"Can one assume that the higher the price of a lubricant the better the quality?"

This question should not be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." Remember that the cost of equipment, machine failures and maintenance is considerably more than the price of a lubricant. With this in mind, an individual should base his or her decision on the following criteria as opposed to price alone.

Handling Practices

If you are not using the correct lubricant storage and handling practices, it does not matter how cheap or expensive your oil is. The machines will suffer from contaminant ingression when just filling a reservoir with oil. If these improper practices are not changed, you will fail to recover the added expense of the premium lubricants.  

Protecting your lubricants from contamination begins when your new oil arrives. Your facility must be able to keep lubricants clean, cool and dry. Storage containers for lubricants as well as the machines that the lubricant goes into should be clearly labeled. This will ensure the right lubricant goes into the right machine. Transfer equipment should also be used to properly filter the oil before it is dispensed into your machines.

Machine Factors

Any time you change a lubricant in a machine, even if it is the same lubricant, there is always a risk. Before looking at the price of the lubricant, key elements such as machine type, operating conditions, criticality, exposures, manufacturer recommendations and warranties should be considered. Not all equipment must run expensive synthetic oils. Various operating conditions such as temperature, moisture, contamination, load and environmental severity should be balanced with these machine factors to help determine which lubricant to use.

Find the Root Cause, Not a Band-Aid

Another issue is using high-cost alternatives as a Band-Aid instead of fixing the root cause of the problem. According to a recent Machinery Lubrication survey, 91 percent of people have used a Band-Aid solution for a problem. While some quick fixes are OK, knowing when to use them is key. For instance, some lubricants have improved lubricity, which can in turn lower friction and heat generated by a machine. However, if there are mechanical defects, misalignment or imbalance, no lubricant can resolve these issues.

So while some instances may call for premium lubricants, you must first consider the various operating conditions and machine factors to determine the type of lubricant to use.