Seven tips for proper bearing maintenance

Bearings are important mechanical components that help in maintaining the liner and rotational movements of a machine and it is important they are maintained properly to ensure long operational life.
By Nancy Ross, Bearing Boys Ltd. August 17, 2017

Bearings are important mechanical components that help in maintaining the liner and rotational movements of a machine and it is important they are maintained properly to ensure long operational life. Courtesy: Bearing Boys Ltd.Bearings play a significant role in the free and unrestricted movement of mechanical parts or components, from your car wheels to your skateboards as well as many other things too. Bearings bear the weight of the load and make things move without any or with much less friction. In a world without bearings, mechanically moving parts will malfunction and stick, preventing smooth operation. Bearing life can be affected based on the type of bearing, the load they are asked to carry and the maintenance schedule. Properly maintained, bearing life can be extended and downtime can be reduced.

Here are seven tips for bearing maintenance to help ensure a longer lifespan.

1. Handle with care

Bearings are delicate enough to get damaged quickly. As such, it is very important that they are stored horizontally in a clean and dry environment with their packaging intact. Do not expose them to any airborne contaminants, as even a tiny speck of dirt can cause premature failure. Never hammer or pound them, or apply a direct force on it or its outer ring, which can cause damage to the rolling elements, resulting in misalignment. The most important thing to remember is to never remove bearings from their packaging until ready for use.

2. Check the bearing housing and shaft

Whenever a bearing is used for mounting, it is crucial that the housing and shaft are inspected for any sort of physical condition or damage. Always use a soft cloth to wipe the surfaces clean and make sure any nicks and burrs are removed.

3. Mount the bearings correctly

The method used to mount the bearings depends on the type of bearing. For example, bearings with cylindrical bores are generally mounted through a press fit method. Bearings with tapered bores can be mounted directly on tapered or cylindrical shafts with the use of tapered sleeves. However, pressure should be applied only with a press fit because without it the raceways can become damaged.

4. Avoid preheating or overheating

The maximum heating allowed on the bearings depends on the heat treatment of the material. If they are heated above the permitted limit, they can permanently deform or soften the bearing steel, lowering load carrying capacity and resulting in a failure. Always heat the bearings using induction heaters, and never with an open flame.

5. Always use the proper tools

Specialized tools like bearing pullers, bearing fitting tool kits, oil injector kits, hydraulic nuts, or induction heaters should be used in the mounting and dismounting processes. These tools ensure the smooth process of mounting or dismounting, in order to minimize the risk of damage.

6. Avoid corrosion

It is crucial that you should not expose bearings to the presence of water for a long time, as it will lead to rust and corrosion. It will also cause the premature failure of the bearings, which can affect the machine performance and productivity. As a result, it will increase your operating costs. Also, make sure to wear gloves when handling bearings. Perspiration can also lead to rust and corrosion.

7. Proper lubrication

If you want to have a prolonged life of your bearings, it is crucial that they should be properly lubricated. The correct lubricant depends on the environmental conditions, temperature, speed and load. In this case, it is advisable that you should follow your manufacturer’s recommendations.

Nancy Ross is with Bearing Boys Ltd. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.