The best grease gun
A grease gun is an essential piece of equipment for lubricating all kinds of vehicles and industrial machinery. Grease guns come in a wide variety, from manual models for the home mechanic to powered versions for the busy professional. We've done the research, so we can advise you on the right choice for your needs. If you want the very best, the DeWalt cordless grease gun is packed with valuable features and offers unrivaled performance.
Considerations when choosing grease guns
Types of grease guns
Manual grease guns are the least expensive option. These are operated by either a side lever or a pistol-style trigger. While the side lever type has been around longer, they aren't the easiest to operate, so trigger versions tend to be more popular. If you only have occasional need -- for a yard tractor or ride-on mower, for example -- this is a perfectly adequate tool.
Powered grease guns fall into two categories: pneumatics and cordless. Pneumatics tend to be very reliable and quite affordable, provided you already have an air compressor. These tools are common in garages and are best when you can take the vehicle or equipment that needs lubricating to the tool.
Cordless grease guns are the better choice for the busy professional because there are no restrictions on where you can use them. In the morning you can be in the shop, and in the afternoon out onsite. The only drawback is the investment required.
Manufacturers often place some emphasis on the maximum working pressure of their grease gun, which can be anywhere from 4,000 to 15,000 psi (pounds per square inch). It sounds impressive, but needs to be taken in context.
Most bearing seals will be damaged if the pressure on them exceeds 500 psi. The advantage of a high-pressure grease gun is not that it's required for a specific piece of machinery, but that in experienced hands, it supplies high volumes of grease quickly and gets the job done fast.
Control is very important -- you need to be careful. If you damage a seal, you can seriously reduce its life and that of the equipment being lubricated.
Other grease gun features
Grease guns have flexible or rigid hoses, or both. A short hose may not reach the required lubrication point, so think about the machinery you're working on before ordering.
When adding bulk grease it's easy to create air pockets. They can also be found in cartridge refills. These pockets can completely stop the flow of grease. A bleed valve on the gun means you don't have to disassemble it to clear the problem.
Grease fittings (usually called zerks or nipples) are not all the same size. Your grease gun is often only supplied with one nozzle, so you may need to buy extras. They aren't expensive and are easy to screw on and off, but be careful with the thread. Some grease guns use metric rather than imperial.
Grease gun prices
You can find cheap grease guns with manual lever or trigger action for as little as $10 or $15. Unfortunately, many of them leak, and you get as much grease on you as in the machinery you're working on. Decent budget models don't cost much more -- between $25 and $40. If you want a powered model and you have a compressor, you pay anywhere from $50 to $110. Cordless grease guns are the premium option, with prices from $170 to $260. You can save a considerable amount if you already own a compatible battery and charger, but check carefully.
Q. What maintenance does a grease gun need?
A. In general it's just a case of keeping it clean. Give it a wipe down after each use to prevent dust and grit from working their way into the mechanism. If the grease has been in the gun for a while it can pick up contaminants. It's recommended that you degrease the gun with isopropyl alcohol in between cartridge changes or bulk refills. Pneumatic and electric models may have minor additional requirements -- check your owner's manual.
Q. How do I know I've pumped enough grease?
A. Manufacturers of the equipment you're greasing may recommend an amount or a number of pumps, but different grease guns can pump different volumes, so it's not easy to calibrate. Most pros just pump (carefully) until a little grease escapes the connector, then stop and wipe off the excess.
Grease guns we recommend
Best of the best: DeWalt DCGG571M1 20V Max Cordless Grease Gun
Our take: Outstanding tool satisfies the most demanding professional.
What we like: Superb design and ergonomics. Excellent hose length. Good run time between charges. 10,000 psi working pressure. Even has LEDs to light up dark corners.
What we dislike: Expensive. A few users have had issues, but we found no consistent faults.
Best bang for your buck: Lincoln 1162 Air Operated Grease Gun
Our take: Gives the keen amateur or small shop automatic pumping for a minor investment.
What we like: Simple, effective solution. Good control from the variable speed trigger. Decent hose length and neat storage clip. 6,000 psi working pressure. Affordable and popular.
What we dislike: Some reliability issues. Bulk fill adaptor costs extra. Needs compressor.
Choice 3: Carbyne Heavy-Duty Manual Grease Gun
Our take: Fully-featured manual model for those who only have occasional need.
What we like: Comfortable trigger grip. Aluminum reduces weight and won't rust. Useful air bleed valve and 5" rigid extension. 4,500 psi working pressure. Low cost.
What we dislike: Flex hose could be longer. More reports of leaks than we like to see.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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