The Top 8 Lubricants You Shouldn’t Use on Your Industrial Pneumatic Vibrator

Glen Roberts
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We often have customers send our products back to us for routine maintenance checks and addressing any functionality problems that they may be experiencing. Recently, one of our customers sent us their 1350 VMS impact vibrator that is being used on a railcars to unload dry cement. We typically recommend a light-weight 10 weight oil be used with our vibrators and in the pictures below, you can see that our customer used grease. This is for sure a major no-no and will only lead to premature failure of the vibrator. Our air piston vibrators carry fairly tight tolerance between the piston O.D. and the body I.D.. This tolerance can be as small as tenths of a thousand to just a few thousands. If you add anything to the air stream that changes that tolerances, you may affect performance of the vibrator.

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(Photos of 1350 VMS Piston Vibrator returned to Cleveland Vibrator)

The VIBRA-LUBE MXR-12 that we recommend using will create an air mist or fog for keeping the vibrator lubricated but isn’t thick or heavy enough to change the tolerance of the vibrator. The lighter oil will also allow foreign matter and impurities to pass through the piston ports, pass around the piston, and exit through the exhaust ports. It is very important to not partially block a porting hole or create build up between the piston and bore, as it will end up jamming the vibrator, leading to product failure in the field. The heavier lubricants would have a tendency to trap foreign matter in the ports and around the piston.

There are many types of lubricants used in the industry and some can be used in multiple applications but in my opinion not when it comes to air vibrators. They may seem to work for the short term but will cause more harm then good in the long haul. Over the years I’ve seen folks use many types of lubricants in air vibrators to include the following:

  1. Grease of several different types
  2. LPS
  3. Kerosene.
    (Yes, you read right, I said kerosene.)
  4. 30 Weight and Heavier Motor Oil
  5. WD40
  6. Penetrating Oil
  7. Hard to imagine but totally true, Graphite Spray
    (Which isn’t too bad if you could bake it in the bore)
  8. And my favorite… Straight WATER!

I was ask a few years ago if the vibrators would run on water. I would believe that most of us have been in that situation where you are ready to use something such as a lawnmower, and it calls for an oil gas mix. You may not have the manual handy on the oil gas mix and simply guess, or you don’t have the factory suggested oil, so you look around and find a quart of 30 weight PENN-OIL you’ve had in you garage since 1965 and figure oil is oil and how different can it be? I mean, hey, if it works for Arnold Palmer in his John Deere tractor, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work in a little old lawn mower… Probably after three hours of pulling on the starter rope and arm almost falling off, you will have thought, “Maybe I should have read the instructions or taken the time to purchase the correct oil.” Lesson, learned. 

To help our customer achieve successful results and run our products at top notch performance, we have added the VIBRA-LUBE to many of our vibrator kits at part of the startup to help with proper lubrication at the beginning. We normally recommend the 10W/NR as our standard, but there are others for extreme cold conditions, food service safety grade and many others that fit whatever application our product will be used for. 

It’s best to consult us before you go about greasing up your industrial vibrators. With proper greasing, you can extend the longevity of the product substantially, but with haphazard methods, perhaps just accept that the vibrator will experience failure sometime down the line. Please never hesitate to reach out to a member of the Cleveland Vibrator Team, we are here to help and are happy to!

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Glen Roberts

Glen Roberts

Glen Roberts started at The Cleveland Vibrator Company in 1968 and except for two years of military service have been, he has been part of the family atmosphere for over 40 years. During that period, Glen was trained in our machine shop to learn finishing, polishing, honing, assembly, and shipping as well as working in order processing department. Glen was promoted to several supervisory positions such as lead man, foreman, general foreman, plant manager, and vice president of manufacturing. He has also worked in purchasing, estimating, inventory control and research and development. Currently, Glen is assigned to vibrator sales, quality control and customer service. He is also a proficient weekend duffer in golf. Glen enjoys tinkering, trying to fix things and improvising ways to do so. Glen enjoys helping folks especially his customers and learning from each one of them.
2 Responses to The Top 8 Lubricants You Shouldn’t Use on Your Industrial Pneumatic Vibrator
  1. Marty Reply

    We have a 1400-SI style installed. After a few hours of use the solenoid started sticking. There was a lot of lubricant on the floor below the exhaust of the solenoid.

    The solenoid manufacturer (AAA) said we should not be using oil with their solenoid, but surely you’ve had hundreds of these work fine. Could we have been using too much oil or possibly the wrong oil and ruined the solenoid seals?

    • Marty Reply

      Also,
      Is there a manual for the Lubro-Control 3/4″ that came with the kit? I’d like to know how to turn down the oiling rate.

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