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When a lubricant manufacturer decides to update or develop a new lubricant for market, it begins by developing a lubricant specification. Built around a series of industry-defined parameters, performance standards and tests, this specification becomes a lubricant’s signature once it goes to market. Because it is intended to exhibit the product’s properties and characteristics, the specification appears in sales literature, data sheets, or related documents allowing the lubricant to be classified and compared to its competitors.

In reviewing such documents, industrial users involved in the selection or optimized application of lubricants can find themselves confronted by a multitude of possibly confusing terms related to a product’s properties and characteristics (sometimes referred to as “typical inspections”). For example, the typical properties of a single multi-purpose grease can include such items as “worked penetration,” “dropping point,” “viscosity,” “oil separation,” “wheel-bearing leakage,” “Timken OK load,” “four-ball wear test,” “water washout,” and “corrosion-prevention rating.” Each of these terms represents a specific laboratory test to which the lubricant has been subjected and, accordingly, resulted in a specific value. So, what do these terms really mean, and how important are they?


Two testing bodies are primarily referenced in lubricant specifications. The North American testing body is represented by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), while European and beyond interests are represented by the German National Institute for Standardization, Deutsches Institut für Normung, (DIN). The combined membership of both testing bodies represents approximately 95% of all countries worldwide.

Click on the following link to access a chart listing the most popular tests found on lubricant-specification sheets. This two-page document (in PDF format) is basically self-explanatory: The “Test Parameter” column provides the official test title; the “Test” column lists the official test number; the “Description” column includes a brief explanation of each test.



“Lubricant Test Chart”
Source: “Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities, Third Edition,”
By Kenneth Bannister, Heinz Bloch, Chapter Three, River Publishers




Lubricants are well-tested products that are tailored to perform in very specific conditions. Choosing the correct product for an application is not always easy. It’s best performed with the assistance of a lubrication-engineering professional, as part of a lubricant-consolidation process. This type of process is usually carried out during the initial stages of a site’s lubrication-management-program update or implementation..

Lubricant choice is essential for the well-being and effectiveness of your lubrication program and machine/bearing health. Moving forward, choose lubricant products with care to ensure they meet your needs.TRR




Ken Bannister has 40+ years of experience in the RAM industry. For the past 30, he’s been a Managing Partner and Principal Asset Management Consultant with Engtech industries Inc., where he has specialized in helping clients implement best-practice asset-management programs worldwide. A founding member and past director of the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada, he is the author of several books, including three on lubrication, one on predictive maintenance, and one on energy reduction strategies, and is currently writing one on planning and scheduling. Contact him directly at 519-469-9173 or



Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, lubricants, lubrication, oil, grease, lubricant tests, lubricant properties, lubricant application, American Society for Testing and Materials, ASTM, German National Institute for Standardization, Deutsches Institut für Normung, DIN