Each piece of construction equipment made by different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) has its specific lubrication requirements. OEMs define the minimum requirements for lubricants or greases, but not all products that meet these standards deliver the same level of performance.

The challenges

Working conditions in the construction industry are often severe. The equipment’s design characteristics, operational parameters and environment must all be considered when selecting the lubricant. Factors like temperature, humidity and location all pose different challenges for lubrication, particularly as many companies seek to diversify into quarrying and cement production. 

You could minimise downtime by regularly changing the oil in your engine
You could minimise downtime by regularly changing the oil in your engine

Lubricant selection for engines

Effective engine lubrication is critical to protect high-cost equipment, and minimise downtime due to frequent oil changes, maintenance or even component failures.

  1. Wear protection
    Viscosity Control in Extreme Conditions:
    Engine wear as a result of metal-to-metal contact can occur at low speeds, high loads or cold starts. In construction equipment, where engines are subject to heavy loads, shock loading and extended periods of idling, wear protection is particularly important. At engine start-up, particularly in cold climates, the oil must remain thin enough to circulate quickly to protect critical components. Once the engine is operating under full load, the oil must remain thick enough and provide the necessary protection to help prevent abrasive wear.
    Soot build-up: Accumulation of soot can lead to oil thickening and abrasive wear. This is a particular challenge in countries with high-sulphur diesel fuels, and when exhaust gas regeneration (EGR) is applied as an after-treatment system. Extended periods operating at idle load makes an engine particularly susceptible to higher rates of soot generation.
  2. Corrosion protection
    Gases and acids are generated as a natural by-product of the combustion process. The lubricant neutralises these acids to help avoid corrosion. This is particularly important in engines with Babbit-based plain bearings, which can be very susceptible to acid attack.
  3. Long Oil Life
    Oxidation, soot accumulation and oil thickening, and the build-up of acids in the lubricant all contribute to oil aging. High quality synthetic engine oils with the right base oil and additive technology -including anti-oxidant additives - can maintain performance characteristics for longer in the presence of contaminants and by-products (compared to lower quality mineral oil alternatives).
Achieve smooth operation by looking after the hydraulic system
Achieve smooth operation by looking after the hydraulic system

Lubricant selection for hydraulic pumps

The hydraulic system is at the heart of many critical pieces of construction equipment. Hydraulic fluid plays a vital role in ensuring continuous and smooth equipment operation, energy savings and long machine lifespan.

  1. Wear protection
    Any damage to hydraulic pumps can significantly reduce equipment efficiency and service life. The hydraulic fluid helps keep moving components apart to avoid metal-to-metal contact and wear.
    To ensure equipment remains protected in all conditions, it is important that the hydraulic fluid is able to remain thin enough in cold environments to circulate quickly to critical components, and then thick enough when equipment is operating at higher temperatures to continue to protect against abrasive wear.
  2. System Efficiency
    A hydraulic fluid needs to protect, lubricate and transmit power efficiently. When equipment works on hilly terrain, it can result in air being injected into the oil, which may cause cavitation in hydraulic pumps.
    The right hydraulic fluid must therefore offer reliable air release, excellent filterability and improved cleanliness.
  3. Oil Life
    An oil that resists degradation can help to increase oil drain intervals (ODIs). Longer oil life can enable equipment to operate for longer without interruption, for reduced maintenance requirements and enhanced productivity. 
The right lubricant will improve wear and extend the life of certain components
The right lubricant will improve wear and extend the life of certain components

Helping improve productivity by extending maintenance cycles

Shell Tellus S3 V achieved up to five times longer oil life in the industry-standard oil life test than the industry minimum.

Lubricants ease friction, protects between metal components and maintains performance
Lubricants ease friction, protects between metal components and maintains performance

Lubricant selection for axles and transmissions

Driveline technology is critical to construction equipment. Component life, equipment downtime and oil drain intervals - and therefore TCO - can be significantly impacted by the quality of the oil.

