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Motion Control Resources

Troubleshooting Tips: Lubrication - page 5

by Kristin Lewotsky, Contributing Editor
Motion Control & Motor Association

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Troubleshooting Tips: Lubrication - page 5

Not considering temperature, duty cycle, not planning for re-lubrication, etc.  Any one of these can be detrimental. Know about the environment that the equipment is to operate in; know the duty cycle and plan for it to change—because it will; put visual indicators and switches for remote indication of dirty filters because maintenance is not always done as it should be done. Try to make it as foolproof, but as simple as possible. Most lubrication systems are about getting clean, cool, lube to the place(s) where it is needed. Add a few devices to make sure that the system is working, such as pressure switches, flow switches, temperature switches, etc.

—J. C.

Many customers wish to consolidate and reduce the total number of lubricants used in their facility. While this can usually be done with excellent results, you need to be very careful. Trying to consolidate too much and too quickly can lead to mistakes. I have seen this several times. Don't forget to consider ALL factors for lubricant selection such as water resistance, speed, loads, bearing types, gear types, starting and running torques, seal and paint compatibility, etc. Sometimes there is a benefit to using a couple more lubricants than initially desired in order to avoid lube related problems.

—S. M.

How often is poor choice of lubricant responsible for failures?  

There are many factors that can contribute to a failure; however when we conduct an engineering evaluation on a gearbox, the lubrication is one of the first things we look at. Things such as discoloration, metal fragments, lubrication amount, and even odor can provide clues as to the possible root cause of the failure.

—M. P.

Across the entire manufacturing industry, the number of failures and associated costs would be fairly significant. Even after the proper choice of lubricant is made, that choice can be destroyed with contamination or lack of maintenance of the lubricant. Studies have shown that improper lubrication is responsible for as much as 40% of bearing failures while contamination accounts for 25%. The remainder is primarily due to installation errors and overloading/misloading.

— T. S.

I think that a poor choice is probably responsible for failure about 1/3 of the time, and that improper maintenance is the other 2/3. These are just my best guesses.

—J. C.

Improper lubrication is one of the leading causes of component failure. It is not only the use of an incorrectly selected lubricants, it is also the use of improper lubrication frequencies and amounts. For instance, you can select the best oil for a gearbox, but not maintain the proper oil level or oil change interval. You can select the best grease for a bearing, but over grease it. These can also lead to what is considered lubricant related failures. Optimizing a lubrication program starts with proper selection and includes best practices such as condition monitoring, re-lubrication frequency, re-lubrication amount, and re-lubrication techniques.

—S. M.

How much of a difference can proper choice of lubricant make in the lifetime of a gearbox or bearing?

The proper choice of lubricant, proper lubrication practices, and proper lubricant maintenance together will ensure you get maximum life out of the equipment. The impact of high performance lubricants is huge and documented in hundreds of case studies we have. The examples include four times longer gear oil drain intervals, improved gear conditions, saving damaged gearboxes from failure, extended bearing re-lubrication intervals, and 50% reduced grease consumption.  

— T. S.

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