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The history of lubrication 2

Earlier one had to be considerate with the mechanical components, one could only push them to the limit from time to time. Nowadays, they have evolved into real all-rounders, they don't mind how they are treated, as long as a certain operating temperature is kept up. The very first cars used most of all water, then fuel and then lubricants. Thus, as far as the engine oil was concerned, the invention of the oil-sump, where the oil was collected and pumped back into the system, was a blessing. At that time there was no such thing as an oil filter and the topping-up quantities could also not be compared with what we have today.

The introduction of pressurised-circulation lubrication was urgently needed, because already in 1905, the motorisation in the USA was sky-rocketing. The one million mark would be exceed before 1951. Europe was still a half a century away from a situation like this. The workshops at that time, were similar to a blacksmith's shop and the first proper filling station would only appear in 1922. Then however, with a huge growth rate until the climax in 1939, which after the war, would surprisingly, never be reached again.

What is very often disregarded today, is the fact that at that time, no road-system was available. This concerns, to a large part, the USA with the early beginning of mass-motorisation. Only after president Hoover's highway activities around 1930, did a clear improvement take place. Bad roads mean dust pollution and - as anyone who has done a desert crossing knows - this places high demands on the lubrication and sealing systems. The latter brings yet another industrial branch into play.

Indeed, just how leak-proof was an engine made in 1900? Have a look under the veteran cars in the motor-museums, the oil-pan will make it clear, how much oil they lose, even when standing still! One only had, at best, felt or leather for the seals, simple, natural materials. Artificial India-rubber would only be discovered in 1927. Indeed, in my personal experience, only in the last 20 years has rubber begun to lose it's softeners more slowly and this, only if it is suitably protected, so that it would have a service life of more than 10 years.

Oil is filled into cans from barrels, which, e.g., in America, also carry advertising. From the environmental point of view, a favourable situation because it reduces the amount of containers which have to be produced and suitably disposed of because of the residual oil on their inside walls. There are also half-liter packs available which curbs the rip-off of having to buy the two-liter packs. A number of years ago, to further the aims of environmental protection, the buying of oil by measure was tried again and it failed. I wonder why.

At this point, before we repeat the entire package of tasks, e.g., that engine oil has to cope with, let's rather concentrate on the individual ones. Right at the beginning of the motorised vehicle development, the preservation of mechanical efficiency had top priority. Even moreso, since repairing the vehicles was costly and required a great deal of effort. There was not yet enough standardisation, there was also no guarantee that the ordered relacement component would also fit. A compliance among the manufacturers was difficult anyway, since the supplier industry was still cutting it's teeth. We won't even mention a 24-hour delivery service.

Indeed, if components have to be hand-made or at least adapted, perhaps we would take more care that they don't wear out quickly. Especially because the materials were also, nowhere near as sophisticatedly conceived as they are today. Castings for the most various applications were probably taken from one and the same pot, neither weight- nor durability was optimised. Only the enormous development of the suppliers, made research and materials-science in detail possible, which benefited a number of vehicle manufacturers, all at the same time. 11/11

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