Why do bearings fail?
Unfortunately, there is not one simple, one-size fits all answer to this question. When we evaluate bearing materials for any application, we also examine why previous materials may have failed. We look at operating conditions, running temperatures, lubrication issues, fatigue factors and more to determine the root cause.
It is the culmination of all of these ― plus many other factors ― that contribute to bearing service life. Here’s a quick review of common causes to help you avoid bearing failure in the future:
Although it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of a bearing failure, some major causes include:
- Bearing lubrication – without the right lubrication levels, bearings can overheat and wear prematurely, which can significantly increase your replacement and maintenance costs. Lubrication failures can result either by using the wrong lubricant, insufficient lubrication or even a total breakdown of lubrication. Another challenge with lubricated bearings is that the excess grease can attract dust and other contaminants which can reduce service lifetime. Self-lubricating plastic bearings eliminate all of these concerns since they run “dry” without any additional lubrication.
- Working conditions – What are the everyday conditions that your bearings are exposed to? Do they regularly encounter cleaning chemicals, corrosive salt water, construction dust or other debris? It is critical to match bearings to the correct working environment. For instance, Rulon J offers superior performance in a diverse range of applications. It gives good wear, friction and temperature stability, but is not the best choice for use in wet environments.
- Shifting and misalignment – After hundreds of hours of use and stop/starts, equipment bearings can slide out of place. This can signal the end for metal bearings, while other materials are specially designed to accommodate shifting concerns. Ultracomp bearings, for instance, are a good choice for the construction, oil and gas and rail industries where heavy loads and constant use contribute to shifting.
- Temperature - Many designers still believe that a thicker bearing wall can resist higher temperatures than thin-walled plastic bearings. In fact, heat buildup is much more likely with thick-walled bushings. Consider plastic bearings for good heat dissipation and a higher-PV value.
Have you experienced a recent bearing failure? Share your experience here and we can help you explore different bearing options!