Oil and grease serve a variety of applications, and both lubricate moving parts to prevent wear and tear. Consequently, people often use these terms interchangeably. Most aren’t familiar with the fact that these lubricants are actually quite different. If you’re ready to get the low-down on lubrication, this article will review what the differences between grease and oil lubricants are.
What Is Oil?
The two basic categories of oil are mineral and synthetic oils. Mineral oil comes from crude oil, while synthetic oil is artificial, but both are liquid at room temperature. Manufacturers include different additives to change the viscosity or enhance the liquid’s performance for its intended application. For example, with motor oil, dispersants help the oil collect dirt and soot particulates as it moves through the engine, neutralizing the contaminants and protecting the engine.
What Is Grease?
Lubricating grease contains these three primary components: lubricating fluid, additives, and thickener. The lubricating fluid, also known as the base oil, typically consists of mineral or synthetic oil. When combined with a thickener, such as soap, polyurea, or fumed silica, the oil will take on a thick semi-fluid consistency. Depending on the application the grease is for, it may also contain performance-enhancing additives. Corrosion inhibitors are some of the most common additives, as they prevent the semi-liquid from corroding metal surfaces by protecting and maintaining the grease’s pH.
What Are the Differences Between Them?
When you break down the anatomy of a lubricant, you’ll notice that grease lubricants, oil lubricants, penetrating lubricants, and other liquid to semi-liquid lubricants contain a base oil. The difference between these lubricants is the additives in them, which change their viscosity. Therefore, the answer to the question of what makes grease and oil lubricants different is fairly simple– it’s the presence of a thickening agent.
Which One Is Preferable?
Which one you should use depends entirely on the application and what you need the lubricant for. Oil doesn’t have thickening agents in its formula because it must move and flow freely like a liquid in most applications. When you use grease, it’s typically because you want the lubricant to stay in place. But this isn’t always the case.
Oil has the ability to cool and move heat away, so if you need lubricant for an application that experiences higher temperatures, oil is your likely go-to. Grease is better when lubrication circulation is impractical or impossible or when leaks are present.
If you’re unsure which lubricant serves your application best, contact your local lubricant distributor to help point you in the right direction.