5 ways poor lubrication can cause problems

February 15th, 2018
4 ways poor lubrication can cause problems


Assets with moving parts rely on the consistent application of lubricants to function properly. Facility managers who work to improve their condition monitoring strategies benefit from improved asset uptime and cost reductions. These two concepts go hand-in-hand. Lubrication is an essential facet of condition monitoring.

To ensure your program functions properly, avoid these four common lubrication mistakes:

1. Over-lubrication

You can have too much of a good thing. When an asset lacks grease, it will quickly make the problem known, usually by failing. At the other end of the spectrum, over greasing can have a similar effect. That’s why it’s important to remember that lubricants have volume of their own. Too much grease could actually cause an asset to jam, necessitating additional maintenance and hours of downtime.

Likewise, over-greasing may lead to seal failure. Grease guns can produce an extraordinary level of pressure, and, in excess, harm bearings. Similarly, when grease dries and cracks, the pressure of additional lubricant can cause it to break apart, further damaging the bearings. An ultrasound reading can help technicians know when enough is enough.

2. Under-lubrication

A lack of lubricant is likely one of the easiest problems to spot. Assets that aren’t properly maintained will make themselves known in short order. Typically, excess heat and sound will radiate from the asset until failure. Alone, these symptoms are easy to detect, but within a noisy facility, they could go unnoticed.

Ultrasound equipment such as the Ultraprobe® 201 Grease Caddy can help facilities save on operating costs by providing a visualization of ultrasonic waves. In doing so, personnel will know exactly when an asset needs lubricating and when it’s in working order. This process saves man-hours so they can be applied to situations of greater need. Plus, the device is easy to use, even in crowded and noisy environments.

oil being poured into a machineViscosity is one of the most important properties of a lubricant.

3. Using the wrong lubricant

Not only can using the wrong lubricant lead to asset failure, but it may also void the machinery’s warranty. Machine manufacturers will typically recommend specific lubricants for each asset. These guidelines should be taken seriously, or else the money for a replacement will likely come from your department’s budget.

As reported in Machinery Lubrication magazine, viscosity is one of the most important properties of a lubricant. Using an oil or grease with a viscosity that varies from the manufacturer’s recommendation is a recipe for failure. Read all documentation carefully, and follow guidelines exactly.

It’s also important to note that additives will change the composition and viscosity of your lubricants. If adding foam agents, antioxidants or corrosion inhibitors to your lubricant, check to see that it hasn’t altered to solution beyond the figures set by the asset’s manufacturer.

“Not all lubricants are created equal.”

4. Mixing lubricants

Not all lubricants are created equal. In fact, mixing the wrong kinds of lubricants together can be just as damaging as not lubricating at all. According to Machinery Lubrication magazine, mixing synthetic and mineral-based lubricants can cause major problems, leading to leakages and complete failures.

According to the source, when the wrong lubricants mix, they risk expanding or shrinking nearby seals, causing them to fail. Such problems result in increased spending, as those assets must be replaced.

Similar problems occur when an incompatible thickener is added to grease. The mixture can become unstable and inappropriate for use on most machinery. The consistency of the lubricant may vary greatly and become unreliably. Not only does the machinery suffer as a result, but the grease must be tossed out too, leading to further expenses.

5. Lubricant contamination

One of the chief causes of premature bearing failure is lubricant contamination. Not only does contaminated lubricant harm machinery, but it can also be expensive to remove and clean. Understanding how and why contamination occurs is the first step to preventing premature failures. For instance, contamination may come from particles in the ambient air, dirt from outside the facility or from agents within the machine itself.

A condition monitoring policy that includes housekeeping protocols will ensure that contamination has a minimal impact on asset uptime. However, visual inspection may not be sufficient to determine if contamination has occurred. An ultrasound tool can pinpoint discrepancies in the ultrasonic output of a bearing, notifying maintenance personnel in well in advance of equipment failure.

An improved lubrication program starts with accurate data. Whether your facility utilizes a condition-based lubrication strategy or a preventive method, your technicians need more data if they’re going to make any progress.

The Ultraprobe® 401 Digital Grease Caddy Pro is the perfect blend of data management software and advanced digital technology. With this all-in-one device, your lubrication personnel can create baseline decibel levels, then take readings before and after lubrication to ensure the asset functions properly. In addition to solving these issues at their source, the device allows for quick cost calculations regarding the lubrication program.

To learn more about how advanced ultrasound solutions can benefit your facility, visit UESystems.com today.

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