View Full Version : IH head lubricant

10-03-2007, 03:16 PM
i remember what aaron had on the site and am using the 30 wt oil for the head. however, its leaking an awful lot. i'm going to replace the spindle seal in the head to fix one of the leaks. the other area where i run into a problem is the breather at the top of the head. the 30 wt oil is very foamy and bubble out the little hole in the fitting. i am tempted to switch over to something like dexron or type f trans fluid since they have alot of anti foaming additives. any ideas here?

10-03-2007, 06:34 PM
Hi Runner;
If you look at the picture that Glenn sent in (my new IH mill) you will see what we use as a breather. 1/4" pipe fittings and 3/8" tube. This allows more than enough breathing to eliminate any overflow. You can spin up the IH head without losing any oil. Also seal leaks can result from to much pressure build up with the breather on the IH Mill. It is sized for a 1750 RPM motor. Any more than this we would recommend a larger breather. Foaming at high RPM's is not a big problem as we use ball bearings not babbitt bearings. I would not use a non oil product (atf) in the head as it's lubrication qualities are not designed for this application. Any Mobil One Engine oil works well.

10-04-2007, 04:19 AM
Why would you call ATF a none oil product. ATF has been used in aplications like this for years in the automotive field. I realy dont know if it would be a good choice for a mill of this design, but I dont really see why not from what I know of it. Type F I dont think I would use (it has friction modifiers), but the Dextron II I feel would work. But like I say, I dont know that for sure. But I am not sure that it would not work better than what is being used or recamended either. I am kinda in the same belief as Runner, it seems to fit the bill better. ATF is used in 5 speed transmitions from the OEM's in many cases (even older type 4 speeds). But in extreme high heat examples they do use something a little heaver. In these same 5 speeds, the OEM will even use ATF, 30wt oil, and 90wt in the same trans depending on the climit they are used in. And the ATF is prefered and shows better wear if the trans is operated in a heat range that the AFT will live in, which is quit high really.

I do think the gear box would have more noise with ATF, but not more than a syn type oil (like the Mobil).

Like I say, I am not saying use it, or that you can use it. But I believe that ATF is not being understood for what it is here, and it may be worth looking into it a little deeper. It might even turn out to be just what the doctor ordered for high speed operation. But do aproach with caustion. But ATF is a light weight oil, maybe even a 10wt, with many additives that may just fit the bill, or may not.

I dont mean to go against the very builder of the mill, he may know something we dont and has very good reason not use ATF. But it may be a simple missunderstanding of the product (ATF) also. In which case it may pay to look into it more, and see if its worth testing.


10-04-2007, 03:35 PM
i will try the vent first and see what happens. however i agree with Lucky, dexron fluid should be no different than the spindle head oil other than maybe having some extra friction modifiers in it. however if it stops the foaming i am all for it.

10-05-2007, 03:27 AM
There are a lot of reasons not to use ATF, DextronII or DextronIII. I'll give you a few that made my mind up about the subject. This is a only a suggestion to mill owners. All oils and fluids are use specific. Some companies have found Dextron products usable in ways that have been compared in this thread that might not have been tried in the past. Does that mean that it is OK to use it in a high speed mill head. My humble answer is no. Can you get away with it, MAYBE!!! or maybe not. The not part of it is what bothers me. DextronII and or DextronIII are designed to do 2 things, lubricate and transmit hydraulic pressure. Therefore the need to be of a light viscosity. Adding heavier weight oils to the Dextron as suggested is but a short crutch to a bigger problem. Light weight oils cannot survive the shearing forces of the mill head, or chemical degradation it experiences in the mill head. Light oils cook(carbonize) at a low temp, starting around 175F for 10w. It is called thermal breakdown. Anyone spinning their mill at the upper limits is risking the integrity of their mill head just to cut down on foaming by using a Dextron product, I believe is fixing a small problem with a big big problem.
A 30w or multi weight w/30w at the end oil is about as low a viscosity as I can recommend. And as I said before Mobil One products work really well. This post is only meant to explain IH's recommendations and posture on the subject of head oil. We have mills with hundreds and hundreds of hours of testing at high rpms and to me experience is usually a good indicator.

NC Cams
10-05-2007, 07:04 AM
Just to chime in on the subject of Dexron.

Dexron has been formulated for ATF and automoive gearbox use. In fact, a lot of the newer automotive applcations now use Dexron III in transmirssions, transaxles and even some rear axles/FWD differenctials. Type F does NOT share this same formulation for gearbox capabilities.

