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A partnership and grease testing programme has proved beneficial for Shell Lubricants and Wanxiang Precision, part of Chinese automotive components manufacturer Wanxiang Group.

The two companies commissioned a benchmarking analysis of Shell Albida, a high-temperature grease, in September 2006 to identify a high-performance, fit-for-purpose grease for use in wheel-hub units being developed for a range of model passenger cars.

This collaboration has led to the OEM-approving Shell Albida grease and has helped Wanxiang Precision to secure more than 800,000 orders for the hubs.

The head of the technical and engineering department at Wanxiang Precision said: ‘Our new product development process involves a series of in-depth tests and analysis to ensure we continually manufacture high-performance components that meet operational requirements.

‘This includes greases to enable us to correctly specify a product that will fully realise the capabilities of our components.’ Wheel hubs contain a series of bearings that move at high speeds and temperatures, which, if not properly lubricated, can lead to accelerated component wear and failure.

A high-performance grease with shear stability, such as Shell Albida, will reduce metal-to-metal contact between the bearing balls and the inner and outer rings.

Hao Jiandong, cluster technical manager from Shell China Lubricants, said: ‘The high operating speeds and temperatures can reduce the viscosity of the protective layer provided by a grease.

‘This protection can be further compromised by contamination from mud, grit and water sprayed from wheels during day-to-day driving conditions.

‘These factors can lead to high levels of friction, potentially reducing bearing performance and life, as well as vehicle handling.

‘Additional demand is placed on the grease as it must maintain compatibility with the rubber seals used in hubs to prevent leaks, further increasing the risk of metal-to-metal contact.’ Shell Albida grease was tested under a range of bench tests and road trials to evaluate its durability, heat tolerance, resistance to water penetration and seal compatibility.

Testing was conducted by teams from Shell Lubricants and Wanxiang Precision to promote the sharing of grease and component expertise.

During the contamination tests, a 300- and 700-hour analysis of Shell Albida revealed high levels of water and salt resistance, with no recording of bearing fatigue or erosion.

Heat tolerance tests identified that the grease provided high-performance viscosity and bearing protection in temperatures ranging from -30C to +150C, far exceeding typical operating temperatures.

No seal erosion was reported in rubber compatibility tests.

Jiandong added: ‘The close working partnership with Wanxiang Precision enabled a series of actual driving conditions to be simulated during the tests to accurately test grease performance.

‘Load and test times were benchmarked against average operating hours and outputs, during which time no obvious bearing wear on inner or outer rings was recorded.’

Shell Lubricants

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