ALS Tribology eSource
June 27, 2011

Lubrication Pouring ImageLubrication Related Equipment Failure
by David Doyle, CLS, OMA I & II
Vice President & Operations Manager

Most equipment failures that are dependent upon proper lubrication are the result of contamination or improper lubrication practices. Equipment, if operated within design specification, will generally fail due to lubrication issues before engineered service life is truly reached.

Contamination can be the result of environmental conditions, improper product added, lubricant degradation products, water, dirt and debris, and system design. Environmental conditions can stress a lubrication system as well as contribute to the other factors mentioned above. Lubrication degradation affects the lubricating quality of product overtime. Degradation materials will tie up useful additives, impede flow, affect proper lubricant surface film, and cause corrosion. Water is a major contributor to shortening the service life of bearings, pumps, valves, and any close tolerance design. Dirt and debris greatly accelerate abrasive wear. System design can create hot spots, impede proper filtration, and impede proper fluid flow. Inadequate reservoir design will allow contaminants to re-enter circulating systems and not allow heat to dissipate.

Improper lubrication is caused by under or over lubricating, incorrect lubricant in service, or inadequate lubrication frequency. Under lubrication will starve pumps and circulating systems, thus create surface fatigue or surface wear due to an inadequate surface film. Over lubrication can create foaming and cause seals to fail. Greased bearings are particularly susceptible to over lubrication. Toping off with an incompatible lubricant can effectively impede additive function, create sludge, or reduce lubricating properties. Using a lubricant that is improper for the application will greatly reduce equipment service life. Inadequate lubrication or re-lubrication frequency will allow contaminants to buildup and prevent consistent proper lubrication properties.

Contaminants or the wrong oil are sometimes introduced as a result of poor onsite bulk lubricant storage control and dispensing procedures.

Some of these items noted could be an article in themselves. Attention to proper lubrication and maintenance of the lubrication system will promote extended equipment service life. Monitoring your lubricant in service will provide a valuable tool for maintaining your lubricating system as well as equipment health. At least half of all equipment failure can be traced to lubrication as a root cause.

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