How to Clean and Lubricate Chains to Extend Lifespan
Drive chains in hot extreme environments require special treatment for longevity
Looking through my recent posts I have realised that Lubrication has been light as a subject matter, so here goes with a post on one of the most basic but often critical parts in production... the humble roller chain.
Chains are so well made today that we are really spoilt and that may be part of the problem! They tend to get changed out either when they break or they wear the chain and sprockets out; in the past I have seen zero teeth sprockets and the chain still intact!
This occurs in environments where operator inspections are low or non existent or due to lack of training and insufficient access. Usually my first comment to a client looking at improving Lubrication is to get your front line staff involved, this helps in fostering ownership, and redesign the guards so we can at least see the chain in operation. There's a lot you can pick up just from obsevation, tight links, dry chains, alignment issues, over heating and stretching are just a few.
With a little training from Uptime Consultant all these issues becomes obvious, it can often pay back straight away with issues being identified and rectified before more future unplanned failures.
Anyway, let's look at chain lubrication. Imagine a chain in an ideal environment, it would be working at a reasonable temperature, aligned from drive to drive, immersed in a bath of oil in a nice clean tank. Unfortunately chains more often than not have to work in hot, dusty, damp environments under heavy loads; so we need to take care when fitting a new chain or lubricating a used one.
If a chain needs renewal then this YouTube video from Inteflon is a great tool to explain the ideal procedure for precision maintenance:
I train this technique in my Lubrication program and it's striking how even experienced engineers or technicians learn from this.
Chains usually sit for years in suppliers stock before purchase by a customer, it may take months or years then for this to be required and fitted. Chain manufacturers take this into account and coat the plates, pins and rollers in thick protective oils, these are not lubricating oils and certainly will not be correct for the end use. This protection needs to be cleaned off as the video shows, if not it will varnish and lead to excessive chain wear especially if the chain is in an extreme environment, like a baking oven or hot oil fryer.
Try this experiment with a length of new chain, take two pieces the same length and degrease one length, then compare the flexibility them, you will find more movement in the clean chain; the protection has been washed out leaving room for your specified lubricant. When the chain has been soaked and treated with the correct oil it will now be providing lubrication to those pins, rollers and plates extending the chain and sprocket life.
If you would like to talk about plans for your Lubrication strategy or front line training then please get in touch by giving me a call or dropping me an email.
I can also help with BRC and AIB audits as I have comprehensive knowledge of Food Safe Lubricants including their correct storage, application and safe disposal.
Thanks for reading.