Lubricants from ADDINOL

The lubricants of ADDINOL meet the highest demands on different requirements. We offer a wide range of products for industry and automotive. You are welcome to delve deeper into the individual topics or search for the suitable lubricant with our Oilfinder.

If you would like to find out more about lubricants in general, you can inform yourself on this page about aspects such as composition, properties or tasks.

Information about lubricants

Tasks | Production | Properties | Composition | Viscosity | Deterioration | Disposal

Tasks of lubricants

Lubricants of any kind are intended to reduce friction in a mechanical process and to separate two touching bodies as best as possible. This ensures a good work process and reduces unpleasant side effects such as wear or heat.

If two objects meet, occasionally the smallest bumps in the material form, which cause more and more resistance and wear between the friction partners. Lubricants slow this process significantly and ensure a longer life of e.g. engines, transmissions or hydraulics.

In summary, the most important functions of lubricants are:

  • Lubricate: reduce friction, reduce wear (e.g. abrasive and adhesive wear)
  • Cooling: dissipation of the frictional heat of the sliding partners
  • Protect: protect material against corrosion
  • Keeping clean: remove dirt particles and combustion residues to the filter
  • Transport: deliver additives to the material
  • Sealing: tight sealing at critical points
  • Transferring forces: in power steering, hydraulics, etc.
Well oiled gear
Lubricants should separate the friction partners as well as possible

Typical lubrication methods include splash lubrication and pressure lubrication.

Production of lubricants

The base oils for the lubricant production are extracted from crude oil. The oil consists of hydrocarbon compounds, which can be broken down into individual components by chemical processes. By means of atmospheric distillation, various end products are obtained from the crude oil, which split off in certain temperature ranges. By warming, evaporating and condensing, the oil separates into its natural components. These include natural gas, gasoline, diesel, lubricating oils and tar. Gases such as methane consist of simple hydrocarbon compounds such as CH4. Gasoline is much more complex and consists of 5-12 carbon atoms. Lubricating oils are made of 20-35 carbon atoms. Bitumen consitst of over 80 linked carbon atoms.

Atmospheric distillation of crude oil
The distillation of crude oil produces various end products

The mineral oil raffinate must be refined again after extraction to form a higher quality base product. The purer the carbon-hydrogen compound is, the more efficient is the oil in the application. This improves the aging resistance, the viscosity-temperature behavior and the cold start behavior of the lubricating oil.


Recovery of the base oils for lubricants occurs by vacuum distillation
Recovery of the base oils for lubricants occurs e.g. by vacuum distillation

Special processes such as cracking or hydrocracking convert less valuable constituents of the crude oil into valuable lubricants. Cracking breaks up hydrocarbon molecules of length C5 to C12 and reduces them to the size of gases (C2 and C3). This produces synthetic hydrocarbons such as PAO, PIB or PIO. Hydrocracking describes the process of decomposing long-chain hydrocarbon compounds (>C35) to oil molecule size (C20 to C35). Hydrogen atoms attach themselves to the fractured points and close the gaps in the molecular structure.

Oil drilling in a desert
Before we can develop our lubricants, crude oil must be extracted from the earth

Lubricant properties

Lubricants consist of base oils and additives, which are mixed differently depending on the application. For example, oils for cars with combustion engines have to meet completely different requirements than oils for cars with electric engines. In the case of base oils, viscosity, degree of refinement and pre-treatment are essential quality characteristics. As already described, a distinction is made between mineral oils (extracted from crude oil) and synthetic oils (artificial oil production). In development, the automotive industry is striving to reduce emissions, reduce consumption, extend oil change intervals and extend the service life of lubricants. This is why more efficient base oils are required, which must have properties such as low sulphur content, high thermal stability or high homogeneity.

The API (American Petroleum Institute) has published a classification for the different base oils to make them more comparable.

Group Viscosity index (VI) Saturated hydrocarbons in % Sulphur content in % Description
I 80-120 < 90 > 0,03
  • Low treated mineral oils
  • Paraffins or naphthenes
  • Suitable for less demanding applications
II 80-120 ≥ 90 ≤ 0,03
  • More powerful mineral oils through hydrocracking
  • Pro: evaporation tendency, oxidation resistance, flash point
  • Contra: low temperature properties, pressure resistance
III > 120 ≥ 90 ≤ 0,03
  • Very powerful mineral oils due to strong hydrocracking
  • High stability and uniformity of molecules
  • Almost synthetic purity
IV - - -
  • Chemically constructed polyalphaolefins (PAO)
  • High performance synthetic lubricants
V - - -
  • Includes all base oils that do not belong to the first four classes.
  • Used for the production of additives
  • e.g. ester and polyester

Mineral oil vs. synthetic oil

In the case of mineral base oils (Group I-III), a low sulphur content in the oil is desired, since sulphur as an impurity in the oil can contribute to increased acid formation. The hydrocarbon compounds also require a high degree of saturation. This means that the compounds must be as closed as possible and no more free atoms can join. In practice, oxygen atoms usually accumulate at the free sites, which contributes to faster oil aging. In turn, a high viscosity index is important for the temperature resistance of the lubricant. The higher the VI, the better the oil can operate in low and high temperature ranges. This is particularly relevant for engine oils, as these must remain flowable at cold outside temperatures and high operating temperatures. Mineral oil is obtained exclusively from crude oil. It must be refined with separation and cleaning processes. The combination of the basic building blocks is random and depends on the respective crude oil source in which various foreign substances can be found.

