Tag Archives: lubricants

Is your oil breathing?

When it comes to heavy mining equipment, effective oil breathers are of paramount concern, according to Harshvardhan Singh*.

Why is oil breathing necessary?

As far as operating environments for vehicles go, mine sites are about as harsh as it gets. Dust, dirt, mud, water, humidity, temperature variations, road conditions, and unpredictable operator driving behaviour are some of the factors that regularly test a vehicle’s efficiency.

For a vehicle to run smoothly, the internal mechanisms should be properly lubricated. Lubricants, as we all know, not just lubricate but also cool, clean, and provide noise dampening and sealing. Mining vehicles typically use four main types of lubricants – engine, transmission, axle and hydraulic. The brands and grades used can vary from one original equipment manufacturer to another based on the type and size of equipment.

Similar to humans bodies, , the blood circulating within the body should be healthy for it to function properly. The same is true with machines, where the health of lubricants should be in good condition to achieve higher machine reliability. Oil breathers play a vital role in ensuring oil is kept in optimal condition, eliminating build up of air pressure within an enclosed system containing oil. If this pressure is allowed to build up and is not vented efficiently, it can result in oil leaks, oil contamination and power losses.

Anatomy of a breather

A breather has a small vent or vents and its body can be made up of either steel or other material. Breathers generally have an inbuilt filter element made of paper, foam or fibre media. A typical desiccant breather (breather with a drying agent) uses silica gel to remove moisture and a filter media to remove particles greater than three microns in size.

Oil breather types and functions

  1. Engine oil breathers, or crankcase breathers: during the process of combustion, some combustion gases escape past the piston rings and enter the crankcase. The breather is a small pipe located inside the engine bending downwards, which helps depressurise the crankcase by releasing these gases to the atmosphere. This helps achieve better engine performance, lower oil consumption and lower oil degradation.
  2. Hydraulic oil breathers: these breathers are mounted on hydraulic tanks to prevent ingress of contaminants and water from the surroundings into the system. They also help remove the occurrence of a buildup of pressure or vacuum due to temperature or volume changes.
  3. Transmission oil breathers (pictured above): these breathers are mounted on transmissions to maintain air pressure equilibrium when the air inside expands and contracts due to heating and cooling of transmission oil during vehicle operation. The inbuilt filtration media blocks entry of contaminants and moisture, which can enter the system with air suction.
  4. Axle oil breather (pictured below): these breathers are mounted on differential housing. While in operation, the air inside the axle assembly heats up and expands, increasing the pressure. This pressure needs to be vented out to the atmosphere. When the axle assembly cools down, the air inside contracts and creates a vacuum. The breather helps in serving this process.

Maintaining oil breathers

The condition of oil breathers needs to be checked at every scheduled maintenance interval. The breathers should be replaced if the condition is found to be critical, in addition to the recommended change period mentioned in a vehicle’s manual. One of the best ways to check if the breather is working is to pass compressed air through the breather or blow air in manually via mouth. If the breather is not choked, air will pass through the breather. This method can only be used for checking axle breathers and transmission breathers. For hydraulic breathers, generally visual inspections are carried out to check condition.

Breathers – especially axle breathers – can be repositioned to a higher position on the machine in order to protect them from mud, which gets splashed on axle assemblies during vehicle operation.

*Harshvardhan Singh works as a Senior Service Engineer with an international mining equipment firm in Ajmer, India

The changing demand in oil condition monitoring technology

Chris Greenwood, Managing Director, at Tan Delta Systems, explains how the latest innovations in oil conditioning monitoring can create major benefits to businesses including positive impacts to the bottom line.

In this current commercial environment businesses are constantly looking for new ways to gain that competitive edge and support their bottom line long term.

Critical need

Sectors such as manufacturing, power, mining, quarrying and logistics might seem quite detached but they are similar in one key way. They all use oil dependent machinery or vehicles with hydraulics, engines, gearboxes and transformers, and need to ensure they are as reliable and productive as can be for business continuity.

With this in mind, it is fundamentally critical for these businesses to conduct regular health and status inspections to achieve operational efficiencies. This is especially important in extreme, and often harsh, climates such as dusty or humid mine sites, or freezing arctic natural gas processing plants, and everything in between.

Maintenance engineers and plant managers often prioritise condition monitoring inspections according to the equipment importance or value, focusing on these first and often overlooking other aspects.

Hydraulics, engines, gearboxes and transformers can all be at risk of even miniscule changes in oil condition which can have a big impact. As oil condition degrades with use or contamination by fuel, water or acid, it can quickly result in oil losing lubrication properties, subsequently leading to equipment damage.

