How to choose the right oil for your machine

When it comes to servicing your equipment properly, it feels like there are just so many options. In fact, recent developments in lubrication offerings have yielded significant improvements in terms of performance, work hours, and overall uptime. But as the science progresses and new products are available, conventional wisdom is being challenged.

Let’s explore different types of oils available and identify what to use in your hardworking equipment, from work trucks to irrigation pivots to tractors.

Hydraulic vs. Engine Oil

Both of these lubricants will find a home on any ag operation, and it’s key to know where and when they work best.

Engine oils

Everyone knows the unique feeling of starting up a sluggish engine on a cold winter morning—or running it in overdrive on a blistering summer day. In both cases, having a good oil coursing through your system will save the day.

Choose from conventional, partial or full synthetic options for your gas and diesel engines. A high-quality engine oil should be carefully selected to complement the type of vehicle or machine, working conditions and relevant performance and emissions requirements.

Hydraulic oils

For equipment that packs a punch, it’s important to select products that help transmit power when and where you need it, whether you’re driving a high-capacity sprayer or operating a fully loaded skid steer.

Agriculture equipment has evolved to work harder and do more (24-row planters, anyone?) and because of these increased demands, operators should invest in oils with high durability and demulsibility to match the sophistication of today’s tools.

Basic Factors to Consider When Selecting Oil

Oil additives. As lubricant science advances, new additives are developed that enhance performance. Today’s engine and hydraulic oils now feature helpful extras such as viscosity index improvers, detergents, dispersants, antioxidants and corrosion inhibitors.

Viscosity. Choosing the right weight oil can be surprisingly controversial in some circles. However, the SAE number on all those bottles can direct you to the product that will flow at ultra-low temperatures yet protect when things get hot. ISO is another viscosity classification, frequently used with hydraulic oils.

Filters. Engines and hydraulic systems have different filter needs. While hydraulic filters tend to be more robust due to the need to stand up to increased pressure, oil filters are finer to trap more contaminants. Depending on your application, filter needs will vary.

Oil & Work Hours

To keep equipment in top shape, recommended service intervals are developed by manufacturers. However, as lubricants have evolved, so have those recommendations—although it’s tough for some to accept these gains.

“Sometimes I’m talking to three generations of operators and they’re still changing oil in tractors every 100 hours, because that’s what grandpa did,” says Devin Nagel, 21st Century Equipment’s Bulk Oil Supervisor. “But with the additive packages and the technology today, operators are able to really boost service intervals.”

Devin’s correct. Today’s lubricants feature service intervals that can be many multiples of what there were a few decades ago. The factors that add up to extended uptime include oil quality, working conditions, operator behavior, and equipment type.

Be sure to consult manuals for advice, since service times will vary between equipment types. Perform any service on schedule as required to maintain warranties.

21st Century Equipment Tip: Consider having a diagnostic oil scan to doublecheck performance. Your local 21st Century Equipment team can help.

Equipment to Have on Hand

When you’re talking about maintaining farm and ranch equipment, uptime matters—especially during the busy season. Make sure you have what you need to stay in working shape.

Here’s a list:

  • Hydraulic and engine oils for your equipment in quantity
  • New oil filters
  • New drain plugs, crush washers, or rubber gasket
  • Tank assemblies
  • Reels
  • Pump options
  • Storage tanks for spent oil
  • Safety gloves
  • Drain pans
  • Towels

21st Century Equipment Tip: If you’re using more than two drums of oil per year, consider participating in a bulk oil program. Plus, stop in to your local 21st Century Equipment location to check out sales on these items.

Ask for Advice—We’re Happy to Help

As the lubricant industry has matured and developed niche products, there are recommendations for different equipment operating in different conditions.

  • Don’t just buy your average engine oil or hydraulic oil—find the best possible product.
  • The cost of a premium product translates into more work hours, less downtime, and more protection.

21st Century Equipment staff are experts on matching your oil needs to your equipment, plus a range of OEM oils in stock, including Plus-50™ II Premium Engine Oil, Hy-Gard™ Transmission and Hydraulic Oil, and Turf-Gard™ Multi-Viscosity 4-Cycle Motor Oil.

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