As an auto mechanic, I can’t imagine any car on the road without grease. Greases are essential in our homes, cars, vehicles, and other commercial applications. Most applications in our homes, cars, and automobiles need bearings to run smoothly. And there’s always grease in at least 90% of every bearing.
Using grease to lubricate axles and wheels became paramount shortly after the invention of wheels. Ever since the invention of wheels, there have been several greases in the market for appropriate lubrication. But what is Lithium grease?
Lithium grease is the most common and popular grease worldwide. They are greases made with lithium-based soap, which has excellent water and high-temperature resistance. Also, lithium grease is bigger than all the other greases together.
This article will explain what lithium greases are, what they are made of, their applications, pros and cons, and the differences between regular and lithium greases.
What is lithium grease?
Greases are composed of performance additives (5 to 10%), base oil (80 to 90%), and thickener (10 to 15%). The total grease in the global market consists of polyurea, clay-based, sodium, calcium, calcium sulfonate, aluminum/aluminum complex, lithium/lithium complex, etc.
Lithium-based grease is the most popular and commonly used grease in the globe. Lithium grease for bearings and other applications accounts for 75% of all grease worldwide. It has high-temperature resistance and superb water resistance. Lithium has displaced the traditional calcium and sodium-based greases with this percentage.
Technically, one vehicle requires several greases to apply in different areas, which increases the need to purchase different greases for one vehicle. And there has always been a need to minimize the number of greases to use in a vehicle, which leads to multipurpose grease like lithium-based grease.
However, there are two types of Lithium grease; White and red lithium grease. The main difference is the ingredients used in production. The manufacturers add zinc oxide to the formulation of the white lithium grease, which is used for moderate load applications. But what is lithium grease made of, anyway?
What is lithium grease made of?
The lithium grease is formulated with three essential components, which include;
- Performance additives
- Base oil
- Thickener system.
Base oil is a lubricating fluid; the thickener is used to disperse the fluid into a gel form, and the additive augments the performance and protection. The base oil can be synthetic or mineral oils or a blend of mineral and synthetic oil.
The base oil accounts for 75 to 98% of entire compounds used in production, while the thickener systems and performance additives account for 2 to 20% and 0 to 10%, respectively.
Lithium grease applications
Most folks often ask what lithium grease is best for due to its wide applications. It is essential in the automotive industry and other applications as a multi-purpose grease. Lithium grease can be used in the following applications;
- Bearing units & Bearings
- Seat Tracks & Latches
- Distributor Cams
- Battery Terminals
- Gear Lubrication
- Chassis Lubrication in Vehicles
- Multipurpose Lubricant for Operating Temperature Not Exceeding 130 degrees Centigrade
- Radio Antenna Aerials
- Strikes Plates
- Windshield Wiper Mechanism
- Car Locks & Door Hinches
- CV Joints.
The CV joints in cars usually use more grease than other parts of the vehicle. The CV (constant velocity) joint connects the drive wheels to the transmission using the drive shaft. It transfers torque from the transmission to the wheels to keep the vehicle in motion while maintaining a constant speed.
Pros of lithium grease
- It features good low-temperature properties
- Excellent for water resistance
- Excellent storage stability
- Superb shear stability
- Excellent anti-wear & load properties with EP additives
- Long service life
- Suitable for extreme pressures
- Smooth buttery structure
- Suitable for multipurpose applications
- Superb thermal stability
- Needs anti-corrosive additive
- It has lower water resistance compared to calcium grease
- Has less adhesion. Therefore, not suitable for reciprocating or sliding applications
- Its dropping point of 190 to 200 degrees centigrade is low for most high-temperature applications
- Costly due to the raw material and cost of production.
What is the main difference between lithium grease and regular grease?
The major difference between lithium grease and regular grease is that lithium grease is used in domestic applications while standard grease is mainly utilized in industrial applications. This is because regular grease, especially clay-based grease, can withstand high heat and extreme temperatures. No one wants their grease to turn into an inferno in industrial settings due to the high heat and extreme temperature.
