Wire ropes are core elements of crane operation and heavy lifting requirements. Such assets are regularly utilised in highly corrosive conditions, including salty air, high humidity, around acid or alkaline fluids, and within fume-heavy environments.

These locations can cause considerable degradation to wire ropes, and lubrication is crucial to increase longevity. Indeed, failing to address this can cause a significant shortening of the lifetime of the crucial piece of equipment and a host of health and safety issues.

Safe lubrication of wire ropes, chains and cables

Wire ropes are generally treated with lubrication when manufactured. However, this has a finite lifespan, meaning that effective operation requires the regular application of an additional lube product. Some wire ropes have an internal fibre core that can drain or release the lubricant as the rope bends and flexes. Others don’t – but both kinds need ongoing lubrication for optimal operation.

Whether they contain a central fibre core or not, it’s important to know that wire ropes typically fail from the inside out, meaning that observation alone won’t suffice for a condition check. Only regular lubrication will ensure that the internal structures retain their integrity. This makes your choice of lubrication crucial for safe operation and getting the maximum lifespan from the equipment.

The right type of lubrication should be:

  • Acid and alkaline-free
  • Able to penetrate between the tightly wound fibres and strands of the rope
  • Resistant to oxidation and water ingress
  • Have high fluid film strength
  • Able to remain pliable under all conditions

It’s important to understand the difference between penetrating and coating lubrication:

  • Penetrating lubricant: This utilises a solvent that allows the lube to penetrate to the core of the rope, ensuring that it lubricates between every strand and fibre. Once applied, the solvent evaporates to leave only the film of lubrication.
  • Coating lubricant: As the name suggests, this coats the top surface only – although it will penetrate to some extent. It effectively seals the outside of the rope and protects it from corrosive elements and water, slowing down the formation of rust and the breakdown of the rope’s integrity.

In addition to providing solid lubrication, a good product should also be environmentally friendly. As well as being created with environmental responsibilities in mind, it’s important to account for the times when lubricant might drip from the asset. This can occur during use and during transportation. Choosing a biodegradable option means that these common events pose no hazard to the environment.

When and how to lubricate wire ropes

Asset maintenance schedules should include regular lubrication of wire ropes. This will ensure that the ultimate longevity is achieved and prevents the risk of unnoticed rust or corrosion posing a safety issue. 

The length of time between inspections and lubrication will be influenced by the frequency of use and the conditions surrounding it. As a rule of thumb, lubrication should be carried out simultaneously as regular visual safety checks to ensure optimal performance and safety.

There are different ways to apply lubrication, depending on the individual application.

  • Drip, spray or trough method: Can be used for ropes that move through machinery. The lubricant is pooled in a single location, and the rope moves through it, therefore ensuring smooth application along the whole length. When it comes to a trough application, this unit might be pressurised, so pushing the lube into the rope as it passes through.
  • Manual spray or brush application: Suitable for static ropes. Take care to remove any excess to reduce the risk of contaminations sticking to the lubricant.

Choosing the right lubricant is essential for optimal use. The Chesterton 650 AML has been designed with compatibility, quality and environmental considerations. In addition to offering exceptional penetration, the lubrication is self-cleaning, has low friction properties and offers high load and pressure capabilities. It’s produced using the latest in ester technology, making it biodegradable and kind to the environment. It’s also NSF H1 certified and free from any animal fats, oils and animal-derived by-products.

This sponsored editorial was brought to you by Chesterton. To learn more about the Chesterton 650 AML Advanced Machinery Lubricant and other high-performing industrial lubricants, visit https://chestertonlubricants.chesterton.com/en-us/Products/Pages/650.aspx

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