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1 min read

Q&A: Causes of Bearing Failure: Metal Brinelling

By Dave Biering on January 19, 2016

How does brinelling cause bearing failure in metal?

How does brinelling cause bearing failure in metal?

Some of our best questions come directly into our Ask the Experts portal, and this one is a prime example. Today, we review brinelling, which is a key cause of bearing failure in metals. Along with lubrication, fatigue, and corrosion, brinelling failure causes costly and premature bearing wear.

Here’s how you can avoid it.

How does brinelling cause bearing failure in metal?

Brinelling is described as indentations or marks in the metal racers of a rolling element bearing. It is named for the Brinell scale of hardness. Brinell marks can indicate a number of issues. They can show that a bearing load was excessive for the material selection, or that the bearing was improperly installed which led to a misalignment. Brinelling can also indicate that the bearing may have been contaminated with debris. Brinelling marks can even present inside bearings in cases where dust or other contaminants are present. 

Brinelling falls into two categories:

True Brinelling – points to a bearing load that exceeded the elastic limit of the bearing material. 

False Brinelling – takes the form of a depression around the race that is caused by vibration or swaying between the rolling elements and the races. This form of brinelling is common in non-rotating applications such as lift and tilt.

In both true and false brinelling, lubrication is not a friend. 

How can I avoid brinelling?

Our recommendation is to consider polymer bearings. With a simple, one-piece design, polymer bearings eliminate racing and metal-on-metal contact. Polymer also incorporates high-elastic values to resist compression and depression, and give better friction tolerance. 

Need to eliminate the cause of your brinelling failure? Submit your application specs to explore the right polymer bearing for your application.

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Topics: Bearing Failure
1 min read

Causes of Bearing Failure: New videos explain why metal bearings fail!

By Dave Biering on September 29, 2015

Video  - Why Do Metal Bearings Fail? Composite bearing solutions.

Metal bearings – what causes bearing failure, really? The short answer is that there is no short answer; bearings can fail from a multitude of reasons including corrosion, fatigue, lubrication, maintenance and more. Yet whenever there’s a failure, it’s important to uncover the root cause ― but it can be a complex discovery process. 

Until now.

Announcing TriStar’s new videos: Causes of Metal Bearing Failure, a four-part series that delves into common bearing problems, including:

  1. Lubrication – from choosing the wrong viscosity to overheated temperatures, incorrect lubrication is the #1 cause of bearing failure. This video highlights what you need to know to avoid lubrication issues. 
  2. Maintenance – metal bearings don’t always receive the care they need, particularly when they are located in a hard-to-reach assemblies. Explore why metal bearings contaminate and corrode without regular upkeep.
  3. Load – overloaded bearings (such as in gear boxes) is a problem that is more common than you might think. Review the conditions that can lead to brinneling and more. 
  4. Avoiding failure – Want to avoid all of the above pitfalls? Check-out how TriStar’s solutions can help you avoid the common causes of baring failure. With our self-lubricating composites, lubrication is a non-issue, and corrosion is a thing of the past.

Start uncovering how you can avoid the common causes of bearing failure! Check out the latest additions to our Bearing Video Learning Center! Or just ask the self-lubricating bearing experts for a recommendation!

Topics: Bearing Failure
1 min read

Q&A: How can I correct a bearing failure of agitator steady bearings?

By Dave Biering on May 7, 2015


Keep sending us your questions about bearing failure and other bearing challenges! Some of our best products were developed as a result of your toughest applications! 

This week’s question was submitted by a chemical company looking to replace their reactor agitator steady bearing used in industrial mixing and blending. The client had been using a 25% glass-filled Teflon bearing, but had a high bearing failure based on low wear properties. Add to that the fact that glass filled PTFE is not FDA acceptable and the customer had more than a wear issue. They needed a replacement bearing with FDA compliance and good friction rates. After reviewing the application, our team recommended durable, Rulon 1439 FDA-compliant steady bearings.

Rulon was chosen based on the following factors:

Rulon 1439 is an excellent material for submerged applications, as it is compatible with most lubricants and delivers better wear than most PTFE compounds. The material resists boiling temperatures and caustic washdown chemicals of FDA-compliant environments, plus it has a pleasing, stain-resistant white color. Rulon 1439 is an excellent replacement steady bearing in food processing mixing applications

Specifications below:

Rulon® 1439 Material Specifications




Max Load "P" (psi) Mpa: 1,000/6.9
Max Speed "V" (fpm) m/s: 400/2.0
Max "PV" (psi-fpm) (Mpa • m/s): 10,000/0.35

Mating Surface Steel and Stainless Steel

Rb25 and higher


FDA compliant, steam, wet, dry, vacuum

Relative Rating (1=Low, 5=High)

Coefficient of friction: 3
Creep resistance: 4
Insulative property: Yes

Since moving from Teflon to Rulon, our client reports they have lowered bearing failure rates and increased production levels.

Learn more about Rulon applications in any of our Rulon technical white papers!

Topics: Bearing Failure
1 min read

Causes of Bearing Failure – See the Video

By Dave Biering on February 19, 2015

Causes of Bearing Failure – See the VideoOf all of the questions we receive about bearings, one of the most-commonly asked is regarding the causes of bearing failure. Just why do bearings fail? 