To reduce the risks and costs associated with potential equipment damage, maintenance and plant managers are looking for improved methods of understanding the repair history of equipment, operating characteristics and failure probability. Through understanding this, it is possible to identify prevention measures and obtain substantial cost savings at the same time.


Businesses already using condition-based monitoring equipment demand a lot from it, and unfortunately not all sensors are comparable or even able to meet all of the requirements customers expect.

Real-time oil analysis provides important information about equipment wear levels, as well as the condition of the oil itself. Keeping machinery operating at the optimal level involves measuring, monitoring and analysing changes in lubricant and fuel oils for contamination and chemical content.

This data can provide insights into issues affecting performance and reliability, and operators can make cost effective maintenance decisions based upon these oil analysis results.

Therefore, the sensors needed must be highly accurate, with strong performance records in harsh and extreme conditions and be able to continuously monitor, detect and report on any oil quality change. They must be customisable and configurable to many oil types in multiple applications and, of course, be compatible with existing site equipment. What’s more, they must be able to provide real-time information to help pinpoint issues quickly, enabling precision in planning maintenance schedules.

Additional demands come in the form of what the sensors can deliver to the business as a whole: low operating costs, reduced downtime, optimised service intervals and improved safety. Also, knowing they can provide environmental benefits and allow managers to reconsider how they define business critical equipment through the use of intelligent data capture and support intelligent proactive decision making. All factors that contribute to the overall success of a business.

Overlooked − but highly beneficial

Monitoring oil condition across a facility can be easily overlooked due to practicality and the potentially high cost implications. However a ‘run to failure’ approach is fraught with risk, whilst scheduled preventive maintenance is limited in effectiveness, further emphasising the importance of implementing the latest technologies to ensure costly unforeseen issues are avoided.

The cost of such oil condition monitoring sensors is easily covered with the savings achieved from extended machine life, reduced wastage, improved energy efficiency, and, ultimately, satisfied customers.

With benefits like this and the advanced technological developments, it is hard to think why organisations would not be looking to increase their competitive edge and bottom line by employing this technology.

ExxonMobil launches new synthetic lubricant for mining extremes

ExxonMobil says its new Mobil SHC™ Elite synthetic lubricant can help protect mining equipment operating at extreme hot and cold temperatures, while increasing energy efficiency and extending oil drain intervals.

The breakthrough synthetic lubricant offers class-leading performance benefits to mine operators, according to the company, explaining that extensive testing has shown Mobil SHC Elite can deliver double the oil life of traditional synthetic products and up to 12 times the oil life of mineral products.

The company added: “It can also help protect equipment operating at temperatures up to 150°C in intermittent service, meaning it is ideally suited for use in a range of mining equipment, such as in the gears and bearings of excavators, haul trucks, augers and conveyors.”

The synthetic lubricant is formulated to deliver wear protection and oxidation resistance without any of the compatibility challenges often associated with glycol-based products used in high temperature applications, it said.

In addition, Mobil SHC Elite has also demonstrated an “enhanced torque ratio”, enabling it to deliver a 3.6% energy efficiency improvement when compared with conventional mineral oils, ExxonMobil says.

Emre Noyan, Industrial Marketing Manager at ExxonMobil, said: “Demanding loads and tough conditions mean that every component of mining equipment must be optimised and protected from extreme in-service temperatures.

“Mobil SHC Elite’s extended oil life, wide temperature range performance and energy efficiency improvement can help operators increase uptime and cut costs – giving them a competitive edge.”

Mobil SHC Elite has already received approval for its performance from gearbox manufacturers including Siemens, whose FLENDER gear units depend on effective lubrication to ensure reliability in intense operating environments, the company said.

LiuGong enhances ties with lubricant specialist Valvoline

LiuGong and Valvoline Inc have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will see Valvoline become the Chinese equipment maker’s preferred provider of lubricants for markets outside of China.

Zeng Guang’an, Chairman of Guangxi LiuGong Group and Guangxi LiuGong Machinery, and Kevin Thieneman, LiuGong Vice President of Strategy and Aftermarket, were present at the signing ceremony for the strategic global alliance, held in Houston, Texas.

“Today’s announcement with industry leader Valvoline is another step in our mission to provide complete solutions to our customers,” Zeng said. “And Valvoline is the perfect partner to help us realise this long-term ambition.”

Thieneman added: “Construction equipment customers consistently tell us that they want the lowest total cost of ownership. LiuGong already offers a very competitive machine acquisition cost. The Valvoline partnership enhances the ability of LiuGong and our dealers to keep machines running as well as extend the useful life.”

Craig Moughler, Valvoline Senior Vice President of Product Supply and OEM, said the company had established a strong relationship with LiuGong in many markets and the company was looking forward to expanding this and delivering solutions to LiuGong and its customers.