Worn bearings are a costly and all-too-common setback in operating environments, but many of the issues causing them are entirely preventable. The most common types of wear involve issues with Installation, Contamination, Lubrication, Shaft Lock, and Misalignment. Effectively monitoring and reviewing these areas prevents many types of wear and can greatly extend bearing life.
Improper installation can set bearings up for early failure and lead to several types of wear down the road. Not only can improper installation result in misaligned bearings, leading to a number of issues right out of the gate, but improper tightening of the locking mechanism can lead to loss of lock. Installation procedure should also be reviewed to eliminate sources of preload which can lead to excessive thrust load and to eliminate pinching of the rolling element, which can lead to spalling.
Fine contamination in bearings can cause abrasive wear which results in frosting, while external contamination – or debris getting caught between the rolling elements and raceway – can cause denting. These issues can be avoided by reviewing your seal selection.
Improper lubrication is one of the most common contributors to loss of bearing life. It can lead to corrosion, smearing, surface initiated spalling, denting, and frosting. To prevent these issues, you should review lubrication selection, frequency, amount and procedure.
Damage and wear within the bore of an inner ring and on the outside of a shaft contribute to loss of lock. These issues can be caused by undersized or worn shafting, improper tightening, and frequent start/stop operation. Loss of lock can be prevented with proper installation, proper shafting, use of a calibrated torque wrench, and an alternate locking mechanism.
As mentioned previously, issues caused by misalignment begin at installation. Ensuring proper alignment, mounting surfaces are clean and flat, reviewing bearing selection, and replacing damaged shafting can prevent housing or shaft misalignment, system imbalance, bent shafts, and distorted or flexing frames.