Today, we address this complex topic with a new video.

Bearing failure can result from a host of many factors, ranging from temperature fluctuations, to alignment issues, a change in operating conditions, or even too much (or too little) bearing lubrication. But to avoid a bearing failure in the future, we need to examine the root cause. 

We wanted to share a Q&A on causes of bearing failure, particularly with rolling element vs. plane bearings.

(Watch the video below.)

Tell us about your experience with bearing failure. What was the cause? Need help solving a bearing challenge, just Ask an Expert.

Topics: Bearing Failure
1 min read

Bearing Materials and Tribology Testing

By Dave Biering on November 4, 2014

Blog_20141104I had an interesting conversation with a manufacturer this week regarding bearing materials and tribology testing. With so many counterfeit bearing materials on the market, it is more important than ever to ensure that you are using genuine materials before you begin manufacturing to avoid application problems down the line.

In our call we spoke of the number of processors claiming to sell quality, original materials, yet in many cases, the materials are actually a blend of poor-quality resins. To complicate the situation even further, the counterfeits often look and feel just like the real deal. How can you avoid falling victim to these lesser materials? Consider the advantages of tribology testing to guarantee true authenticity.

Tribology characterizes the friction, lubrication and wear properties of polymers to predict how they will perform. Tribology also helps you comply with important industry standards such as EN, ASTM, CPSC and others. The testing is particularly critical in the medical, pharma and food processing industries where authenticity and sanitation must be guaranteed.

Look to Tribology testing to help you:

  • Guarantee that the material you purchase is authentic
  • Identify any material defects before production begins
  • Protect the end user of your product from underperforming bearings
  • Eliminate shipping defective products
  • Avoid costly product recalls

Want to explore the 7 key tribology tests that are required for polymer characterization? Download your free copy of our white paper, Rulon Bearings: How to Recognize Genuine and Avoid Counterfeit.

Tribology is just one of many analytical services that we offer. We can help you identify and validate any plastic material, and predict how it will operate in real-world conditions. Just Ask the Experts for a quote!

Topics: Composite Bearings Bearing Failure
2 min read

Common Causes of Bearing Failure

By Dave Biering on October 16, 2014

Common Causes of Bearing FailureWhy 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. Explore the benefits of Rulon J after treatment with Plasma Surface Modification.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Topics: Bearing Failure Bearing Service Life
1 min read

Counterfeit Rulon Bearings and Material Failure – What can go wrong?

By Dave Biering on September 9, 2014

Counterfeit Rulon Bearings and Material Failure - Free White PaperHave you downloaded your free copy of our Rulon technical paper, How to Recognize Genuine and Avoid Counterfeit? This paper was developed as a resource to help you source quality components from the many bogus “Rulon” materials that have flooded the market in recent years. But you may wonder what can really go wrong with counterfeit materials ― we thought we’d provide a quick list of common failures:

Rulon is universally recognized as the gold-standard in bearing-grade materials, yet some processors claim they produce genuine Rulon when they are actually producing lesser-quality materials. To avoid these materials, you should consult a trusted source to ensure that the material is manufactured under proper controls. Without the right controls, counterfeit materials can lead to:

Mechanical failure:

  • Inconsistent friction levels
  • Lower levels of stability in high-temperature transitions
  • Chemical failure:
  • Lower resistance to corrosive agents
  • Reduction in material lifespan
  • Change in flammability properties

Electrical failure:

  • Changes to dielectric constant and surface sensitivity 
  • Reduction in arc resistance

Another good resource to help separate genuine from counterfeit is the Materials Database, which provides exact technical specifications. With due diligence, you can avoid the pitfalls of counterfeit materials. Because after all, Quality Control Begins with Precision Processing!

Topics: Rulon Bearing Failure Counterfeit Bearings
1 min read

Tech Tip: 5 Common Signs of Bearing Failure

By Dave Biering on January 28, 2014

5 Common Signs of Bearing FailureWhy do bearings fail? This is a common manufacturing question, but one that is not always easy to answer.  Failure can be a result of many factors; extreme working conditions, maintenance and lubrication schedules, or industry-specific demands.  Early indications of bearing failure can include machinery that is running unevenly, or at an exceptionally loud volume, or with reduced accuracy. There are also some visual signs to look for.

Here are 5 common signs of bearing failure:

  1. Abrasion - Generally caused by excessive wear and friction against mating hardware.
  2. Creep - Occurs when there is slipping at the surface fitting.
  3. Flaking - Particle flaking is common with rolling element bearings.
  4. Seizure - This often occurs when bearings are overheated from continuous rotation.
  5. Excessive loads - A bearing with an overloaded capacity is susceptible to premature wear and fatigue.

In most cases, we’ve found that there is an inherent rush to just replace the faulty bearing and move on with production. There’s no time to analyze the root cause of the failure. But by taking the time to understand the cause, you can actually extend the life of the bearing and prevent long-term damage to your equipment. We suggest instituting a regular inspection schedule to avoid bearing failure before it ever happens.

Trying to identity a bearing failure in your application? Our engineering experts can guide you to an answer.

Topics: Bearing Failure Plastic Bearings