what's new in: Automatic lubes

May 1, 2006
If you've never looked into an automatic lubrication system for your fleet, you may be missing out on an effective way of cutting your maintenance costs. The manufacturers of automatic lubrication systems (ALS) say one reason truck owners don't install them on their fleets is simply because they are unaware of the products and the benefits they offer. Also, the OEs note that compared to earlier products

If you've never looked into an automatic lubrication system for your fleet, you may be missing out on an effective way of cutting your maintenance costs. The manufacturers of automatic lubrication systems (ALS) say one reason truck owners don't install them on their fleets is simply because they are unaware of the products and the benefits they offer. Also, the OEs note that compared to earlier products on the market, today's systems are practically bullet-proof, so if you haven't investigated ALS in awhile, take another look.

On-board chassis and trailer lubrication for the North American mobile market is a relatively young concept. However, the manufacturers of these systems say they have been working hard to educate the industry about the systems' benefits, and point out that enhanced products are now available as a result of experience in the marketplace.

Direct advantages include savings on the cost of grease (Groeneveld customers have reported up to 25% less grease consumed), since an ALS dispenses just the right amount needed to keep components lubricated without waste. ALS also reduces vehicle downtime and all the costs associated with it, and eliminates the possibility of missing key lubrication points that could ultimately result in failed components.

There are also a number of less tangible but equally important benefits, Lubriquip notes, such as the elimination of safety hazards that arise when technicians manually lube components. A fleet can also do away with some of the environmental hazards as a result of over-greasing and spilled grease dripping onto the shop floor.

Groeneveld urges fleets to consider the problem of attracting and keeping good technicians as well. New technicians coming into the industry, the company points out, have higher expectations of the job skills required of them. But aside from that, it just isn't cost-efficient to use highly trained licensed technicians to perform simple lube jobs when they could be doing other important things, like downloading electronic engine data that could be used to analyze and improve vehicle/driver performance.

Automatic lubrication systems are designed to lube all critical components while the chassis is in motion. They are set on a timer or control device that activates them at specific intervals, and meters grease according to the requirements of individual components. The intervals will vary depending on conditions under which the trucks are run in any particular fleet application.

Most ALS run on a fluid grease (double-lot grease) that is lithium-based. Lubriquip says fluid grease has better lubrication powers because it contains more oil and less abrasive solids. The OE offers the truck market several products, including Grease Jockey automatic lubrication systems, which are available for tractors and trailers. It also manufactures the RoadWarrier line of auto lube systems, designed specifically for trucks with fewer number of lube points, including Class 3-6 vehicles.

Groeneveld offers several automatic grease system options for transport vehicles. One is a single-line, EP-0 grease system designed to lubricate all grease points on a tractor chassis simultaneously with the correct amount of grease. According to the manufacturer, the grease reservoir is large enough that it does not have to be refilled in between oil changes, even for fleets running on extended oil drains. An over-the-road highway tractor system would normally grease itself every two hours.

Also available from Groeneveld is an automated grease system called CompAlube, which is designed specifically for use on trailers. This is an all-in-one system, that includes a pump, reservoir and metering device all built into one unit. Whereas the tractor system meters according to vehicle operating time, the company explains, the trailer system works off the number of brake applications. Instead of bringing a trailer into the shop for greasing, drivers can deliver fresh grease to a unit that's been sitting in the yard idle for a period of time simply by applying the brakes the correct number of times, Groeneveld explains.

Fleets using the system, Groeneveld adds, have reported some very positive feedback. For example, they say brakes are lasting longer because the clevis pin — a connection between the brake chamber and the automatic slack adjuster — is constantly getting lubricated. They've also noticed a reduction in flat spots on tires because ABS works better, and fifth wheel operation is improved, making vehicles safer to operate, even in slippery conditions.

Lincoln Industrial Group has onboard automated lubrication systems with built-in controls available for tractors and trailers. The company says all its systems are capable of using standard NLGI #2 grease, which is less likely to leak out than fluid grease.

The Quicklub 203 for tractors features an electric pump with integrated timer and manual override. A data loger is available to download system information to a laptop computer or palm device via an infrared interface. The company says its automated lubrication systems can increase vehicle service intervals to 30,000 miles, and reports that several U.S. carriers have experienced a 200% to 500% increase in chassis component life using Lincoln ALS.

The Lincoln QLS401 is a smaller version of the Quicklub 203 and is suitable for applications that require fewer lubrication points. For over-the-road trailers the manufacturer also offers the QLS 421, which features a unique controller card that keeps track of the time a trailer is in use by monitoring its vibration and delivering the precise amount of lubrication the trailer requires, when it's needed, by using the power of the trailer's brake lights.

Interlube also offers an automatic lubrication system called the XGS, which the company says is designed to provide reliable and virtually maintenance-free service. The XGS pump is suitable for use with a wide range of lubricants from SAE 80 oil up to and including NLGI grade 2 grease. The control unit on the XGS lubrication system has a manual override button that allows technicians to do occasional checks of system operation.


As an alternative to fully automatic lubrication systems, other companies like Vogel Lubrication and Bijur offer what's called centralized lubrication systems, which have the main advantage of being much less costly. These systems enable fleets to simplify maintenance by lubricating multiple points on a vehicle through a single apparatus.

The Vogel KFU system consists of an electrically operated gear pump, a digital control unit, a pressure switch and piston distributors. When activated by the digital controller, the pump delivers grease through a main line to the piston distributors, which in turn deliver the grease to the lubrication points.

The ChassisCare system from Bijur lets fleets maximize the time of their maintenance staff by letting them grease a truck or a trailer from one convenient location, the manufacturer reports. All lubrication points are routed to a central block and greased via a grease gun. Technicians can route as many as 12 points to each lubrication block.

Bijur points out the advantages of a centralized lubrication system are many, including being a time-saver for maintenance technicians and drivers. ChassisCare, the company reports, cuts the time spent lubricating a truck from 40 to about 5 minutes. When multiplied by a large number of fleet vehicles, the savings really add up.

The manufacturer also notes proper lubrication is vital to the effectiveness of air brakes, with improper lubrication leading to excess wear in the bushing area, which can increase brake output and reduce brake lining and drum life. Proper lubrication is also critical for other components, as well, such as truck and trailer wheel ends, king pins, slack adjusters and tie rods, according to Bijur.

ChassisCare is sold as a kit, with all hardware and accessories needed for installation included. While ChassisCare systems are primarily manual, the company does offer an automatic add-on kit for fleets who are interested.

A centralized chassis lubrication system called Centro-Matic is also available from Lincoln Industrial Group. This single-line parallel system is available for use with both grease and oil, the company notes.








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