Grease Guns 101: When Do You Need to Use One?

Because proper lubrication is an essential part of equipment maintenance, we want our customers to be familiar with the right tools for the job. One of the handiest pieces in your lubricating arsenal is the grease gun, as grease guns provide an efficient and exact application of fluid. This little beauty can become your best friend, but before you begin lubricating everything with reckless abandon, you should familiarize yourself with its intended function.

Hitting the Target

This tool allows for the precise feeding of lubricants into the desired area. But, what exactly are you trying to hit with your gun?

The narrow end of your gun is specifically designed to feed the necessary fluid into an opening called a grease fitting, commonly referred to as a “nipple.” (You may also hear it called a Zirk fitting or an Alemite fitting.) This fitting encloses a bearing ball, which moves under the pressure of the grease gun, thereby allowing the free flow of lubricant into the proper channels. This ingenious arrangement thereby functions as a valve, forcing lubricant into only the areas where it is needed, then closing itself when you have withdrawn your grease gun.

Greasing the Squeaky Wheel?

Obviously, these tools are intended for use with specific equipment. The layperson may wonder why he or she does not see instructions to use them on common household items. After all, even many mundane housekeeping tasks require some type of moving equipment. Should you be breaking out the gun every week to grease your vacuum cleaner wheel bearings?

If you examine your vacuum cleaner, carpet shampooer, dishwasher, or blow dryer, you will probably not find any nipples into which you could insert a gun. Since the 1920s, manufacturers have tended to put sealed bearings on this type of commonly used household tool. Sealed bearings keep the lubricant permanently contained in its proper place, thus eliminating the need for regular infusions. Maintenance-free equipment is obviously a user-friendly option for most of the general public.

However, grease fittings still appear on many types of machines, and you should make sure you know if you own any of them. (If you have an automobile, you probably do.) For example, your humble lawnmower is likely to need some regular lubrication. Boats are also likely to feature this type of bearing. Make certain to use the grease gun faithfully where it is needed, and your machinery will have a long, happy, and smooth life.