A: Water can cause a variety of problems in a lubricant. For instance:
- It can reduce a lubricant’s viscosity (a condition known as viscosity dilution), thereby diminishing the lubricant’s load-carrying capabilities and its ability to keep moving parts separated. This can result in increased friction, wear and heat in the system.
- It increases oxidation, the chemical reaction between a lubricant and oxygen that shortens the lubricant’s service life.
- It promotes rust and corrosion of metal parts, resulting in greater maintenance costs and downtime.
- It can interfere with the proper function of lubricant additives, thereby adversely affecting lubricant performance.
For these reasons, good demulsibility (water separability) is an important property of lubricants for many applications — particularly those encountering humid or wet operating conditions.
In addition to choosing a water-resistant lubricant, these steps can help reduce water contamination and its problems:
- Store lubricants indoors in a dry location; for those that must be stored outdoors, use tarps and platforms to minimize water exposure.
- Check and replace worn or damaged seals on equipment as well as on lubricant containers.
- Monitor your lubricant’s water content through regular oil analysis.
- Drains can remove settled water from a lubricated system; to help remove emulsified water from a lubricant, consider devices such as absorbent filter media, centrifuges or dehydration processes such as vacuum dehydration or air stripping.
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