Lubricants: Understanding the Mysteries - Transmission Digest

Lubricants: Understanding the Mysteries

Lubricating oils or lubricants have been around since the invention of the wheel, and every class or type of machinery uses and needs them. But, how much do we really understand about these products and about the amazing amount of engineering that is found in a can?

Up To Standards

  • Author: Mike Weinberg
  • Subject Matter: Lubricants
  • Issues: History, additives

Technical Training

Lubricating oils or lubricants have been around since the invention of the wheel, and every class or type of machinery uses and needs them. But, how much do we really understand about these products and about the amazing amount of engineering that is found in a can?

History

Automatic transmissions began to envelope the market in the 1950s and throughout the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s there were basically two types of automatic transmission fluids. Type A and type F: A being the first version of Dexron and principally found in GM and Chrysler units, and Type F which was specified for Ford vehicles. Type A fluid was redesigned to become Type B fluid, the first variation of Dexron product. In the 1970s two events occurred that changed the lubrication requirements forever.

The first was an international moratorium on whaling and the end of whale oil being part of the ATF. The second was the gas crisis when OPEC flexed its considerable muscle and vehicle manufacture would never be the same. To obtain better fuel economy, engines were spec’d to run at higher temperatures, and this had a direct effect on both motor oil and ATF. GM then changed the specs for ATF and created Dexron II, type C and D, and Ford created a spec fluid called ESW M2C33-F. The advent of centrifugal and piston-driven lockup torque converters, which further improved fuel economy, made further lubricant development necessary to eliminate vibrations and chatter that the driver could feel.

Ford created ESW M2C166-H and Dexron began to morph into Dexron III. The Ford C5 was a variation of the C4 that used a centrifugally applied converter clutch and a new fluid was created ESP M2C166-H. This solved some of the chatter problems, but heat degradation increased, and they went back to the drawing board to create new specifications – and Mercon was born. Mercon has since grown into Mercon V, which was able to replace all previous Ford fluids.

Science of specs

The science of specifications in lube oils is unbelievably complicated.

Additives: The base petroleum makes up about 80% of the bottle and the additives are the rest. The petroleum never breaks down, it is the additive package that wears out. Components of the additives create the color, the ability of replacement product to mix with the factory fill, viscosity (to be explained in detail further on), flash point, shift feel, anti-foaming product, elastomer compatibility, coefficient of friction, oxidation behavior at high temperatures, transmission cycling, vane pump function, wear tests, and extreme pressure functions.

Viscosity is defined as the internal resistance to flow of a liquid, which seems simple enough until one gets into all the variations in specification and real world factors such as temperature. There are many groups such as the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) that set the most common viscosity standards for ATF, manual gear oil, engine oil, and rear end lube. Besides temperature, consideration must be given to moving parts that the lubricant is designed to protect from wear.

Containability signifies the ability of the motor or trans to contain the oil within the structure of the component and to have that oil reach every part of the internal structure that needs to be lubricated and protected. Therefore we have multiple viscosity oils. Viscosity is basically a measure against the flow of water which for the purpose of this article will be zero. Therefore a 0-40W motor oil will have the ability to flow like water in cold conditions at engine startup and the ability to act as a heavier fluid flow at operating temperatures.

Types of additives

Anti-wear and EP (extreme pressure) reduces friction and prevents scoring or wear under regular loads or shock loads.

Corrosion and rust inhibitors preserve the metallic parts and prevent rusting of all parts in contact with the lubricant.

Detergents prevent and remove deposits from powertrain surfaces.

Dispersants keep contaminants that are not soluble dispersed in the fluid.

Friction modifiers change the coefficient of friction of materials such as clutch plates and synchro rings to reach a desired level of performance and feel.

Pour point depressant modifies liquids to flow better (lower viscosity) at low temperatures.

Seal swell agents create a slight swelling of elastomeric seals to improve sealing capability.

Viscosity modifier controls or reduces the effect and rate of viscosity change due to temperature variation.

Antifoamant is used in components moving at high speeds in engines and transmissions that can create a persistent foam in the unit.

Antioxidant prevents decomposition of the lubricant due to oxidation which occurs through heat and free radicals.

Metal deactivator eliminates or reduces the catalytic effect different metals can have creating oxidation.

Right lube for the job

In automatic transmissions we have gone from simple gerotor pumps to vane driven pumps, some units being equipped with more than one pump. There have been tremendous changes in clutch materials, seal materials, synchronizer composition, computer controlled solenoid shifted transmissions and different metals and plastics in everyday use.

