Chain Lubrication Systems

chain lubrication systemsA chain lubrication system streamlines your entire operation. Without an automated system, your employees may need to turn off the system, access the chain and manually apply lubricant. This creates downtime and safety risks for employees.

What Are Chain Lubrication Systems?

A chain lubrication system is used to deliver optimal amounts of lubricant to each chain joint. This extends the lifetime of the chain, reduces maintenance issues and streamlines the lubrication process.

Chain lubrication systems allow each joint of the chain to continue to travel and engage the teeth of a sprocket. The journal bearings of the chain can only transmit force and motion if they can move properly.

These journal bearings create a lot of friction as the chain moves. Any contaminants and corrosion can increase the amount of friction. Over time, this can wear out the chain and the motor that powers it. A chain or conveyor lubrication system is a critical preventative maintenance component for your chain, drive or conveyor. Explore the types, benefits and maintenance tasks for these automatic lubricators today.

Common Types of Chain Lubrication Systems

There are many methods for applying oil or another lubricant to a chain. Chain lubrication systems offer a number of advantages over manual lubrication. The power rating and other features affect which type of system is best for your situation. Some auto lube systems can be used in high-speed, high-temperature settings, while others offer the lubrication necessary for a slow-moving belt.

The size of the chain or conveyor can also impact the optimal lubrication system. Consider these common types of lubrication systems for your chain-powered device:

  • Drip
  • Oil stream
  • Slinger disk
  • Oil bath
  • Manual


A single applicator or a wick-packed distribution pipe offers one or more lubrication points for your chain system. The timing of the drip ranges from four drops per minute to 20 or more. The pipe is positioned for this gravity-fed device to drip oil between the link plate or sidebar edges.

Oil Stream

This system uses an oil pump and nozzle to spray oil at a consistent and uniform amount. This application offers continuous application across a wide area with adjustable oil levels.

An oil reservoir holds the liquid until it’s pulled through a valve by the oil pump and motor. It’s fed past a strainer to a nozzle that’s directed at the chain. In some cases, an oil cooler is used to maintain consistent temperatures during operation.

Slinger Disk

Instead of a pressurized system, a slinger disk uses the mechanical force of the moving sprocket and chain to propel oil around the chain. An oil disk rotates and picks up lubricant, which is then thrown against a collector plate. A trough drops it onto the link plates or sidebars.

Oil Bath

A standing bath of oil at the bottom of the chain path creates a convenient opportunity for lubrication. This system requires the oil to be at a precise level. If the level is too low, it won’t lubricate the chain. Too high, and the moving chain may overheat the oil and cause it to foam.


Some chains are used infrequently and for short periods of time. While a chain lubrication system can be used for these applications, a manual application can also achieve similar results.

The lubricant needs to be added with a spout can or brush approximately every eight hours of operation. Some chains require more consistent lubrication. The risks of over and under-lubrication, as well as personal injury, make manual lubrication less efficient than a systematic approach.

Advantages of Conveyor Lubrication Systems

conveyor lubrication systemsA conveyor lubrication system can extend the system’s lifetime by as much as 100 times. Chain lubrication systems offer consistent or continuous application of lubricant throughout operation. Not only does this dramatically increase the lifespan of the chain, but can also offer these advantages:

  • Increased safety
  • Reduced energy use
  • Minimized downtime
  • Reduced risk of oil contamination
  • Decreased oil use
  • Reduced chain noise

If the lubricant isn’t effectively applied, then it could also increase wear on your chain. Inefficient lubricant application can include too much or too little oil, too much time between applications or improper oil coverage. This is why it is important to consider consulting with industrial lubrication specialists when considering what type of lubrication solutions will best suit your applications.

Applications of Chain Lubrication Systems

A conveyor lubrication system can improve the maintenance and operational life of a number of chain-driven systems. Here are some common applications where chain lubrication systems can streamline your maintenance routine:

  • Luggage conveyor
  • Painting ovens
  • Food and beverage ovens
  • Construction material conveyors
  • Floor conveyors
  • Mineral wool processes
  • Escalators
  • Paper roll conveyors
  • Car body pre-treatment process conveyors

Virtually any moving chain or conveyor in a commercial setting needs to be lubricated periodically. The amount of lubrication can vary, but a chain lubrication system offers customizable application levels to tailor to your industry.

Some chains are used in areas of high dust or other contamination. If your conveyor is used outside or in a high-contamination area, be sure you have the proper filters and maintenance routine to keep the lubrication clean and effective.

Best Types of Lubricant for Chains and Conveyors

There are many grades of lubricant used in chain lubrication systems. Because you select a grade, consider the operating temperature and necessary viscosity of your application.

A conveyor lubrication system needs to deliver a consistent film over all the moving parts of the chain. If the oil becomes too hot, it may become too thin to offer enough lubrication. Too thick, and it can hamper efficient movement of the chain.

Other factors to consider are the pressure and operating conditions. Pressure affects viscosity of the oil and the recommended grade. If the chain isn’t operating in a sealed environment, then the system needs to have a filter or other cleaning strategy to limit contamination.

The best types of lubricants can operate in temperatures between -20 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Here are the most common grades for a lubrication system:

  • SAE 10
  • SAE 20
  • SAE 30
  • SAE 40
  • SAE 50

Review the viscosity needed for your lubrication system and chain. Consider the operating temperature ranges and other factors as you find the right lubricant. A lower grade number can operate in a lower temperature range. SAE 10, for example, is better suited for sub-zero temperatures, while SAE 50 can be used safely for temperatures up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

Preventive Maintenance for Chains, Drives and Conveyors

Maintain your conveyor lubrication system to improve chain life and ensure your conveyor continues to operate reliably. Installing chain lubrication systems on all your chains, drives and conveyors is a critical preventative maintenance step, but there are other steps you can take.

Verify that your oil is the proper weight before use. If the operating temperature is outside the acceptable range of your lubricant, you may need to switch to a different grade.

Inspect the chain for signs of debris and contamination. If the chain becomes too dirty, lubrication alone won’t prevent excessive wear. Turn off the system and thoroughly clean the chain with a nonflammable solvent. Lubricate the entire chain before starting the system again.

Review any maintenance steps for your lubrication system. While an automated system is more convenient than manual application, you will need to perform a few tasks to keep it operating at peak efficiency.

Monitor oil levels to prevent running too low. If the reservoir contains excessive contamination or debris, you may need to empty and clean it before refilling it. Check nozzles, pumps and filters and clean them periodically.