  1. Friction characteristics
    Powershift transmissions use a series of friction plates to help engage and disengage gears. The lubricant plays a critical role in transmitting frictional force, so its frictional characteristics are important for effective operation and smooth shifting. Too little friction and the plates can slip, making gear changes difficult. Too much friction, and excess heat generation can cause damage to equipment and shortened lubricant life.
  2. High loads and contact pressures
    In gear motors, the lubricant must help improve bearing life, and give excellent protection against gear wear and pitting. Low temperature performance, shear stability and high oxidation stability are also important. In differential gears, specific contact pressures can be so high that the transmission oil is squeezed away, allowing metal-to-metal contact. The use of lubricants with extreme pressure additives helps prevent the contact areas of the teeth microwelding together.
  3. Wear protection
    Oxidation stability and corrosion protection are also important to maintain oil performance. High quality transmission oils with good oxidation resistance can resist degradation and break-down over time (compared to lower quality mineral alternatives), thereby reducing downtime required for frequent oil changes.
  4. Long oil life
    Oxidation stability and corrosion protection are also important to maintain oil performance. High quality transmission and gear oils with good oxidation resistance can resist degradation and break-down over time, thereby reducing downtime required for frequent oil changes.
Look after heavy-duty machinery
Look after heavy-duty machinery

Lubricant selection for heavy duty greases

Robust, high-performing greases are essential to keep heavy duty machinery working efficiently.

  1. Contamination control
    Contamination ingress is a common cause of equipment failure. Exposure to high levels of dust, dirt, rain and snow requires greases that can maintain an adequate lubricant film and continue to flow while also flushing out contamination.
  2. Grease life
    The longer a grease lasts, the longer components last and the less lubrication maintenance is required. Extra-long-life synthetic technologies can double grease life for some applications, helping simplify maintenance procedures and reduce operating costs.
  3. Wear Protection
    Protecting components from wear is fundamental to prolonging equipment life and preventing costly delays from unplanned downtime. Greases must therefore be able to protect bearings and other vital components under extreme temperatures, heavy loads and contaminated conditions.

Lubricant selection – What’s next?

Looking beyond the present day, Shell Lubricants is always working to consider the future challenges that the next generation of products and services will help companies to overcome.

Looking at current industry trends, some issues Shell Lubricants is already addressing include:

Changing equipment portfolio

The emergence of new OEMs from Asia is introducing a broader variety of construction equipment to the industry, all with slightly different lubrication requirements. In addition, in regions like North America, many construction companies are starting to move into quarrying and cement manufacturing. This is diversifying their portfolio of equipment, and means that the lubricant must be able to perform in even more challenging operating conditions.

Real-time monitoring

Applying sensor technology and telemetrics to analyse lubricant and equipment performance in real time will play an increasingly important role, especially as companies look to lengthen ODIs, improve efficiency, and further extend equipment life.

Tightening regulation

Emissions performance standards worldwide are increasingly stringent. For example, the CK-4 and FA-4 specifications for engine oils also include tighter emission requirements. In Europe, OEMs and Shell Lubricants are preparing for the introduction of new Stage V emission legislation, scheduled for 2019.

Alternative fuels

Although the exact nature of environmental targets vary from region to region, the impact on fuels is being felt around the world. Some countries are already introducing high biodiesel blends for construction engines, while we also expect increasing adoption of LNG fuels. Engines designed to run on alternative fuels place different requirements on the lubricant, for example hotter operating temperatures.

Technical innovation

Gas-to-liquid (GTL) technology is one of the most exciting recent innovations in lubrication and one example of how product performance can be enhanced in the future.

Did you know?

The latest synthetic base oils from Shell are produced from natural gas using a revolutionary, proprietary gas-to-liquids (GTL) process. With no sulphur* and very low aromatic and unsaturates contents, these GTL base fluids typically have higher flash points, lower densities and more effective thermal properties than conventional mineral oils. They enable the development of lubricants that offer superior performance compared to those based on traditional, crude-derived base oils.

*Below the detection limits according to ISO 14596/ASTM D2622

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