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What are the most common bearing lubrication mistakes?

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Lubrication bearing errors can have serious consequences. Common impacts of improper lubrication include conditions like excessive wear and overheating, either of which can result in bearing failure. For operations, this means unexpected mechanical downtime and productivity, costly repairs or replacements, and ultimately a loss of revenue for owners.

Obviously, these are issues best avoided, but bearing lubrication mistakes can creep in and be the culprit behind such damaging scenarios. Here, we highlight some of the most frequently seen errors to help companies keep operating at optimum.

Don’t under- or over-lubricate bearings

Adding either too little or too much lubricant is among the most common errors made in industrial applications.

When not enough grease is applied, it can have a life-shortening impact on bearings, which soon start to experience harmful abrasion. However, using too much grease can cause unwanted issues as well. When grease accumulates, pressure and friction increase causing excess heat to occur causing damage to bearing health.

How do you work out the correct amount of lubricating grease to use?

The first step is to monitor the friction level of the bearing. This is performed using ultrasound as the new grease is added, slowly and one load shot at a time.

Operators must listen closely to the bearing and attempt to measure any drop in friction occurring as the grease starts to flow inside the bearing. Make a note of the decibel level as it approaches a minimum value and stabilises. Apply single shots of grease, and if even a slight increase in decibel occurs, users can stop, as they have achieved optimum lubricant quantity.

Lubricate on condition, not on schedule

Many operators believe lubricating bearings once per week or each month is a practical approach, but it can cause more harm to bearings than good.

Lubricating grease is required in bearings to both prevent and effectively reduce friction. Providing the lubricant is performing its role well, there is no need to change or add more.

Operators can monitor and measure friction levels using ultrasound rather than re-lubricating bearings to a set schedule. This is a more precise method and presents less risk of excessive build-up or under-lubrication.

Never employ “listen-only” ultrasound equipment

On its own, audible feedback does not provide an effective assessment. This is because a listen-only test is far too subjective to draw any solid conclusions as no two individuals hear sounds identically. Additionally, it can also be hard to remember what a bearing might have sounded like several months ago using human memory alone.

Fortunately, an easy fix exists. Operators testing bearing lubrication can choose an ultrasound device equipped with digital decibel metering. If available, a wise move is to use a device that can provide multiple condition indicators whenever possible.

As you can see, there are tangible benefits to optimising your approach to bearing lubrication and avoiding making these three common mistakes. Sidestepping these pitfalls can extend the active lifespan of your bearings, reduce lubricating grease consumption, and lessen time spent unnecessarily re-lubricating when systems are running at peak.

While it’s a simple concept, bearing lubrication has its own unique challenges. As a result, operators must follow established guidelines to make sure it is carried out correctly.

Over an extended time, grease inside a bearing will always start to lose its lubricating attributes eventually. However, it’s still vital to pay attention to the current quality of the lubricant in use and take steps to preserve the health of the bearing, as well as its intended lifespan. This can ensure smooth running for facilities and mitigate the threats of unplanned downtime, decreased operational performance and lost revenue because of bearing failure caused by lubrication problems.

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