Reason: Dexron has friction modifiers as well as EP and anti-wear agents. The stuff is quite good when it comes to high and low temperature perfornance. It is HIGHLY corrosion and thermal break down resistant and it is quite foaming resistant. It also has seal condititioners which help prevent seal swelling and/or wear.

Of note, however, there are different formulations of "Dexron" as this is more of a performance criteria than a SPECIFIC forulation - some brands are better than others. If you go with a premium "name" brand, you'll probably do better than generic varieties.

Noted commercial mill suppliers have used and specified Dexron for use in/with their mills, For example, Excello used/recommended Dexron for the geared head mills.

Keep in mind that engine oils and Dexron style tranny lubes have morphed of late - especially in light of the fact that some car makers were considering the use of a common lube in engine and tranny sumps. Each, however, has been specifically formulated for it's respective intended useage environment.

i won't argue or counter propose going against the recommendations of the OEM when it comes to lubrication for their equipment.

However, there has been MUCH lube development of late in the auto industry - they are constantly being challenged to improve product performance/durability/and still cut costs. In some respects, the auto industry has reached or gone beyond the forefront of what the legacy machine tool makers did when it comes to improving lubes and/or lube perfomance in their machines.

If one were going to "experiment" with an advanced lube for what is essentially a small/medium duty gearbox, Dexron III should/would be a reasonable and low risk alternative. The things it offers, especially in light of the comparatively much more abusive opertion that it is/was designed/developed for, makes it a very reasonable alterative consideration as a machine tool gear box lube.

For a more complete discussion of gearbox lubes in machine tool elements, I'd encourage the readers to do a search for "4th axis lube" in the Tormach postings. A long, detailed discussion about the why's and wherefores of the special needs of a gearbox lube is presented therein.

No need to restart that food fight.

10-05-2007, 07:41 AM
the below is from the IH website. i do run my mill in the 3000 rpm range mostly and am looking into a belt drive conversion where this will all be moot.

The general rule for gear oil is: “the slower the gear operation the higher the oil viscosity” or “the higher the velocity the lower the viscosity”.

Spindle RPM Recommended Oil ISO Viscosity Grade
Mobil DTE Heavy Medium

Mobil DTE Light

Mobil Velocite Oil #10

Mobil Velocite Oil #8

also i found this on another website

DEXRON®-III/MERCON® is blended to SAE 5W-20 viscosity to provide necessary oil flow at low temperatures and adequate viscosity for proper lubrication at high operating temperatures. It meets oil viscosity specifications from a low of -40ºF to a high of 212ºF. This wide viscosity range allows it to meet the oil performance requirements of automatic transmissions and power-shift transmissions where an SAE 5W-20 or 10W viscosity grade oil is specified.

although it seems that dexron is slightly lower viscosity than whats recommended i don't see why it wouldn't work especially in the newer heads that run the 2hp motor with vfd up to 4000 rpm. also i don't think my mill head gets up to the 175°F region. however, i have not measured it and would be willing to add a cooler to and an expansion tank if this would minimize the leaking from the head.

NC Cams
10-06-2007, 12:45 AM
As pointed out in the Tormach 4th axis thread, VISCOSITY is NOT and should NOT be the sole qualifier/decider for a lubricant.

Lubricants are FORMULATIONS, not ulike a cake or a good meal.

They are a multipurpose fluid that cool, lubricate and protect against corrostion. Although base oil viscosity is important, the use of viscosity index modifiers can drastically alther the oils ability to NOT shear even though the oil may be "thin" in base viscosity.

When you incorporate EP and anti wear agents, as they do in Dexron, protection is afforded even though the oil can be quite thin in viscosity as compared to normal "gear" oils/grease. This does NOT mean that it will not lubricate as well.

This is how/why Dexron is now capable of adequately and properly lubricating highly loaded automotive gear boxes that at one time ONLY used APG 90-140. These gear boxes typicaill are/can be MUCH heavier loaded than a machine tool box.

When essentially 20W oil (Dexron) can protect a gearbox that previously HAD to use APG 90-140 viscosity oil, somebody did SOMETHING pretty special to the formulation for that to happen.

Our "epiphany" with regard to the use of Dexron occured in/with our cam grinder. The grinding spindle used Velocite oil. Even though it was the factory recommended oil, we continually had problems with one particular bearing in the head. Desperate for a solution, I contacted a friend who was a lube engineer for Marathon.

