the life of the engine. Engine oil in an automobile engine is commonly a petroleum-based lubricant. Although it contains the same hydrocarbon base as the gasoline used to power the automobile, the formulations are quite different. Hydrocarbon or petroleum-based lubricating engine oil is designed to protect the various moving parts of the engine, while gasoline, which is also a petroleum product, is formulated to produce the explosive heat needed to start the engine.

More car owners are starting to switch to synthetic motor oil.

Lubricants can be liquids, such as engine oil and hydraulic oil; they can be semi-solid or solid, like grease or TeflonĀ® tape, or they can be dry or powdery, like dry graphite or molybdenum disulfide. All lubricating materials for mechanized equipment are designed to form some type of protective coating between moving parts of machinery to protect these parts from undue wear, contamination and oxidation.

A car’s engine oil must be changed regularly to keep the engine running smoothly.

Synthetic lubricants have precisely engineered chemical reactions into specific components. These reactions are created by specifically applying varying amounts of heat and pressure to the components. Synthetic motor oil is gaining popularity among car owners who use it in place of petroleum-based motor oil. This type is also used more widely in industry because, although originally more expensive, they are better suited to the demands of modern engine and machine technology. Since synthetic engine and machine oils don’t need to be changed as often, consumers really save in the long run.

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There are also petroleum-based and synthetic hydraulic lubricants, also known as hydraulic oils, which are formulated to be lighter and more fluid. They are used not only for lubrication, but for the actual operation of hydraulic machines. Hydraulic oils must be able to flow freely through the pumps that compress the oil for the machinery to work and, at the same time, must have film-forming additives to lubricate the moving parts of the pumping equipment.

While most modern lubricants are petroleum-based, synthetic bases such as vegetable oil, silicones, esters, and fluorocarbons are gaining increasing popularity for this purpose. The base of a given lubricating fluid is the main determinant of whether it is petroleum-based or synthetic oil.

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