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Turning Machines - Lathe Lubrication
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Lathe Maintenance-Lubrication

Proper lubrication of machine tools is the responsibility of the operator. In order to ensure that the machine runs properly and maintains its accuracy, regular lubrication is required.

Before operating the lathe, make sure that all lubricants are at their proper levels. Being that all lathes are different, it is impossible to cover the lubrication schedule for all of the types of lathes found in the machine shop. Use the charts found below as a guide for the proper lubrication points found on most types of lathes. Use the chart to find similar lubrication points and the types of lubrication needed for the machines in our shop. If you find that the machine that you are using is drastically different from the machine found in the illustration, ask an instructor for the lubrication schedule for your particular machine.


Spindle bearings, headstock gearing, and shafts are lubricated continuously from a distributor tank located beneath the headstock top cover. The oil is supplied either by a pump or an oil slinger found in the headstock. Evidence of supply is shown in an oil sight glass located on the headstock front face (Figure 1).

Figure 1  If the machine is equipped with a pump, oil should be visible when the motor is running. If the machine is equipped with a slinger, oil should be visible in the headstock reservoir sight glass.

Ensure that the oil level in the system is kept topped off. On lathes with an oil pump, oil is usually added through a filler tube in the oil tank located behind the headstock end guard cover. (Figure 2).

Figure 2  The oil filler tube is typically found behind the headstock end guard cover.

Figure 3
 Oil filler plug located on the top of the headstock of a lathe equipped with an oil slinger lubrication system

On lathes with an oil slinger, oil is usually added through a filler plug on the headstock cover. (Figure 3).
Some types of lathes are equipped with both a reservoir sight glass and an oil flow sight glass (Figure 4). The reservoir sight glass is located on the lower half of the headstock while the flow sight glass is located near the top of the headstock.

Figure 4   Lathe headstock equipped with both flow and reservoir sight glasses


Gears in the gearbox are splash lubricated from an oil tank that is part of the gearbox. An oil sight window is typically situated on the front or side face of the gearbox (Figure 5).

Figure 5  When the lathe is off, oil should be visible at all times in the gearbox oil sight window.

Figure 6
 Typical filler elbow found behind the end cover of the headstock

To top off or fill the gearbox, find the filler elbow behind the headstock end cover (figure 6).


The apron gears are splash lubricated from an oil tank that is part of the apron. On new style lathes, the apron oil tank is also the reservoir for the manually operated pump (Figure 7) that lubricates the bedways, cross slide ways, and nut.

Figure 7  Before operating the lathe, give the one shot lubricator a pump to ensure proper lubrication to the bedways, cross slide, and nut.

When the oil level falls below the level on the site glass on the apron (Figure 8), the system can be filled through the filler plug found on the saddle (Figure 9).

Figure 8
 Apron oil sight glass

Figure 9  Apron oil filler plug

For trouble-free operation, keep the lathe clean and regularly maintained. Use the generic lubrication chart in Figure 10 to locate and maintain a regular lubrication schedule for the lathes in your machine shop.

Figure 10. General lubrication chart

Grease each week - rack and end train gears (change wheels) Shell Alvania RA.
- Chuck (manual) Molycote"D".
Oil each week - Tailstock, Leadscrew, Endgear, Bushes and Topslide, Shell Tellus T37 (ISO VG37)
Apron. Check level and top up each week - Shell Tonna TX68 (ISO VGT 68) Total capacity 1.2 litres.
Headstock. Check level and top up each week - Shell Tellus T37 (ISO VG37) Total capacity 16 litres.
Gearbox. Check level and top up each week - Shell Tellus T 37 (ISO VG 37) Total capacity 2.6 litres.