Upon advising him of the factory recommendations, he told me he'd look into it and see what he could turn up. About an hour later, he called back and simply said "Dexron". To which I responeded "but that's tranny fluid".

This was followed by a LONG dissertation about lubes, additives, viscosity, viscosity index improvers and all sorts of other lube technobabble. To my amazement, the so called "special" spindle oil spec'd by the factory (Velocite

in our case) was not much more that HIGHLY filtered low viscostiy generic industrial oil. It simply LACKED any of the additives which the one beaing we were having trouble with needed in order to survive. Dexron, on the other hand, was well fortified with these and other additives that perhaps didn't help performance, but they didn't/woudln't hurt either.

So we tried it. Imagine our suprise and amazement to find that cheaper, easier to get Dexron "tranny oil" out peformed the special "industrial grade" spindle oil in a special, machine tool grade grinder. Not only did we NOT have anymore bearing problems but we noticed that the spindle VISIBLY ground parts smoother and visibly better.

The obvious question then becomse, "how come???". Back to lube engineeer.

Reply was simple and stunnig, "the industrial communiiy is QUITE traditional. What they did 50 years ago they'll typically do forever. The auto industry is in a constant state of flux due to ever increasing demands for fuel economy, durability and cost prevention/containment. Hence, the auto industry is constantly imiproving their lubes - they HAVE to. The machine tool makers have not yet reached the same level of urgency"...

Finally, just because the jug says "Dexron" that does not mean that all are the same. Some OEM's tested and found that certain formulations of Dexron outperform other in the same application. The question is which ones do that?

I don't know of any specific ones as each OEM has different Dexron qualification regimes. One that was reportedly identified rather severe was thatn used by a rather abused Lotus box. The Dexron formulation they preferred was identified in the Tormach 4th axis thread - I'm pretty sure the oil is available in the USA.

Lacking an interest in going thru the "tormach post" (long and rambling but entertaining and informative), the use of a PREMIUM, name brand, high performance Dexron variant should suffice for most lowly machine tool spindle gear boxes like that being discussed in this thread.

10-06-2007, 12:29 PM
I just this week changed over to Redline Heavy Shockproof, mainly because I also put it in the transmission of my motorcycle and it worked so well there.

So far; MUCH quieter than the panther wiz that was OE.
Rather gives the illusion that the spindle is slower but there's no heat in the head at all so..
Also the speed and range selectors move MUCH more easily. Far less spindle twirling to move them.

I'm still at 1750 rpm so no biggie but if ( yeah, right, "IF" :rolleyes: ) WHEN I change motors and get the VFD it would be advisable to watch temperatures and speeds I 'spose.

10-07-2007, 12:18 AM
This post is only to clarify our (IH) position on suggested oils that are on the IH Website, not to argue a point as I have already said my piece on this subject. Aaron did this recommendation in late 2004 and early 2005. Speaking to Aaron today he explained that the Velocite #10 was at time the best machine grade light viscosity oil that was available at the time. It has a ISO viscosity of 22 which translates to about 20 to 24 weight oil designed for high speed spindles, such as Cincinnati P-45 specs. The #8 Velocite is also listed on the same article with a provision to call IH first before you use it. At an ISO 15 Aaron felt that you could damage the head and wanted to warn customers of this fact. I left the Oil Mill Tip on the IH Website because I don't see any harm coming from it if you read and understand the whole article. As always we at IH welcome any new information on any new products that are out there. This thread has some pretty good posts with credible facts and credentials. Keep up the good work guys it helps us all.

10-07-2007, 10:26 AM
Checking in the PM and HSM web sites they almost universally discourage the use of autmotive specific lubricants as they are designed to hold debris, acids, etc. in suspension to be filtered out.

In a machine gearbox you wouldn't want all that circulating through your bearings but dropping out to be drained later.

However, that begs the question of how some of the new automotive manual transmissions are running a Dexron III and similar. Are the new manual transmissions filtered somehow?

Which leads me to another question but I'll post a new thread.

NC Cams
10-07-2007, 11:35 AM
The manual transmissions that use Dexron typically do NOT use pumps or filters - most use drip and splash feed, not at all different from a mill head sump.

The acids and other corrosive agents come about as a resut of the combustion process as well as from moisture ingression/contamination from use as well as condensation that occurs due to temp changes.

