Pump Lubrication Basics: Part 4 – Tips To Extend The Life Of Your Bearings

If one third of all bearings fail prematurely due to lubrication issues and one-sixth due to contamination from air, water, cleanup / process chemicals or particulates, according to Waterworld, why do so many plant managers still neglect proper lubrication procedures and storage?

Bearings are the joints of the machine – they bear heavy loads and allow the movement of connecting parts. When they fail, movement is compromised, which can cause serious damage. Lubrication creates a barrier between the moving parts of the machine which reduces friction, minimizes wear and tear on moving parts, decreases the risk of particle contamination and helps maintain lower operating temperatures – keeping your machinery in optimum operating condition and extending its lifespan.

Here’s some tips to extend the life of your bearings:

1. Choose the right lubrication for the application
Lubrication prevents surfaces of bearings ad machinery parts from rubbing together. Without correct lubrication, small particles can break off, causing particle contamination and increasing the risk of abrasion. Whether you use base or synthetic oil to prevent wear and tear, you need to know the lubricant type, thickener type and viscosity to choose the right grease.

The lubricant type must meet the requirements for which the grease will perform, such as high and low temperatures, load and pressure. Synthetic oils are preferable over a wider range of temperatures and conditions, according to Machinery lubrication, while mineral base oils can be used when temperature is constant.

The thickener is what holds the lubricant in place. The type of thickener chosen should be compatible with OEM recommendations and able to withstand normal operating conditions. Most thickeners should not be mixed (which is why correct storage and labelling is so important).

Lastly, know the viscosity of the lubricant. For most applications, viscosity should be ISO 460 or higher, however, you must take into consideration the speed and dimensions of the bearing.

2. Check moisture levels
Moisture can have catastrophic effects on machinery – it decreases lubricant efficiency and causes early wear of machinery parts, which means increased costs due to maintenance and downtime.

Whether moisture occurs from condensation due to temperature fluctuations in storage or from exposure to ambient humidity, it can contaminate both base oil and synthetic oil. Moisture contamination can also make additives ineffective or cause a reaction with other additives to create excess sediment, hydrogen sulfides and other compounds according to a comprehensive study. This will lead to the pitting and particle contamination that will reduce bearing life over time.

With oxidation and the precipitation of some additives, water can cause lubricants to break down prematurely and even change the viscosity of an oil. Too much water can lower viscosity, which means the lubricant can no longer maintain the film to protect the bearings – eventually decreasing the load that bearings can support, leading to corrosion and pitting that eventually damages the machinery.

According to a study as far back as 1976, just 100 ppm water can cause a 32-48% decrease in bearing life, which is why routine moisture testing, whether visual or via oil analysis, is crucial. Other measures to reduce moisture contamination include using dessicant air-filter breathers on vents to reduce condensation, and training staff in proper cleanup and moisture management. Not only does this ensure that moisture levels remain in optimum operating range, but it also helps both operational and maintenance personnel to discover, correct and prevent moisture contamination problems before they cause costly or irreparable damage.

3. Prevent contamination through proper processes and procedures
Training staff in the proper process and procedures is crucial to prevent contamination and extend the life of your bearings. This spans from correct storage and handling of lubricants to using air filter breathers on reservoirs or magnetic shaft seals on seal bearing areas to prevent contamination, according to Efficient Plant Magazine. Oil/filter changes must be structured and efficiently managed to mitigate risk of contamination and ensure that lubricating fluids don’t degrade over time. Operators and maintainers need clean reservoirs before installing new oil, clean grease guns, nipples and other lubricant equipment to keep them free from contaminants and filter new oil with filter carts or offline filtration to prevent contamination. By performing regular checks and testing new lubricants, bulk fluids and additives for contaminants before using them, operators and maintainers can minimize risk of contamination as they become more familiar with the machinery and processes.

If these tips to increase the life of your bearings seem complicated and you just want someone to advise you on pump lubrication, call our toll-free number on 1-800-367-4180. We have experts on hand to help you with everything you need to know about pump lubrication, from choosing the right type of lubrication to filtering and storing it. And to answer all your questions about things you’ve previously tried which have gone wrong.