For heavy duty maintenance shops, zerk lubing is one of those vital routine preventive maintenance services. It’s not difficult, but it’s a necessary task customers will be thrilled to have you do for them. You need the right equipment and a procedure, but zerk lubing can be a valuable source of income.

What is a Zerk?

You have to know what a zerk is before you can master zerk lubing. They are fairly simple parts, however, and relatively easy to maintain. Zerks are small nipples on equipment. They have many names–zerk fitting, alamite fitting, grease nipple, and grease fitting. Whatever you choose to call them, they keep contaminants out while allowing fresh grease to get to difficult to reach components. They are one-way valves with a ball bearing at the tip. The ball bearing at the opening keeps the grease in while keeping dirt out.

Tools for Zerk Lubing

With experience, you may develop techniques or might service specific trucks that require more bells and whistles than the basics. That will be something you’ll learn over time. To get started, however, there are just a few essential tools you’ll need for zerk lubing:

  • Standard grease gun—if you don’t already have a standard grease gun in your shop, it’s time to get one. You will need this handy tool sooner or later. It holds an entire tube of grease. What’s more, it creates the right angle to help you press grease into tough-to-deal-with fittings. Some have swivel heads and long hoses to make zerk lubing easier in tight spots. Note: When greasing a zerk that is flush with the surface of the equipment, you’ll need a special nozzle. Needle nozzle fittings for grease guns press directly against the ball bearing instead of covering the entire nipple. The best ones thread directly onto the hose. The ones that snap on can leak.
  • Fitting rejuvenator—if a zerk hasn’t been greased in a while, the bearing could become stuck in the opening. When zerks seize up in this way, rejuvenators may be your best bet short of replacing them. They are easy to use. Simply fill one with grease, place it over the zerk, and strike it with a hammer. The force of the blow typically jars the bearing loose.
  • Extra zerks—lubing zerks can damage them occasionally. When this happens, or if a rejuvenator can’t solve the problem, just replace it. Get a pack of assorted sizes. Then you’ll have them when you need them.

Don’t Miss One!

It’s important to grease all the zerks when a customer brings his truck in for maintenance. Unless you’re already familiar with any semi, it can be hard to locate them all. Heavy-duty equipment mechanics recommend checking the manual first. It could contain a diagram of where to find all of them. If the manual isn’t available, some of the common places you’ll find zerks include:

  • Steering column
  • Drag link
  • U-joint in the drive train
  • Front brakes
  • Drive wheel brake chambers
  • Slip joint
  • 5th wheel pivots

Make a note of where each one is. Draw a map if you need to for use in future zerk lubing.

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