Water ingression in a machine tool environment is NOT unusual. Neither is the condensation from atmospheric conditions nor is foreign contamination from debris and other foreign crap that gets in. Some of the acids that form are the result of contaminants reacing with the lube oil. Again, not much different between auto and coolant contaminated machine tool lubes.

The reason why automotive lubes are so heavily fortifed against these contaminants is the they are typically so poorly maintained. And, yet they still, are expected to live or even thrive under/with the abuse.

Can this sort of lubrication fotification be of a benefit to the users of machine tools? My esperiences suggest that the answer is a resounding YES.

Having worked in the machine tool industry as a bearing engineer, I'm familiar with what goes in to engineer and develop their product. However, I also spent a good bit of time in the auto industry working for both the OEM's as well as the Tier 1 suppliers. Likewise, i'm well aware of their design and development processes and procedures.

Both regimes mean well and both are quite adequate for the product they ultimately produce. HOWEVER, if you spend your entire career doing the same thing, over and over, you tend to become myoptic in your views/procedures/techniques. I'm as guilty as any "seasoned" engineeer of that tendency.

However, after seeing so many different techniques (I've worked for nearly 8 diofferemt corporatiions that made nearly 40 different products for domestic and foreign owned companies), I've learned that there are a lot of new, emerging technologies available that are not always taken advantage of. Most companies DON'T do this for reasons of cost pressures, policy, tradition and sometives a lack of education.

You have no idea how fruttrating it is to go to work for someone, suggest an althernate technology, and to be told "that won't work". This is especially frustrating when you've already been there and done that elsewhere's. If you're lucky, you might get to help someone via technology transfer. This can be even MORE frustrating when the industrial guys on one side of the office do things ENTIRELY different that the automotive guys on the other side of the office - and nether pays attentiion to the other.

THis becomes easier if you end up managing or running the company. Failing this, the status quo may have to sufice - should a problem develop, however, you might be able to offer up a viable, more modern alternative. Or move on and do your own thing, the path I've taken of late.

To reiterate: Use the factory recommended lubricant. Typically, these are tested and verified as being the optimum lubricant.

If you start doing your own lubrication engineering, be REAL careful if you do lubrication engineering studies via "label spec engineering". You can't choose a lube simply by reading what ingredients are in the bottle.

Lubricants are forulations/blends with a multitude of benefits and potential liabilites. The complex interaction of the additives can have with the components can ONLY be verified by using/testing it in the machine - under load and over time. Here is were the automotive lubes 'shine". The users and the OEM's test the stuff over long terms and pretty much ALL the conditions. The lubes are/were typically developed/redeveloped in an iterative fashion to address all these needs/conditions.

Simply as a matter of self preservation, the oil companies over formulate the oils to cover a wider range of uses and abuses that arr "normal" in automtive environments. The benefit to the machine tool builder, should they chose to avail themselves of automotive lubricatn technologies, could be substantial as far as cost, availabiltiy along with machine performance. However, the use of the WRONG automotive lube (I've done that too), can be some expensive and un-needed repairs.

Again, for the IH, use what the OEM recommends. If, however, you are of the contrarian nature and want to experiement with something different, a premium grade of Dexron would be a VERY low risk candidate. The use of Dexron in a mill is NOT unique - Excello used it in their "bridgeport" mills. It may work better in some respects - I doubt it will work any worse. I'd contend that automotive tranny loading is as bad or worse as that in any mill - perhaps worse.

I can assure you of this: Dexron will be a hell of a lot easier and cheaper to buy and stock than most of the industrual lubes that are/were recommended - especially for the hobby user.

ReasonL Most industrial lubes MUST be bought in 1 or 5 gallon jugs - a real ezpensive PITA for the hobby user. Dexron is available in quarts anywhere.

Do the math, run some tests and decide for yourself.

10-09-2007, 07:20 AM
I would like to bring a nother oil type up and see if there may be possibilities for its use. I was having a disscusion with a fellow that brought up the fact of Diesel oil having more anty foaming additives than Gas formulated oils.

I do not know this for sure myself. But before I was dissabled I did work for Mopar & Ford. There was a problem with the oil causing there injectors to give problems.

I know it does not make sense but the fuel injectors for the newer Diesel engine uses oil pressure in part of its controlls for either triggering or closing the injector.

