Grease Brakes? (Lithium, Bearing and High Temp Grease Check)

Most machines require greasing for lubrication. However, recent developments in machine design have influenced grease requirements, causing many types of grease to flood the market. Therefore, it is safe to know the type of grease you need for your machinery.

So, can you use lithium grease on brakes? You should not use lithium grease on brakes as they easily react with the seals and damage them. In addition, lithium grease is not resistant to high temperatures. Hence, using it on your brakes will cause it to melt and drain off at high temperatures, exposing the parts to possible damage due to high friction. Instead, use the red rubber grease, which is ideal for any rubber seal assembly.

Lithium grease is used worldwide for various purposes, but it has limitations. Read on to know whether you can use lithium grease on brakes.

You should not use lithium grease on brakes due to safety issues. Lithium will react with the rubber seals and plastic bushings and damage them, necessitating replacement for proper functionality.

In place of lithium grease, consider rubber grease, which works well with rubber seal assembly. In addition, lithium is a low-temperature grease. The brake system operates under high temperatures, and a low-temperature grease like lithium will melt and drain, leaving the metals to press against each other. Hence, while lithium grease can work on the drum brake hardware, you should not use it for the front brake system.

Despite the above limitations, lithium grease boasts water resistance, above-average temperature, adhesion to metallic surfaces, and non-corrosiveness. Unlike traditional sodium-based greases, lithium greases have better water resistance. 

Their solubility directly relates to that of the thickener in its manufacture. Hence, lithium grease will resist water absorption and washing. The grease can also stand high temperatures, given its drip temperature of 200 degrees. This makes it a suitable lubricant in the automotive industry.

Lithium grease has excellent adhesion to metallic surfaces. This means that if you apply lithium grease, it will stay there, saving your time as you do not have to reapply the grease. Also, as long as you use it on recommended materials, this grease is non-corrosive. The non-corrosiveness is due to the stability of the compound.

The above benefits of lithium grease make it a great pick for heavy metal-to-metal load applications. You can use the grease to lubricate the wheel bearings. Other automotive applications include gear lubrication, latches and seats, car doors and hinges, distributor cams, bearings, and bearing units.

Bearing Grease for Brakes

Wheels rotate at high speed, creating high friction. However, recent wheel designs in the market are more refined with low friction rates. This reduces the rate of wear, enhancing longevity. Still, the wheel bearing grease is necessary for smooth wheel movement and maintenance. Read on to determine whether you can use the bearing grease for brakes.

You can use bearing grease for brakes only if they are fully synthetic. Still, this is best if you focus on the slider pins. Any other oil in the grease will cause it to react with the rubber rings and make them swell, causing the pins to stick.

Given the above limitations of the bearing grease, a high-temperature synthetic brake lubricant is a perfect match for your brakes. You should also avoid copper grease as much as possible, which could negatively affect your brake performance.

The bearing grease combines several ingredients, including oil, soap, and additives. The oils in this mixture include synthetic, mineral, or vegetable. Soap thickens the oil in the mixture to attain a greasy consistency.

The soap in this mixture is non-detergent and anticorrosive. Some of the additives in the mixture include anti-corrosion, anti-wear, and water-resistant additives.  While the above are the major ingredients of bearing grease, each brand will incorporate different blends of ingredients.

As stated earlier, bearing grease is usable on brakes if it is fully synthetic. Unlike in the past, when only petroleum-based oil, mineral oil, was used in making this grease, you can also find synthetic oil in the bearing grease formulas. This is because of its affordability. Synthetic oil offers more benefits, including long life, low friction, and better heat resistance.

With the above said, there are different types of bearing grease. One of the common is the general multipurpose grease. This grease is made with calcium sulfonate and is usable on chassis components and drum brake wheel bearings.

The general multipurpose is water resistance, but its performance is lower under high temperatures. For this reason, avoid using this grease on high-temperature applications such as brakes.

Multipurpose grease

Another bearing grease is the high-temperature multipurpose grease. This grease is silicone based and, as the name suggests, suitable under high temperatures. Silicone in this grease majorly contributes to its workability under high temperatures. The high-temperature multipurpose grease will also perform well under low temperatures.

Other types of bearing grease are moly and marine grease. The moly grease contains molybdenum, which is an anti-wear additive. The grease is useful in wheels such as those made by Ford.

However, before application, check with your manufacturer for the specific grease they recommend on the wheels. As the name suggests, marine grease is ideal for automobiles dunked in water. This grease contains loads of water-resistant additives to ensure workability under these conditions.

While the above bearing greases have unique strengths, there can be a temptation to mix the greases to get a common grease with all the traits. However, it is better to play safe as this mixing may result in a total failure should you combine incompatible greases. Usually, this will happen as not all the soaps are compatible. Hence, mixing the grease will cause the soaps to separate from the oil, rendering your grease useless.

To ensure that the old grease does not mix with the new one, replace the grease. This replacement entails removing all the old grease before packing the new one in your wheel bearings.

Some of the liquids useful in cleaning the old grease include kerosene, turpentine, hot soapy water, brake cleaner, and paint thinner. If you have challenges removing the older grease, ensure that the replacement is the same as the one you are trying to clear. You can also use a gun to push the old grease during replacement.

