The essential functions of an automotive gear lubricant viscosity modifier (VM) are to maintain fluid film protection of gears and bearings as the lubricant warms to operating temperature, to improve cold temperature flow for efficient lubrication in winter and to minimise viscosity loss in a high shear, high load environment. Although a number of different VM technologies can be considered appropriately resistant to permanent shear for automotive gear oils use, their effect on fluid efficiency can vary widely. This paper outlines the study of a series of different VM technologies assessing relationship of operating temperature, operating viscosity and axle efficiency under different load and speed regimes. The fluids presented were formulated to equal kinematic viscosity at 100 °C but vary widely in viscosity index (VI), elastohydrodynamic (EHD) traction and EHD film thickness. The differences observed during efficiency testing were qualitatively related to the rheological properties of the VM technology present and further related to the operating temperature and operating viscosity.
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