Five tips for better electric motor maintenance

It is essential to perform preventive maintenance (PM) checks on electric motors as a part of managing facility assets because they have a massive impact on a business' productivity and profit. Consider the five tips highlighted below.

By David Manney, L&S Electric February 9, 2017

It is important to ensure electric motors perform well because they have a massive impact on a business’ productivity and profit. Although operating these motors may seem straightforward and simple, their condition should not be overlooked. This is why it is essential to perform preventive maintenance (PM) checks on electric motors as a part of managing facility assets.

By preparing a checklist for PM program, facilities can make sure that every motor is properly examined and monitored. This also provides managers with an opportunity to detect potential issues and address these ahead of time. By doing so, costly repairs or unplanned expenses can be prevented in case there is a need to replace motors completely.

These five components are essential for a PM program and must be implemented regularly by a business owner.

1. Perform visual inspections on the motor

There are so many things to discover by just conducting a visual check on an  electric motor. Take a good look at its physical condition and be sure to record any pieces of information. If the motor has been operating in a rugged environment, it is possible to find signs of corrosion or dirt buildup on its individual components. These all present a potential internal problem since any debris can limit the performance of the equipment.

Make it a point to observe the motor windings and look for a burned odor from overheating. The contacts and relay should also be free from dirt and rust, which are detrimental to the life of the motors. Situate the equipment in an environment without exposure to dirt, moisture, toxic elements, and harsh conditions.

2. Maintenance checks on the commutator and brush

Do not wait until the electric motors stop working or experience inconsistencies in performance. As a part of the PM schedule, users should take a closer look at the brush and commutators. Make sure there are no signs of wear and tear. An excessive wear in the brush can lead to commutation problems with the motor. This is why the brush will need to be changed to regain the integrity of the equipment’s function.

In the same way, the commutator needs to be kept in check. Its natural condition is smooth and polished. It should also have no dents, scratches, or grooves since any rough spot suggests brush sparking. Make a thorough inspection of the motor mount, stator, rotor, and the belts. Replace any worn components, which no longer serve their purpose.

3. Conduct a motor winding test 

After the different machine components have been inspected, the next thing to do is test the motor windings. This will give the user a better idea on existing anomalies or failures in the motor windings. Moreover, if burn marks and odors, as well as cracks in the windings have been discovered, motor winding tests are mandatory. 

To prepare for the test, be sure to disassemble the motor. This will help determine any abnormalities that the motor has been undergoing. In case the windings have experienced overheating, then there is a high chance that a serious damage is present. Rewinding the motor is a crucial part of this test, along with the testing of the wind insulation that reveals information on the resistance level.

4. Check the bearings

Inspect the bearings if there is any vibration or noise. These are signs of potential problems including dirt buildup, poor lubrication, or wear and tear. The bearing housing may also end up too hot to the touch. This could signal issues such as an insufficient amount of grease or overheating of the motor.

Depending on the bearing type, a specific PM task might be necessary. Other factors include the motor application and the environment where the equipment is situated. There are some motors with a low horsepower that no longer need lubrication as these have sealed bearings. Managers have to be aware of the type of bearing and the kind of repair it requires.

5. Keep records

Each time PM schedules occur, users should document the tests performed, and the results gathered for the purpose of establishing trends. Record all repairs or replacements made on every motor component. This creates a better understanding of each piece of equipment, which includes issues addressed or parts replaced. This will be handy for future inspections.

– 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.

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