Due to incomplete combustion, high levels of soot can accumulate in engine lubricants between drain intervals. This soot can promote wear of engine parts such as timing chains and cam followers. One standard approach to reducing wear is to increase the hardness of the rubbing components used. According to the Archard wear equation, wear rate should be broadly inversely proportional to hardness. To explore this approach for controlling soot wear, wear tests have been conducted in a High Frequency Reciprocating Rig (HFRR) with HFRR steel discs of various hardness against a hard steel ball. Carbon black (soot surrogate) dispersions in model lubricants based on solutions of ZDDP and dispersant in GTL base oils have been studied. Wear volumes have been measured and wear scars and tribofilms analysed using scanning white light interferometry and SEM-EDS. It is found that, while most oils show wear that reduces with increasing hardness, for blends that contain both ZDDP and carbon black, wear rate markedly increases with disc hardness as the latter approaches the hardness of the ball. The results support the prevalence of a corrosive-abrasive wear mechanism when carbon black and ZDDP are both present in a lubricant and suggests that selection of very hard surfaces may not be a useful way to control soot.
Kontou, A., Southby, M., & Spikes, H. A. (2017). Effect of steel hardness on soot wear. Wear, 390–391, 236–245. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wear.2017.07.020