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Cordless Grease Guns
When Lincoln Industrial introduced its PowerLuber battery-operated grease gun nearly 20 years ago, farmers were at first fascinated with what they thought was just a gadget. Then they quickly and completely became sold on what is now considered a necessity. Today, cordless grease guns litter shop workbenches and machinery toolboxes.
As what often happens with popular breakthrough products like the PowerLuber, models soon proliferated, with additional manufacturers entering the cordless grease gun market, offering an expanded list of features. So much so, that today, more than 20 different cordless grease guns are on the market, ranging in size from 12 to 20 volts.
The guide at the end of the article focuses on the latest entries in a market that consists almost entirely of 18-volt and more powerful guns. This is not to discount less powerful guns, as they are fully capable of tackling many lubrication chores. For example, 12-volt grease guns offer up to 6,500 psi pumping pressure and up to 2-ounce-per-minute flow rates, which is five times faster than a manual grease gun.
Just focusing on 18-volt and larger guns presents a dizzying selection of sizes and features to choose from. Even the basic gun design has changed lately, with both DeWalt and Milwaukee Tool offering tools with a handle instead of the traditional pistol-grip configuration. These handle-type guns can be set down on pads, leaving both hands free to grease.
Voltage aside, what quickly differentiates grease guns are their batteries: nickle cadmium (NiCd) or lithium-ion (li-ion). The NiCd battery has been in use on cordless tools for over 25 years. Li-on, introduced on cordless tools a decade ago, has several distinct advantages that can justify the generally higher price. Besides offering a longer overall life, li-ion batteries also:
- Have superior energy density reflected in the amp hours (Ah).
- Deliver a consistent level of power from fully charged to discharged (no fading of power as the battery discharges).
- Can be stored for months with minimal loss of charge (five times less than NiCd’s self-discharge).
- Do not suffer from memory effect that deteriorates a battery’s storage capacity.
- Are generally lighter, weighing 15% to 25% less than NiCd.
Pressure, flow rate
Another obvious difference between guns featured in this guide is their maximum operating pressure and flow rate. You can select guns that turn out up to 10,000 psi (to bust through the most stubbornly plugged zerk) with flow rates up to 9 ounces per minute. Whether you need this kind of performance depends on how much greasing you need to get done in a short period of time (greasing a combine vs. a grain cart, for example) and the age of your equipment (new free-flow zerks vs. old, possibly plugged zerks).
A recent wrinkle is the availability of a variable-speed trigger that allows you to adjust the flow to the need. The latest model of variable speed is a two-speed gun that allows you to select between maximum pressure at a lower flow rate (handy for older equipment with plugged zerks) or maximum flow rate at a lower pressure (great for greasing a combine, for example).
When shopping for a gun, be sure to ask about its construction. The heart of this tool is a hardened piston operating off a planetary gear drive inside a plated steel barrel. Some guns promote their use of an all-metal drivetrain as well as robust housing to protect against breakage in harsh work environments while being able to withstand repeated drops.
Other features of note include:
- LED work light (handy when greasing equipment at night).
- Electronic shutoff valve or pressure relief valve, which will identify blocked bearings or fittings while protecting the gun’s motor from excessive pressure.
- Counter dial that can be set to limit the amount of grease dispensed.
- Hose length, which varies from 30 up to 42 inches.