Engine Oil


A lubricant must be chosen that is both effective and affordable. To achieve and maintain this balance, specifications for oils should be developed to guide the purchase of lubricants and their use. 

What are Lubricant Specifications?

Lubricant specifications refer to internal documents that include the technical standards, performance requirements, and industry approvals for each lubricant used within a facility or fleet. These specifications may also include information about product safety, disposal, and alternative products. These specifications typically include information on lubricants such as gear oils and turbine oils, hydraulic fluids or compressor oils, greases, and solid lubricants. They may also include information about product safety, proper disposal, and other relevant information.

It can be easy to create lubricant specifications for small facilities and fleets. Complexity can increase depending on the equipment diversity and the number of sites involved. Specifications are more valuable if the facility is complex or has many locations.

Specifications of Lubricant Elements

The following components may be included in lubricant specifications depending on the needs of your plant or fleet:

Scope of the Application

This describes the general purpose or function of the lubricant, as well as its material type. This specification also describes the specific uses of the lubricant within the facility. This specification defines an API Group II mineral oil gear oil with extreme pressure additives as the lubricant. It is designed for use in gearboxes that operate at temperatures of up to 160°F and are lubricated using bath or circulation systems.

Physical and chemical properties

These are the inherent physical and chemical characteristics of the lubricant. It is crucial to note not only the test parameters but also the expected results. It is also important to reference the ASTM or the appropriate test method. An example of this is the ISO viscosity grades, minimum viscosity index (ASTM D2270), aniline points (ASTM D611), and flashpoint (ASTM D92).

Performance properties

These are laboratory and bench tests that ensure the formula passes at least a certain level. Examples of these include demulsibility (ASTM D1401), copper corrosion protection (ASTM D1301), and dropping point(ASTM D2265).

Product Compatibility

This section describes the product’s compatibility and characteristics with other lubricants, as well as synthetic materials that are used in machine lubrication systems (e.g., seals or gaskets). This section is more critical when synthetic oils and special formulas are concerned. They may need to be converted to other lubricants using specific procedures. This product, for example, is made with Polyalkylene Glycol (polyglycerol base stock), which is not compatible in any way with mineral oils or other synthetics like Polyalphaolephins.

Product Approvals

These endorsements are required for the specific machine in which the product will be used. These may be obtained from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) or other industry organizations such as the American Gear Manufacturers Association, the National Lubricating Grease Institute, and (NLGI). Some lubricants may be certified or approved for specific technical specifications or OEM specifications. Others may “comply” with the requirement or standard but are not necessarily approved or certified. This can be especially important when it comes to equipment warranty requirements.

Potential Hazards and Restrictions

This section explains any undesirable ingredients or product properties, as well as toxicological and safety aspects that must be considered when purchasing or handling the lubricant. The product should not contain carcinogenic or mutagenic substances.

Lubricant Identification System

To prevent mislabeling and misapplication, every lubricant that is used in a plant must have a unique identification code. The brand name should not be used in the classification. Every product should have its own unique visual and written codes in a properly identified system. A square lube ID tag may be used for hydraulic oil, while a round tag may be used for grease.

Reception Quality Control

This section specifies the testing that will be performed on the lubricants that enter the facility to ensure product quality. This section defines the laboratory and field tests required, as well as acceptable results. References to ASTM methods, field testing kits, and product inspections can be made. Take a look at the following example.

Supplier Requirements

This section describes the requirements of the supplier for product quality. The supplier must be ISO 9000 certified, or each batch of lubricant must be sent with a certificate. You can find more information about the supplier by going through the approval process for lubricant suppliers.

Lubricant Disposal

This element identifies the general or specific requirements of lubricant disposal based on product type, formula, contaminants, and lubricant volume. These requirements should be determined in accordance with local regulations and corporate policies.

Additional Information

This information is added to the specifications’ technical descriptions. This glossary may contain ISO viscosity, NLGI classifications, and ASTM standards.

Viscosity 20degC (cSt) Field viscometer 170 200
Acid number (mg KOH/g oil) Field testing kit 1.1 1.4
Particle count Particle counter / ISO 4406,99 – – – 19/16/13
Moisture Analysis (ppm). Calcium Hydride kit – – – 500


Creating Lubricant Specifications

Before you can create lubricant specifications, it is important to first update or develop the database of machines and lubricants within the plant or fleet. OEMs, lubricant suppliers, and consulting companies will provide product recommendations. You may also consult other technical references, such as the AGMA and ISO. Additional validation may be required for critical machines to verify that the chosen lubricant meets the requirements. This is based on current operating conditions.

After the database of lubricants has been created, it’s time to think about product consolidation. It is important to reduce the number of lubricants that are used in the plant while maintaining adequate lubrication for all machines. This consolidation should identify products that are similar, lubricants with similar specifications, machines that can use multi-purpose lubricants, and when it’s practical to use a better quality lubricant.

This allows you to create a consolidated list with all the equipment requirements for each product. Next, you will need to create specifications for each lubricant. If possible, information should be classified by product family. This means that all lubricants with similar properties, but different viscosity grades, should be listed. A lubricant specification should be prepared for any lubricant that has special properties for a particular application.

These specifications can be created by several departments, including engineering, maintenance, and purchasing. Access to manuals and specifications on lubricants, as well as knowledge of lubrication, will be necessary. When internal resources are scarce, expert outsourcing support is available.

Remember that specifications and the database of lubricants must be updated when there are new products or equipment changes. A system review should be done on an annual basis. This system could be part of a larger lubricant selection effort, as shown above.

Lubricant specifications can be used to guide the selection and use of the correct lubricants for the right applications. These documents can not only ensure that quality products are purchased at the lowest possible price but can also guide lubricant suppliers and improve lubricant management and cost reduction at all levels of your company.

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