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Overview of Lubricating Grease

Grease is used to lubricate moving parts, usually where metal rubs against metal. It's made to be thick so that it will stay put in places where it would be difficult to keep thinner oil next to moving parts or where oil could leak out, as in automotive wheel bearings and ball joints.


Grease has two main ingredients--

  1. A lubricant that combats friction
  2. A thickener, which gives the grease the consistency that will hold it in place next to moving parts

Often, a grease product also includes some other ingredient that will improve its performance in a particular application.

Grease being applied





What the Letters Mean


NLGI grease label showing LB NLGI grease label showing GC


Grease packaging may display the code GC-LB, meaning that it meets the most demanding test standards for both chassis and wheel bearings. Grease products displaying this highest rating meet OEM requirements.


Grease Viscosity

Automotive grease package displaying grease viscosity rating

Grease is produced in a range of viscosities, or thicknesses, and each grease type is given a numerical rating to indicate its thickness. The most common categories are 0 to 6, with 0 being the softest- nearly a liquid- and 6 being the hardest, like the consistency of a firm cheese. Most grease is rated at 2, a consistency that is similar to peanut butter.





Biobased Grease

The part of grease that provides lubrication can be made from petroleum or from plants (biobased). Oil derived from plants is friendlier to the environment than oil made from petroleum because plant-based oils are renewable and non-toxic. Both types mix freely with each other so you can easily switch between the two.


Note: To determine if one kind of grease is compatible with another type, you must consider what kind of base it uses as well as the type of oil. See grease compatibility table, below.

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Choosing the Right Grease for the Job

Note: Be sure to check owner's manuals for lubrication recommendations. Manufacturers often specify which type of grease should be used for their products, especially if they recommend using grease that contains an extra additive.


Multi-Purpose Grease

Multi-purpose grease tub container

This is a general-purpose grease for the home, farm and shop. Use it for car chassis and U-joints, farm equipment, industrial machinery, and anywhere metal contacts metal. If you're using standard multi-purpose grease, be sure to follow the recommended change intervals.



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White Lithium Grease

Lithium grease cartridge

Zinc is added to this general-purpose grease, giving it a white color so you can easily see it. You can tell when all the old grease has been replaced in a fitting because it will come out dark, whereas the new grease will look clean and white. Use it wherever you would use a general-purpose grease and want to be absolutely certain that you have applied it thoroughly.



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Moly EP Grease

EP Moly grease cartridge

This grease contains molybdenum disulfide (often refered to as "moly") for better performance than general-purpose grease when metal parts are under high loads or extreme pressure (hence the name "EP"). It's intended to be used on parts where sliding motions are encountered, in sleeve-journal rotating shafts, for example. Use it to lubricate car chassis parts such as ball joints and U-joints, as well as farm equipment and industrial machinery.




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Disc/Drum Wheel Bearing Grease

Wheel bearing grease tub container

This grease is formulated specifically to lubricate automotive wheel bearings, which turn at high speed. In addition, grease for wheel bearings will tolerate the heat created by your brakes, which work by friction. That heat can be transmitted to your wheel bearings. This grease can also be used for general-purpose lubrication.



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LMX Red

LMX Red grease cartridge

This is heavy-duty, premium grease for the toughest lubricating jobs on the biggest, heaviest equipment. It performs better under higher pressures and temperatures than standard multi-purpose grease, and it resists water better. Because it resists water and sticks in place well, this grease will work on external parts that are exposed to the weather. It provides premium protection for car, truck and trailer wheel bearings (especially trailers that are heavily loaded), U-joints, farm equipment, and industrial machinery.



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Marine Wheel Bearing Grease

Marine wheel bearing grease tub container

This grease is formulated for enhanced ability to resist water that could cause corrosion. Use it especially to lubricate wheel bearings on boat trailers, or for anything that is used where it could get wet. Besides lubricating bearings, this grease works on swivel hinges, winches, anchor chain reels, steering cables and gimbal bearings.



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Grease Compatibility

Not all types of thickeners are compatible with each other. When replenishing old grease, you should try to use a type with either the same kind of thickener or one that is compatible. If you don't know what kind of grease you're replacing, try to clean out the old grease, if possible. If you can't get the old grease out of a fitting, then put in enough new grease to push out as much of the old stuff as you can. You will find the information you need about the kind of base used in your grease somewhere on the label or packaging. The manufacturer may refer to the base as "base", "thickener" or "soap".

Grease container label pointing out base specification

The following table shows the compatibility of different grease bases:


Base Type
Base
Type
Aluminum
Complex
Barium
Complex
Calcium
Stearate
Calcium
12-Hydroxystearate
Calcium
Complex
Calcium Sulfonate
Complex
Bentonite
Clay
Lithium
Stearate
Lithium
12-Hydroxystearate
Lithium
Complex
Polyurea
(Conventional)
Polyurea
(LUB-LM Type)
Aluminum
Complex
NoNoYesNoNoNoNoNoYesNoYes
Barium
Complex
NoNoYesNoYesNoNoNoNoNoNo
Calcium
Stearate
NoNoYesNoYesYesYesNoYesNoYes
Calcium
12-Hydroxystearate
YesYesYesNoNoYesYesYesYesNoYes
Calcium
Complex
NoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoYesYesYes
Calcium Sulfonate
Complex
NoYesYesNoNoNoNoNoYesNoYes
Bentonite
Clay
NoNoYesYesNoNoNoNoNoNoNo
Lithium
Stearate
NoNoYesYesNoNoNoYesYesNoYes
Lithium
12-Hydroxystearate
NoNoNoYesNoNoNoYesYesNoYes
Lithium
Complex
YesNoYesYesYesYesNoYesYesNoYes
Polyurea
(Conventional)
NoNoNoNoYesNoNoNoNoNoYes
Polyurea
(LUB-LM Type)
YesNoYesYesYesYesNoYesYesYesYes






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Miss H.

9/2/2020

Hi.. Can you please tell me if John Deere SD polyurea grease is compatible with Stay Lube.moly graphite. Thank you

Etrailer Expert

Jon G.

9/3/2020

From what I could find it looks like the Sta-Lube Moly Graph grease is a Lithium grease which according to our chart is not compatible with Polyurea grease.

Miss H.

9/3/2020

Thank you.. :)

Giuseppe

8/20/2020

My mechanic added some synthetic grease with non-synthetic grease when he did a lube to my car. Can you mix synthetic with non-synthetic grease when you do a lube? Will that cause any damage? Thanks.

Etrailer Expert

Jon G.

8/28/2020

When we determine grease compatibility we go by the chart found in this article. Greases can be a little finicky so it's always recommended to clean all of the grease out if you aren't replacing it with the exact same thing. Basically you'll need to figure out what grease you had and what grease they used. Compare those with our chart to see if they work together or not.

Giuseppe

8/29/2020

@JonG The only thing that I know is that the grease that was inside the grease boots -- like the boots of the upper and lower ball joints, tie rods, etc., was dark brown, and he added just a little bit of a red synthetic grease. I read that if you mix conventional grease with synthetic grease the grease inside the booths will liquefy or hardens, thus, hampering any protection to the ball joints and tie rods. So, who's right? Thank you.
Etrailer Expert

Jon G.

9/3/2020

@Giuseppe If there were 2 different greases used then I would try to make sure they are compatible with each other. Like I mentioned earlier some greases are compatible and some aren't. If you are comparing them by color alone that isn't always the best way. If you think it is wrong then I'd speak with your mechanic about it.


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