Oil Doesn't Live Forever
Oil Doesn't Live Forever
A little straight talk about suspension fluids.
Oxidation is the death of your suspension fluids. All petroleum products are subject to oxidation, with resulting degradation of their composition and performance. This process is accelerated by heat, and/or the presence of water, acids, or solid contaminants. The actual progression of this phenomena is actually mind splitting. For those of you who choose to run your fluids to their point of complete failure here is a description of what is happening. What is known to us as simple “fluid breakdown” is pretty ugly when viewed at the description of a petro-chemist or industry professional. While I know a little bit about oil I could not and never would consider myself an expert. But I do know enough that I can share something with you that I feel is important. Oxidation ain’t pretty.
The first reaction products of oxidation are organic peroxides. Continued oxidation catalyzed by peroxides, forms alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, and organic acids, which can be further oxidized (heaven forbid) to form high-molecular-weight, oil-insoluble polymers; these settle out as sludges, varnishes, and gums that can impair component operation. Pretty cool how your fluid grows “fungus” isn’t it? The organic acids formed from oxidation can also be corrosive to metals. So, you can see that as the process of fluid degradation occurs, the fluids begin to reach a point where self destruction compounds and speeds the process along.
Once you start to oxidize, your shock or forks performance are in a downward spiral. Eventually you have a fluid in your shock/forks that has no real value anymore relative to its requirements. All it’s doing at that point is speeding up internal component wear. Really, this can happen so gradually that you are not noticing it. In my quest to create my own fluid blends I actually had a couple failures before I learned some lessons in compatibility. I had one fluid give out on me in one day of riding, and then the performance of the shock stabilized on a fluid that I considered as having no “nutritional value”. I had a loss in viscosity that I felt immediately when it went, and I’m fairly certain in saying that while your stock fluids may not have this happen quite so abruptly, they don’t last very long either. I’ve known many stock fluids to begin a nosedive well before 20hrs of use.
There is only one simple answer to prevent this. While there are ways to improve oxidation resistance of fluids, the fact remains that the simplest of answers to prevent “fluid breakdown” is maintenance. Period! This stuff is extremely important to the suspension equation. The fluids are your damping medium. Without it you have nothing but springs and friction, and in a reduced state you have poor performance and along with that your comfort factor goes right out the window. You’d be surprised how quick some fluids begin their trip to the morgue and you would be very wise to keep it alive as possible. I won’t tell you how often you need to change your oil, but I will tell you that if you have over one season on it you’re missing out on a better ride.
Written by Jeff Howe
Submitted by DGS Racing, LLC