Manual transmissions have gone from splash lubrication to forced lubrication. Transfer cases have significant new demands for computer-controlled clutch-driven units, and rear ends now have viscous couplings and vacuum and electric lockers. CVTs and dual-clutch transmissions are everywhere and must use very specific lubricants for a good driving experience. One of the basic rules for success in your shop is “always use the lubricant that is specified by the OEM for the trans you are working on.”

Discipline yourself to use these very expensive fluids no matter what the time frame is. Example, it is Friday afternoon; the unit is installed in the car for a customer who needs it for the weekend. You do not have the correct fluid, the customer wants his car, and you want his money.

Putting anything else into that vehicle will be committing financial suicide, and the death of a thousand cuts while you try and straighten out the problems caused by the wrong lube. There is, however, a bright side in that if you carefully explain to your customer exactly why the oil costs so much and what it does, you can increase your bottom line by making sure the car owner comes back for scheduled oil changes and other preventive maintenance procedures.

You May Also Like

Learn New Things

You are not supposed to get to the finish line in pristine condition. You are supposed to cross the line a burnt out, beat up hulk, and through the smoke and leakage, yell, “WHAT A RIDE!”

Up To Standards

Author: Mike WeinbergSubject Matter: What a ride!Issue: Technician shortage

You are not supposed to get to the finish line in pristine condition. You are supposed to cross the line a burnt out, beat up hulk, and through the smoke and leakage, yell, “WHAT A RIDE!”

MP3023 T-Case: Simple Mechanics, Complex Electronics

The MP3023 is an active automatic transfer case that is found in a wide variety of vehicles. This unit will be found in GM trucks 2007-13, Jeep Grand Cherokees 2011-19, and in Dodge Durangos 2010-up. We will be discussing the Jeep version here, which has very sophisticated control electronics. The transfer cases are basically all the same across the product line, but there are considerable variations in the electronics, which will make diagnostics outside of the transfer case a learning experience.

Simple Routines Can Leat To Solutions

For whatever reason, the tech lines get an inordinate number of calls regarding a few specific is-sues. That such a high volume of calls is generated by just a few problems leads to the belief that we need to revisit and speak about the lack of understanding by the tech-nician that leads to all this wasted time and phone traffic, as well as failure to get the job right the first time. Let’s start out the year by get-ting to the nitty-gritty of why cer-tain issues seem to confuse so many people.

Tires Vastly Improved, but Check the Specs

The advancement of technology in the automotive field is rapid and unrelenting. Forces that shape the marketplace, state and federal regulations, the need to attract new customers, and the need to be different and at the same time profitable are driving the car makers to develop technology at a pace never seen before.

Are We Speaking the Same Language?

If you are repairing transmissions for a living, you will invariably spend some time on the phone ordering parts and speaking with technical hotlines to assist in your diagnosis of problems. Having been on both ends of a tech line for over half a century and an equal amount of time buying parts, I have learned a whole new language. To be successful communicating with those entities, one must understand the language and be speaking about the same correct topic with whoever is on the other end of the conversation.

Other Posts

Valvoline launches Restore & Protect motor oil line

Valvoline Global announced the global launch of its new full synthetic motor oil, Restore & Protect. Vaolvoline says the new oil removes up to 100% of engine-killing deposits with continuous use. Related Articles – BendPak announces upgraded Litestix work light – Snap-on debuts new general service tool set  – Gray Tools introduces insulated hex bit socket set Restore & Protect is designed for

Valvoline-2-1400
Video: Why You Need an Aluminum Additive

Today’s ATFs have many other additives to protect against metal contact with other ferrous metals, not aluminum.

Professional-Grade Full Synthetic Multi-Vehicle ATF

Champion Brands, a globally recognized blender and packager of motor oils, gear lubes, brake fluids, and many other specialty lubricants, is currently marketing GlobalTrans ATF, a professional-grade full-synthetic multi-vehicle (MV) automatic transmission fluid specifically designed to lubricates internal moving parts, but also provide hydraulic pressure, friction and cooling to make transmissions work more efficiently.  Related

Composite Analysis of Transmission Digest Reader Shops

The Transmission Digest Annual Survey of Retail Shops has served as a benchmark and planning tool for the industry now for the past 35 years. Charts and tables in this section are based on a survey that was conducted early this year.