The synthetic base oils from group IV and V have a high inherent VI, are saturated and sulphur-free. As a result, the oils are very resistant to ageing and temperature, but are also expensive to produce. Synthetic oil can also be obtained from crude oil, but also from coal or vegetable oils. Short hydrocarbon chains (C2H4 or C3H6) are combined to form lubricating oil molecules. Synthetic oil does not have to consist exclusively of hydrocarbons. It can contain oxygen (synthetic esters, polyglycols), phosphorus (phosphoric acid esters) or silicon (silicone oils). The molecular structure results from the machining process. The aim is to form homogeneous structures without undesirable foreign substances.

Advantages Disadvantage
Mineral oil
  • cheap production
  • large evaporation loss at high temperatures
  • bad cold behavior
  • single-grade oils with VI from 90-100 with limited application area
Sythetic oil
  • uniform composition
  • high aging stability
  • low evaporation loss
  • Multi-grade oils with VI from 130 to 150
  • good cold start behavior down to -40 °C
  • increased production costs through additional production steps

Composition of lubricants

Additives are added to the base oils, which have a decisive influence on the subsequent performance of the end product with the best possible quality. Additives improve or strengthen the properties of the base oil and also add new properties to the base oil.

Frequently used additives in lubricants are:

  • Corrosion protection additives
  • Oxidation inhibitors
  • Wear protection additives
  • Detergents/Dispersants
  • VI improver

Lubricants are therefore always composed of pure base oils and specially added additives, which are selected according to the area of application of the oil. The main component of a lubricant is always the base oil. The additives take up about 10-20% of the lubricant. In exceptional cases, the additive content can reach up to 30%.


Lubricants are composed of base oils and additives
Simple equation: Lubricating oil = base oils + additives

Viscosity of lubricants

The viscosity or toughness is a measure of the internal friction of an oil when flowing. It is strongly temperature-dependent:

  • Cold oils have a high internal friction and are therefore highly viscous
  • Warm oils have less internal friction and are low viscous

The viscosity thus refers to the thinness or thickness of a lubricant. However, viscosity is never a quality feature of an oil. Depending on the application, lubricants with low or high viscosity are required.

Oil flows into a bowl
The viscosity of an oil determines how thick or thin it is

Deterioration of the lubricants

Due to constant load, natural ageing and other influences, the lubricants eventually wear out.

The most common reasons for a deterioration of the lubricants are:

  • Viscosity change due to heat / cold
  • Chemical contamination by acids
  • Oxidation
  • Gas or water ingress
  • Pollution by particles
  • Degradation of additives and loss of oil properties

Then it is time to make an oil change, in order not to risk damage to the friction partners and continue to ensure a good lubrication of the components. In most cases, the manufacturer of the machines determines oil change intervals. You can test the used oil in the lab for its properties to set the time for a change, too.

Used oil in a container
Strongly discolored oil with dirt particles after prolonged use

Correct disposal of lubricants

If lubricants do not work as desired anymore, the challenge is to dispose the used oil properly. Under no circumstances may you dump the oil in the normal household waste or pour it into the sink. Even the smallest amounts of leaked oil can contaminate thousands of liters of groundwater. Anyone who gets caught in the pollution, must expect high fines.

The disposal of used oil is safer and more environmentally friendly in the following ways:

  • Dispose of the oil at the dealer: The dealer is obliged to take back the used oil free of charge for recycling or disposal.
  • Garbage collection at the municipality: Each municipality has a recycling center or collection point where old lubricants can be returned. For larger amounts of waste oil costs may arise.
  • Used oil disposal at the filling station: Petrol stations usually have collecting tanks or suction devices in which the oil can be filled. You should inform yourself before disposing of the waste oil, if there are any costs.
  • Oil disposal at the workshop: If the workshop carries out an oil change, it usually disposes of the used oil automatically.

Before disposing of the lubricant, make sure that it is not contaminated by other substances. In addition, various waste oils should not be poured together, but disposed of separately.

Old oil is filled in a canister
Used oil must be disposed of properly


Christian Retschke

Head of Research and Development

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