Many different devices rely on bearings to operate. If those bearings are not properly maintained, the device will not be able to perform at its peak level, and it could end up causing damage if left unchecked for too long. For that reason, we have gathered some tips and tricks for bearing maintenance to ensure a longer expected lifespan, reduced downtime, and improved productivity, all of which save your business money in man hours and repair costs. If you’re looking for reliable ball bearings, call HCH Bearing Americas to learn about our products.
8 Tips for Bearing Maintenance
HANDLE WITH CARE
You might not expect it, but bearings are complex and precise, and as such, they need to be handled and stored properly. If they are not, they’re at risk of contaminants damaging them, reducing their effectiveness or causing them to fail outright. It’s recommended to store bearings horizontally in a clean and dry environment in their intact packaging. Do what you can to avoid exposing bearings to any airborne contaminants, because all it takes is one small piece of dirt in the raceway to cause the bearing to fail prematurely. No matter what, you should not hammer, pound, or apply direct force on a bearing or its outer ring. This can damage or misalign the rolling elements within, rendering them useless. If bearings have been dropped or mishandled, they should not be installed, because any small cracks or scratches will result in poor performance, and by extension, premature bearing failure.
INSPECT THE HOUSING AND SHAFT
Prior to mounting any bearing, it is important to inspect the housing and shaft for any signs of damage to ensure its physical condition is in shape to operate. With a soft cloth, wipe the surfaces clean, and make sure any nicks or burrs are removed.
MOUNT IT CORRECTLY
Different types of bearings require different methods to mount them, and the type of fit will change the mounting as well. If you’re using a bearing with a cylindrical bore, it is typically mounted using the press fit method, in which it is mounted by pressing the bearing on the shafts, or with the shrink fit method, where heat is applied in a specific way to expand the bearing’s diameter. A bearing with a tapered bore can be mounted directly either on tapered or cylindrical shafts, through the use of tapered sleeves. It is important to remember, pressure should only be applied with a press fit. If you apply pressure without a press fit to the ring, the raceways will be damaged and the bearing will not operate as intended.
PREVENT DIRECT HEATING OR OVERHEATING
Depending on the heat treatment of the bearing, the maximum permitted temperature will change. If temperatures exceed that heat limit, it can cause permanent deformation or soften the bearing steel. When this happens, the load carrying capacity will be reduced and failure will occur. It is never a good idea to apply heat directly using an open flame. If you are mounting using the shrink fit method, use an induction heater to get the desired effect.
USE THE RIGHT TOOLS
When you use general tools to handle bearings, they can cause unwanted damage, resulting in unnecessary repair costs. This is because they are not specialized to handle something as delicate as a bearing. Instead, use the appropriate tools when handling, mounting, or dismounting bearings to maintain their condition. Some examples of these specialized tools include:
- Bearing pullers
- Bearing fitting toolkits
- Oil injector kits
- Hydraulic nuts
- Induction heaters
These tools have been developed specifically to ensure the mounting and dismounting process goes smoothly while minimizing the risk of damaging the bearing.
When bearings are exposed to water or humid conditions over time, rust and corrosion can occur. When this happens, bearings will fatigue prematurely, which will then cause trouble with your machine’s performance and productivity. That will then increase your operating costs. Any time you are handling bearings, it is important that you wear gloves, as even the perspiration on your hands can cause the bearing to corrode. It is a good idea to utilize a water-resistant grease as your lubricant to form a protective barrier in moist environments. If you are dealing with extremely corrosive environments, it might be a better idea to look into bearings made of different materials, such as ceramic bearings.
Without the proper lubrication, you will not get the lifespan or performance you are looking for from your bearings. It is estimated that about half of all bearing failures are a direct result of improper greasing or lubricating. Not only does the type of lubricant factor in, but so do the application and amount, as they will both affect how well a bearing performs and how long it will last. Lubricants come in either oil or grease styles and which lubricant is the right one will depend on a variety of factors, including:
- Environmental conditions
- Operation speed
The manufacturer of the bearing will recommend which grade and type of lubricant is the most suitable for your use, so it is important that you follow their recommendations. If you don’t use the right lubricant, you’re at greater risk of machine failure, as well as voiding your warranty. Check your lubrication levels frequently, and make sure you change lubricants annually, at a minimum.
WATCH FOR DANGER SIGNS
After you have mounted the bearing, it is imperative you keep an eye on it to stay apprised of any abnormal or poor performance. If you notice excessive noise, an increase in temperature, or abnormal vibration, it is a sign there is something wrong. Monitor them closely, and if necessary, the bearing should be removed prior to any further damage being done to your equipment or machinery. The use of vibration analysis can help to track and detect bearing danger signs earlier than you might be able to on your own. This is used as a part of condition monitoring, which may also include thermography and oil analysis to monitor and compare the current state of the bearing with historical data. This will help you form a complete assessment regarding the remaining life of the bearing.
To ensure your equipment and machinery is working optimally, it is absolutely vital you practice proper bearing maintenance. By following these tips and tricks, you’ll get more out of your bearings, as they’ll last longer and work better, reducing operation costs, downtime, and repairs to the machinery. If you’re looking for bearings that you can rely on for your business, contact HCH Bearing Americas today. Our knowledgeable and friendly team will be more than happy to walk you through our product options, as well as provide you will recommendations for which would work best for your needs. We hope to hear from you soon!