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What are the tell-tale signs of lubricant starvation?

Lubricant starvation is a very serious problem when it comes to expensive machinery. If there is not enough lubricant present in a piece of equipment, things can go downhill quickly and machinery can easily wear or break. That is why it is so important that you are able to recognize the tell-tale signs of lubrication as soon as they begin to occur.


When a piece of machinery becomes starved of lubrication, it is no longer possible for bearings, gears or slides to be kept apart and this caused a who lot of friction as various surfaces rub together. This, in turn, produces a lot of heat. If you notice equipment heating up much more than usual, there is a very good chance that the system is lubricant starved – a problem that will quickly need to be rectified.

The amount of heat that is generated by friction within an inadequately lubricated system will vary depending on how fast the surfaces are moving around. This means that a machine which is fitted with slow moving parts will take longer much longer to overheat than equipment operating at say 1800 rpm.

Machines vibrating at high speed will also fail much more quickly when they are lacking in lubrication, which is why it is so important to constantly monitor equipment and look out for the signs of lubricant starvation.

Vibration analysis

Another way of detecting lubricant starvation is one that can be employed before you get to the point of noticing excess heat – vibration analysis. When equipment is starved of lubricant, changes in vibration often occur. This is due to the fact that various elements are in contact with each other, when they previously were not, so it also pays to be on the alert for any vibration changes. It is also a good idea to do tests on this on a regular basis, to avoid getting to the point where extreme heat is your only indicator of a problem.

Other signs

There are a number of other signs that a machine may be suffering from lubricant starvation. They include things like the appearance of smoke, which is caused by the heating of any lubricant that remains in the system and odd smells caused by the heating of the oil and machinery.


Of course, it is much better to ensure that you never get to this point by monitoring lubricant levels and setting up a regular schedule of maintenance to ensure your machines do not run dry.

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