Five lubrication warning signs to look for

Lubrication testing is common for preventive maintenance programs and people performing the tests should watch out for water, acid, and viscosity during the tests.
By David Manney, L&S Electric June 7, 2017

Image courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaThere are many different things to follow as part of a preventive maintenance program. In the end, though it is about spotting problems before they become too large of an issue. These issues result in a catastrophic failure of the equipment and the associated downtime. Some of the best ways to test machinery include vibration analysis, infrared (IR) scanning, and ultrasonic testing. One method used in almost every instance is lubrication testing.

Lubrication testing

Keep a close eye on the lubrication for machinery operating at your facility. Regular inspection is imperative for extending machinery life and reducing expensive and inconvenient failures. When testing takes place, it finds symptoms of problems. Spotting any one of the following five symptoms of lubrication failure alerts you to the problem and the need for correcting it.

1. Water. Anytime water is in the lubricant, it is going to be a problem. Water is an issue in any area, but in environments with high levels of moisture, it affects lubrication. There is a certain amount of tolerance in the lubrication for water. If the water level rises over that tolerance, the chances for lubricant failure increase.

2. Viscosity. One of the easier tests for lubrication is the viscosity, or thickness. As the lubricant wears, it results in a higher level of viscosity. As a rule, consider changing the lubricant before more than a 10% deviation in thickness.

3. Metals. Running a metal analysis on the lubricant also identifies problems before they become a serious issue. As the equipment wears, small pieces of metal end up in the lubricant. These metals damage those lubricated areas, including the bearings. Keeping all metal contaminants out of the lubricant is impossible. There may be a degree of tolerance available. Problems arise when the metal analysis shows too much metal present.

4. Acid. Testing for the total acid number is also an important part of preventative maintenance. Unless the lubricant is in a sealed environment, oxidation occurs when exposed to air. As it does so, the lubricant loses its effectiveness.

5. Particle count. Keeping the lubricant clean is important for the quality and longevity of the lubricated equipment. Various impurities end up in the lubricant because of the environment or other issues, including dirt and dust. As the particle count continues to increase, the effectiveness of the lubricant decreases.

David Manney is a marketing administrator at L&S Electric. This article originally appeared on L&S Electric Watts New Blog. L&S Electric is a CFE Media content partner.