Lubricating final drives in heavy equipment: It pays to follow the right specifications

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Operators of heavy Caterpillar equipment in construction or mining need to be mindful of the lubricant specifications for different equipment types and applications. In particular, if you’re using a CAT TO-4 spec oil in the final drives of larger, heavier workload equipment – mining haul trucks, for instance – you should be thinking seriously about switching to a lubricant that meets the more stringent FD-1 spec.


A little background might be helpful here. The CAT TO-4 spec has long been the standard for clutch compatibility, particularly in transmissions and in wet brake systems. The amount of torque going through the transmission and the amount of torque resistance needed for the brakes require a fluid that enables the clutch materials in those systems to engage with each other. Caterpillar determined long ago that an engine oil was not adequate for the torque transfer requirements of these components. That determination led to the introduction of the TO-4 specification back in the 1990s. (Chevron’s Delo® TorqForce™ SAE 10W, SAE 30 and SAE 50 fluids meet the CAT TO-4 spec.) 


CAT TO-4 fluids, specifically the SAE 50, have generally been used in the final drives and differentials of Cat dozers where the fluid also lubricates oil-immersed brakes or clutches from a common sump system. Immersing the brakes in the oil helps keep them cool and enables the clutch packs to engage effectively. 


Today’s larger haul trucks, however, have mechanical drives with separate compartments for wet brakes. The wet brakes are commonly lubricated by TO-4 SAE 10W. However, the final drives, axles and differentials in this type of equipment are under extreme pressure, with heavier gear and bearing loads, along with high temperatures. A TO-4 fluid is simply not sufficiently robust to handle the type of load and the amount of torque those drives are experiencing, nor is it delivering adequate gear protection compared to an FD-1 fluid. This is why Caterpillar recommends a Final Drive Axle Oil (FDAO) that meets the FD-1 specification in these highly loaded final drives and differentials that do not have wet brakes. 


With an FD-1 spec oil in these more demanding applications, you are likely to see longer fluid life – perhaps twice as long – and longer differential component life than you would using a TO-4 spec product. Some operators will undoubtedly try to economize and just use one type of fluid across their entire fleet, or solve the problem with an additive to a TO-4 fluid. Ultimately though, they will pay the price in the form of shorter component life and a higher risk of equipment failure. (Conversely, you should not use an FD-1 fluid in equipment with wet brakes where the TO-4 spec is called for, as it will likely result in brake failure.) 


In response to the greater demands and heavier loads placed on today’s larger off-road equipment, Chevron introduced Delo TorqForce FD SAE 60 for applications in which the Caterpillar FD-1 specification is recommended. Contact us to discuss the types of equipment and applications for which a fluid that meets FD-1 specifications is best suited.


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About the Author: With over 35 years in the oil and gas industry, Dan Holdmeyer has worked for Chevron the past 14 years, serving in a variety of capacities with the company in addition to his current post as Industrial and Coolants Brand Manager where he works as a lubrication engineer that supports Chevron Delo and other related lubricants brands. He plays an integral role in supporting and managing a variety of programs related to off-highway and on-highway lubrication needs. Dan also works as Chevron’s Training Specialist for their Global Lubricants division since joining the company. Prior to joining Chevron, Dan worked as a Field Engineer at Mobil Oil Corporation for 20 years (1979-99) after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering.

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