Grease guns on test: Electric v manual

Grease guns may not be the most exciting or glamorous pieces of kit on the farm, but their role is vital. Get your lubrication right and your bearings will live to a ripe old age; neglect it and they will peg out well before their allotted time.

But do you stick with a manual type or upgrade to an electric version? We have been trying two electric guns and an unusual manual one to see what sort of job they do.

Sealey grease gun

Sealey

Design Lightweight plastic shell feels a poor man’s equivalent to the heavily armoured Ingersoll. However, it is easier to carry around and also comes with a lock to prevent the trigger being accidentally pressed.

There is a plastic holder for the nozzle attached to the top of the motor, which stops the flexi end waving around and picking up dust and straw while not in use.

Suitable for 400g cartridges, manual or bulk filling

Features LCD battery condition indicator

Battery 18V 1.7Ah Ni-Cd

Flow rate 100g/min

Hose length 700mm

Pressure 7,000psi

Weight 3.3kg

Price £189.95

Verdict The Ni-Cd battery lasted for roughly three cartridges before running out of juice, which was half the length of the Ingersoll. The hose was also shorter, though still plenty long enough for most jobs.

Sealey suffered from fewer airlock problems than the Ingersoll and also comes with a higher flow rate on paper, but in reality it is difficult to notice the difference.

See also: 6 farm workshop gloves: Which handles mucky jobs best?

Ingersoll-Rand grease gun

Ingersoll-Rand

Design Tough plastic outer should stand up to farm life. It’s a bit bigger than the Sealey because the motor sits high above the handle, but can be ordered with a shoulder strap for a few extra quid.

It comes with only a little rubber cap to hook over the nozzle, so picks up the dirt and flicks grease about in the back of the truck. The cap also gets full of muck very quickly, though would probably be more useful in a squeaky-clean factory environment.

Suitable for 400g cartridges, manual or bulk filling

Features 4-stage battery life indicator

Battery 20V 2.5Ah Li-ion

Flow rate 75g/min

Hose length 762mm

Pressure 6,250psi – comes with a high-pressure indicator with a warning light that will release the trigger to reset

Weight 3.7kg

Price £359

Verdict Comfortable grip on the handle and solidly made outer means it looks the more professional of the two, but it’s pretty pricey.

Early on in the summer we found it got more airlocks than the Sealey, but things improved over the course of harvest. The battery is far superior, managing twice as many cartridges as its rival. The better of the two, but only just…

Speedy Grease grease gun

Speedy Grease

Design It looks quite different from a regular gun – instead of a cylindrical metal tube with a strong spring to push the grease out, there is just a short collar that leaves the cartridge exposed.

The other oddity is that there are two handles, though one of them is rigid and simply there to help you grasp the whole thing.

Suitable for 400g cartridges but not bulk filling

Features Two-handed use and strong magnet.

Pressure 11,600psi

Volume dispensed 2.5cc

Hose length 800mm

Weight 1.6kg

Price £60

Verdict Pushing the handle pumps the grease out without drama. There were no annoying airlocks or sputtering and – apart from one or two hesitations – it worked really well.

Having the cartridge exposed is a mixed blessing – it means you can see how much grease is left in the cartridge, but there is sometimes a temptation to grab the cartridge by accident.

The 800mm-long hose is brilliant for getting grease into awkward nipples, no matter how hidden they are. However the hose can flap about in an annoying way if you attempt to do the greasing too quickly.

The other clever thing is a strong magnet on the side of the gun that means you can safely park the gun on a vertical face or even upside down.

You can even attach it to the inside of a combine tool box without it getting in the way of other tools.

One downside is that it isn’t really a one-handed operation (and you might want to have a regular gun for quick greasing of easy-to-get-at nipples). But it is definitely one for the toolbox.  

You can use Speedy Grease’s own cartridges or use versions sold by other companies.


Battery-powered grease guns – friend or foe?

Likes

  • Comes with long hoses so can easily reach most nipples
  • Two-handed job – one on nozzle, one on trigger
  • Speeds up greasing

Gripes

  • A lot heavier than a hand pump version
  • Lack of accuracy when greasing bearings
  • Replacement batteries expensive

We have survived years with manual grease guns, but they are notoriously difficult to operate without three hands. Using battery power to take out the elbow grease seems like a sensible step, so what’s the catch?

The big stumbling block for battery-powered systems is the lack of accuracy for delicate jobs where overdoing the grease can drastically reduce the life expectancy of the bearing.

Electric guns lack the feeling of pressure you get from operating a lever, so it’s far more difficult to judge how much grease is going into every joint. Though you can get a rough idea of what is coming out of the nozzle by the noise of the motor, it’s nothing like as controlled as a manual equivalent.

In many cases, particularly when you are new to the gun, it means waiting to see the grease come squirting out of the bearing before you stop pumping.

It might be that you use the battery-operated versions for less delicate jobs where it doesn’t particularly matter how much grease you pump through. For sealed bearings that require just a splodge of lubrication it might be safer to stick to the manual gun.