Lithium grease, on the other hand, is a multipurpose grease suitable for automobiles and home applications. It can, at least, be used to create some hair products for beauty queens, get rid of rust, loosen up hinges, apply in CV joints, and many more.
However, it is important to note that several greases are classified as regular grease as there are many forms of greases in the market. So if you are wondering about the difference between Lithium grease vs. Silicone, you are not alone.
The differences between Silicone and lithium grease lie in their formation. Since lithium grease is petroleum-based, it is resistant to pressure and heat. This makes it excellent for applications that need grease that is resistant to pressure and heat.
Silicone grease, on the other hand, is rubber-based, making it suitable for everyday applications. Silicone grease is best for home applications such as sliding windows, door hinges, and greasing plumbing fixtures. Lithium grease is vastly used in heavy-duty applications like the automotive, aviation, and aerospace industries.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs
Q: What should you not use lithium grease on?
Lithium-based grease is manufactured with 75 to 98% of petroleum-based oil, making it suitable for automotive and machinery. However, you should not use lithium grease on plastic and rubber surfaces. Applying them on plastic or rubber surface will lead to accelerated component wear.
Also, lithium grease should not be applied to electrical connections because it is not an electrical insulator and will not carry an electric charge. Instead, you should apply dielectric grease on electrical wires and connectors.
Q: Is WD-40 the same as lithium grease?
No. WD-40 and lithium grease are not the same. However, white lithium and WD-40 are the two most common degreasers used in many household applications, and both of them share their pros and cons.
Lithium grease is a thick, heavy-duty lubricant suitable for extreme pressures and temperatures. It is best for moving or sliding parts, such as drawer slides and door hinges. It is also best for metal-to-metal applications, garage door openers, bicycles, and hinges.
On the other hand, WD-40 is a light-penetrating oil used to lose rust and corrosion. It is used to loosen stuck bolts and nuts and remove build-ups and grime from surfaces.
Q: What Colour is lithium grease?
Most lithium-based grease is white or whitish. In the past, greases typically have the same color, especially sodium and calcium-based grease. Today, things have changed. There are white, blue, black, brown, and red lithium greases.
Q: How long does lithium grease last?
Lithium grease, if used on the right application, will last for the longest period of time. If, however, you apply it on the wrong application, such as using it on electrical connections or wires, it’ll cause damage. But if you apply it on metal-to-metal surfaces, sliding or moving objects, or heavy-duty applications, it’ll retain its adhesion for over 12 months.
Q: Can I mix lithium grease with regular grease?
The general rule with all greases is – don’t mix, but you can change if necessary. For instance, most car components use lithium-based grease, and if, for any reason, you want to use your vehicle for offroading, switching from lithium-based to calcium marine grease will be beneficial. Since greases are formulated with different additives, it’s not a good idea to mix them because they can cause a reaction in the system.
Q: What grade is lithium grease?
Lithium grease is not assigned to grades the same way motor oils are. Instead, greases are classified based on National Lubricating Grease Institute (NLGI) consistency number, which ranges from 000 to 6, with the highest number indicating greater stiffness. Typically, Lithium grease falls between 1 and 3.
Q: Is lithium grease thick?
Lithium grease provides a thick grease coat, does not melt, run or freeze, and creates long-lasting, heavy-duty lubrication. The Lithium-based lubricant is formulated with high-quality base oils and a thickener system. Though lithium grease is thick, it is not the thickest grease on the market.
Finally, Why is it called lithium grease?
If you have been reading to this point, you’ll no longer ask what is lithium grease because the previous sections have explained what it is, its pros and cons, and several other things. But why is it called lithium grease anyway?
It is called lithium grease because it contains lithium-based soap as a thickening agent. Lithium soap is used in formulating lithium grease due to its excellent properties, such as shear stability, high melting points, and compatibility with other additives.