To use a grease gun, load it by pulling back the rod arm, detaching the head, and putting in a fresh grease canister. After that, release any excess air, press the grease into the nozzle head, and lubricate the joints of your car or machinery.
A grease gun is an important tool for any serious home mechanic or DIY enthusiast. The point of a grease gun is to keep your machinery well-lubricated and operating properly. Using a grease gun is fairly simple, you just need to know how. Otherwise, you can make a big mess or damage your grease gun.
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What is a grease gun?
A grease gun is a tool commonly used in garages and workshops. Its function is to apply lubricant to various mechanical components to reduce friction and ensure smooth operation. Typically, the grease is pushed out from a grease cartridge to a fitting or “nipple”. Behind the nipple, there are channels that carry the grease to the place where it’s needed.
How to load a grease gun
Before you can begin lubricating your car or machinery, you'll need to load your grease gun. To do this, you'll have to follow some very specific steps. These steps are simple, but it's critical that you don’t deviate from them—otherwise you could over-grease your joints, under-grease your joints, or just make a huge mess!
Find the fittings
The grease fittings or “grease nipples” on your motorcycle, boat, car, or tractor will be located near the various joints. There is no universal size of grease fitting. So, before you can purchase a grease gun and get to work, you'll need to figure out where your grease fittings are, what size they are, and how many you have.
Once you located all your grease fittings, measure them to determine their size. That way, you’ll be able to purchase a compatible grease gun.
Choose the right grease
While you're at the store picking out your grease gun, you’ll also want to pick up the grease cartridge you'll be using.
Not all grease cartridges are the same type and size. You'll need to make sure that you purchased one that is compatible not only with the type of machinery that you're performing maintenance on but also with the specific size and shape of the grease gun that you are going to use.
These measurements and compatibility information should be clearly labeled on the grease gun as well as the cartridges. Just make sure that the information and measurements match up, and you shouldn't have any issues.
Prep your grease gun
Now that you have your grease gun and your cartridge, you're ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work! The first thing to do is to prep your grease gun.
First, remove the head of the gun from the barrel. To do this, you'll need to unscrew it by turning the head in a counterclockwise direction.
Next, turn your attention to the handle rod protruding from the back end of the grease gun. It should be locked in place. To unlock it, pull the handle rod out of the small groove in which it is resting. Next, pull the handle rod all the way back and then lock it in place by sliding it back into the locking grove.
Finally, make sure to clean any old grease and debris off of every part of the grease gun (the pistol grip, flexible hose, grease gun coupler, gun nozzle, plunger, etc.). This will prevent contaminants from getting into your grease and, by extension, your machinery.
Your grease gun is now prepped and ready to be loaded!
Load the grease gun
Once your grease gun is prepped, you’ll be able to load it with a new grease cartridge. The cartridge will have two ends—one with a plastic cap and one that is tin (it will look similar to the top of a soda can). Open the plastic end and slide it, tin side up, into the barrel of the grease gun. Then, remove the pull tag on the grease canister.
Screw the end cap back onto the barrel of the grease gun, leaving it a little loose (about one full turn away from being fully tightened. Next, release the rod handle by pulling it free from the locking groove. Slowly and steadily press the rod handle to force grease into the head of the grease gun. You’ll need to use the release valve or “bleeder” on the head to let out any excess air.
After that, you’ll still need to pump the hand pump to build up the air pressure and work out the last bits of excess air—especially if the grease gun is new or if it’s cold outside. Then you can fully tighten the end cap and press down the bleeder one more time.
Clean your grease gun
You must wipe your grease gun clean of any excess grease or debris after each use. Just like the rest of your hand tools and power tools, you want to keep your grease gun clean and working smoothly.
How to use your grease gun
The most complicated part of using a grease gun is knowing how to properly prep and load the gun. Once, you’ve mastered that, operating the grease gun becomes very simple. All you need to do is fit the nozzle head onto the fitting (it should snap on snuggly), and then use the hand pump to press grease into the nipple and down the channels.
For smaller fittings, you’ll probably only need one to two squeezes to provide adequate grease to a joint. Larger fittings will need two or even three squeezes. If you see grease oozing out of the sides of the fitting, you’ll know you’ve added a bit too much—stop applying grease and wipe away any extra that’s present.
Types of grease guns
There are four main types of grease guns: lever grease guns, pistol-grip grease guns, cordless grease guns, and pneumatic grease guns. The type of grease gun that is right for you will depend on what you’re using it for and what your budget is.
Here’s a quick look at the four different types of grease guns:
- Lever gun. Lever grease guns are the most common and low-tech version of the grease gun. They’re simple and economical. However, lever-action grease guns require two hands and are significantly more difficult to use.
- Pistol grip gun. Pistol grip guns are a good option if you’re dealing with more complex or compact machinery that has lots of tight spaces that you’ll need to reach. With the pistol-grip grease gun, you’ll only need one hand and can pump grease using the built-in hand pump.
- Cordless grease gun. If you want a grease gun that’s even easier to use, you can invest in a cordless grease gun. They are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries—which makes them portable, convenient, and easy to use!
- Pneumatic gun. Pneumatic grease guns use air pressure from a built-in air supply to provide constant and effortless grease delivery. With pneumatic guns, all you have to do is pull the trigger!
What to avoid when using a grease gun
Like any tool, there are a few things that you should avoid when operating a grease gun—you’ll find those listed below.
- Mixing greases. If you’re using an old grease gun (or borrowing one from somebody), it’s important that you thoroughly clean off any old grease—mixing different grease types could result in improper lubrication.
- Using low-quality grease. Like any product, the really low-quality/cheap greases are not likely to perform as well. If you cut corners with the type of grease you use, it will adversely affect the longevity of your machinery.
- Over-greasing. One mistake that a lot of DIY mechanics make is over-greasing. If you notice the joints of your machine getting black, it means you’ve been using too much grease—which can be an expensive mistake over time.
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Can you leave grease in a grease gun?
Yes, leaving grease inside a grease gun should result in any serious issues. Just make sure to release the air pressure by pulling the handle rod back and locking it in place.
Why does my grease gun not work?
The most common reason why a grease gun might not work is that there are air pockets in the flexible hose or in the barrel itself. Try pumping the handle and using the air release valve—it might take a few minutes, but that should resolve your problem.