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Sonny's-Carwash College™ Tip of the Month

What's in a Grease?

CarWash College™ Preventive Maintenance Tip of the Month

August 26, 2008
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At CarWash College™ we teach preventive maintenance. One of the things we often talk about is greasing equipment. But what's in a grease? There are many things you should look for when choosing grease for the car wash. The grease provides protection to some critical pieces in the car wash, so this month let's take a look at what a grease should consist of in order to keep the parts running longer, putting more money to the bottom line.

A good quality grease will reduce friction, displace heat, and provide lubrication between moving parts. Although the word grease originally described the rendered fat of animals, the term is now applied more broadly to mean a lubricant of higher initial viscosity than oil, consisting originally of a calcium, sodium, or lithium soap jelly emulsified with mineral oil. There are also synthetic greases that work great for application in the car wash. Synthetic grease, just like petroleum grease, can have a high or low quality. However, just because it is synthetic does not mean it's a good lubricant.

An effective grease has a good resistance to water. Manufacturers apply a water scale which is formulated by the manufacturer as water washout. Also needed in a grease for the car wash is high-temperature resistance, since there are some things that run hot. Most operators have seen the affects of a low-temperature-resistant grease when they see grease spread on the outer housing of the vacuum. This is caused when the grease has a low temperature resistance and it liquefies, spraying grease on the outer housing.

The number to look for when referring to temperature is often expressed as the dropping point. This is a qualitative property of lubricating grease that gives a general indication of the temperature at which a grease passes from a semi-solid to a liquid state under specific test conditions. The dropping point is a measurement of the heat resistance of grease. Just remember that when looking for a grease, the cheapest is not always the best. The idea is to find a grease, although slightly more expensive than what is normally used in the car wash, that will provide the best protection of the equipment.

The higher cost of the grease has its payoffs. With high quality grease the car wash should begin to see reduced failure of bearings, less downtime due to failure, and lower repair costs. At a typical conveyor car wash you can find upwards of 75 bearings. The average bearing itself usually costs around $40.00 dollars. If the life of these bearings can be doubled, and in some cases tripled, the pay off is huge.

Robert Andre is the Director of Classroom Training for CarWash College™. Robert can be reached at For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit or call the registrar's office at 1-866-492-7422.