Its been a long time sense I did this work & I am not remembering the exact reason the oil was causing the problems but the injectors use very high pressures when using this oil in this way. I am thinking it was even up in the 2000psi range on oil pressure in the injector ( yes the engine oil)

The problem that would accure is when a customer would use regulor Gas formulated oil (because it was cheaper) it would foam so bad that it could not hold these high levels of pressure. It would even cause the diesel engines to miss because of this.

A switch back to the Diesel formulated oil & the problem would be cured and the reason being was suppost to be the Deisel oil simply had a lot more anty foaming aditives in it for this reason.

If this is correct then this type oil would be the same, or could be bought in the same type syn oils that is being recamended. Only it would have more anty foaming resistance & be a little more durable, plus have better wear additives ( more zinc & some other stuff).

NC Cams, could you check into this & find the truths about this?

I feel sure this is correct. Now I dont know if there is a weight of this type oil that would be good for the high speed operation of the mill head, but I am betting there is even a syn type oil. The Deisel oils really are a very good oil that is better in many ways. We have used it instead of high priced racing oil in many extremely high performance engines because the new formulation of most of the oils on the market today have changed a lot because of emissions & damage that the Zinc was causing to the cataytic convertors. In other words there taking the good stuff out of most of the oils (the zinc) that help with wear ( Solid lifter cams can not run without this zinc). The Deisel oils have the zinc (although they are reducing it every year) and many other good aditives.


NC Cams
10-09-2007, 09:09 AM
A restatement of fact: Oils are formulations that, depeind on the application, contain additive packages to address various issues that develop during the intended operating environment.

Diesel versus gas oil formulations DEFINITELY differ. The combustion process is entirely different as are the byproducts of the fuel combustion process. Hence, how the combustion affects the lubrication (contamination) will differ. Hence, the lubrication has to protect for/against different things.

Typical non-direct gas injectors run at relatively low PSI. Diesel injectors, however are indecting DIRECTLY into the comustion chamber. Hence they are subjected to combustion pressures and contamination which gas injectors are typically NOT sujected.

Diesel injectors use EXTREMELY high injection pressures - in the range of 1000-2000psi regularly - to literally atomize the fuel. The lubrication requirements under this sort of operating regime (IE: lubricate, non-corrode, etc) are quite stringent.

HOWEVER, these loads are NOT the same as the sliding/wiping loads that regularly occur in a gea box. Moreoever, few diesel injector pumps use white or other soft metal beainngs as is the case in some gear boxes. Although a diesel engine oil might be SUPERB for diesel engines and injectors, thay may NOT make it suitable for use in a situaion with totally different wear phenomeon - like the gear face sliding/wiping that occurs in a gearbox.

Contrary to any consipracy theories, there are no secret magic lubricants lurking out there. There are literally hundreds of formulations. ALthough a trained person can asses the viability of using an alternate lube via reading of the label specs, it is a scarey stretch for the untrained DIY'er to go about experimenting with "magic lube".

Only via careful formulating and testing of a lube blend can/should a machine tool or gear box maker specify/select a gear boz lube.

The thread, however, was initiated as a reasult of a foaming/aeration problem - it was thought/asked if a different lube might help alleviate the problem.

The BEST way to alleviate an aeration problem is to NOT put the air into the lube in the first place. Too much oil at too high a level in the sump can cause that problem. One might first try to drain out some oil and see if that helps.

Some BRANDS of oils have better anti=aeration formulations. The effectiveness pf which can only be validated by testing as each environment differs. The reason why Dexron/Mercon lubes creeps into the picture is because of the viability of this particular formulation to/for gearbox use.

Simply put, Dexron is a gearbox formulation. It has the both the base stock and additive formulations that make it suitable for the components used in gear boxes.

Will it work in diesels crankcases? No.
Will it owrk in gas crancases? No.
Can it work in ANY gearbox? Yes and No, it depends on the operating requirement, the design and the severity of the loads.

If a person is bound and determined to do some lube experiemnts, a premium grade of Dexron/Mercon lube would be a low risk alternative.

In the meantime, until/unless the OEM specified lube fails to satisfy the needs ot the machine, one should refrain from needless lubrication experimentation.

01-29-2008, 10:41 PM
The loads in an automotive gearbox obviously far exceed those seen in our IH mill heads. I switched over to Mobil 1 Synthetic ATF over 2 years ago after I found that some of the newer large machines at work (large machine shop) were using a version of ATF. In my IH mill the ATF will trap air bubbles at high rpm due to the high speed "shear mixing" taking place at the gears, but does not foam compared to the straight Texaco #10 spindle oil I was using.