High Temp Grease on Brakes

Heat is the main difference between the brake system’s lubrication requirements and that of the chassis and steering components. Brakes become hot in the course of operation, with the front brakes reaching hundreds of degrees with normal braking. This temperature can even escalate depending on the circumstances. Read on to determine if you can use high temp grease on brakes.

You can use high temp grease on brakes. This is because most grease will not hold in high-temperature environments, which will cause them to either melt or burn. This leaves the surfaces unprotected. Even worse, the melted grease can cause contamination to the brake linings if it runs off the calipers and drum hardware.

While the high temperature is a top consideration when selecting grease for your brakes, you should also consider the low temperatures. Grease with the wrong temperature range will become thick and slow down the operation at low temperatures. The above considerations have come with the move to automated brakes and brake calipers. 

Another reason you can use high temp grease on your brakes is its component benefits. Most ordinary multipurpose grease is usually petroleum-based. Petroleum lubricants are incompatible with plastic and rubber components on the brake system, and their interaction will wear them out.

Hence, avoid this grease from coming into contact with the rubber seals, brake caliper, and the internal parts of the master cylinder. Any contact will contaminate the brake system, requiring you to drain the entire system and replace major hydraulic components. Replacing the major systems in the hydraulic system, in this case, is necessary as the petroleum will cause the seal materials to swell and leak or rupture, causing fluid loss and eventual brake failure.

Given the above risks, you should stick to brake lubricants, specially made for the brake system and nothing else. The chemicals in brake lubricants are compatible with the system and seal materials and will not harm them.

Brake lubricant options

There are several types of brake lubricants. There are those made to lubricate the hardware and other mechanical parts. These lubricants have a high percentage of solids. The other brake lubricants are meant for the seals and other internal parts when assembling master cylinders, calipers, and wheel cylinders.

The hardware brake lubricant is usually high temp grease for lasting protection. These lubricants could be synthetic, or silicone based. Synthetic-based lubricants come in a tube, stick or paste forms with high solid content.

They also have friction-reducing agents such as graphite and molybdenum disulfide. Given their high staying power, moly and graphite will stay in place and power under high temperatures. Also, they will not attract dirt like ordinary greases, guaranteeing a long use time.

On the other hand, silicone-based grease is made for the wheel cylinder and caliper assembly. This is because silicone is an excellent plastic and rubber lubricant. The lubricant is compatible with the rubber compounds in the system.

Silicone works in the range of up to 400 degrees F. As such, it lacks the high temperature staying power. Also, it is a wet lubricant and can attract dirt. These features make it unsuitable for lubricating the metal-to-metal contact points in the system.

Another synthetic brake lubricant you can use is those containing polyalphaolefin (PAO) as the main ingredient. These lubricants are ideal for assembly work and offer quality rust protection hence suitable for brake systems operational in wet environments.

PAO lubricants can stand up to 600 degrees F; hence, also usable for external lubrication.  Regardless of the brake lubricant you use out of the above list, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations.

Applying brake lubricants

When applying brake lubricants, you should pay attention to the parts requiring lubrication. Generally, all mechanical components in the brake system that move, slide, rotate or receive pressure require greasing.

For instance, lubricate the caliper slides, bushings, and pins on a disc brake. You should also focus on the rear disc brakes, parking brake cables, and contact points within the caliper housing where the pads slide.

Based on the above arguments, you should note that lubricants only reduce wear and enhance smooth movement within the brake system. A lubricant is not an insulator against vibrations between the caliper pistons and disc brake pads. Lubricants do not suppress noise by adding masses like a shim around the sources. A lubricant will also not fill pitting on your brake slides.

One of the places you should avoid getting the grease on is the brake lining friction surface. This reiterates why you should not use low-temperature lubricants as they can melt, drain or foul the linings.

Contaminated pads will cause the brakes to pull on one side, and the only resolution will be replacing the fouled linings. While cleaning seems feasible, it is out of the question as the cleaners and solvents can equally affect the linings.

Lastly, since brakes are key safety elements, you should employ the following three steps when picking a brake lubricant. First, check that the package clearly highlights whether the grease is made for the brakes.

While some grease will state they are moly or silicone, they may not be suitable for your brakes. Second, check the temperature range of the lubricant with the brake grease to at least be able to handle over 400 degrees F. Third, check that there are no petroleum distillates.

Wrap Up

The brakes are essential safety parts of any automobile; therefore, proper maintenance is necessary. One of the ways to maintain your brakes is regular greasing. Unlike other automobile parts, brakes are sensitive, given the varying operational temperatures.

Also, the different materials in the system can react with grease, especially those made with unstable compounds. Hence, avoid lithium grease as its interaction with the seals will cause damage. Also, lithium grease is low temperature; hence, ineffective under high operating temperatures.

Bearing grease is usable on brakes only if it is synthetic, as petroleum will react with the seals and plastics on the brakes and damage them. This makes the high temperature grease the most convenient, as it can withstand high brake temperatures. Still, you should check the grease ingredients and whether the manufacturer indicates its use on the brake systems.

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