There are 6 principle reasons why rolling bearings fail:
1 Solid Contamination:
- Contaminants introduced into bearing because greasing equipment and grease nipples were not cleaned prior to use
- Contaminants working back into the bearing from worn or poorly purged seals
- Foreign matter such as dust and grit in the grease from poorly handled and stored greases
2 Unsuitable Lubricant:
- Grease applied which has lubricant properties unsuited to the application
- Grease which is incompatible with the existing grease being applied during re-greasing causing lubricant break-down
3 Insufficient Lubricant:
- Dry running bearings
- Bearings with insufficient lubricant to protect against shock or vibration
- Insufficient re-greasing to remove grease degraded from water contamination
- Insufficient re-greasing to remove grease degraded from heat and oxidisation
4 Aged Lubricant:
Greases have a finite life. Over time oil will be lost from the grease base which acts in the style of a sponge to hold the oil and accommodate movement of the grease within the moving bearing elements; lubricants and oils become oxidised and harden over time – this process may be accelerated due to heat, load, speed, vibration, water contamination.
5 Water Contamination:
This may occur from water (or other liquids) entering bearings which are operating in wet conditions, from humidity, or condensation occurring as a result of large temperature cycles from hot to cold/cool conditions creating conditions which allow a condensate to form in the housing. Water contamination will lead to corrosion and a break down in the greases lubrication properties.
6 Other Breakdown Causes:
- Poor fitting, poor alignment, loads and speeds outside bearing design parameters, and normal wear and tear occurring to bearings and seals.
- Incorrect (or not ideal) bearing selection. Thus the cause of a premature bearing failure could be the selection of the bearing in the first place.
© Milton Holmes 2010
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