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How Not to Lubricate a Gearbox

David Gluzman, Temple-Inland

Tags: gear lubrication, case study
The vibration data acquired on a small helical gearbox with three shafts supported
by tapered roller bearings indicated symptoms consistent with impending bearing
failure The vibration pattern that helped to identify the problem as lubrication-
related is discussed in this article
Fault Frequencies
!oth inner and outer race bearing faults were present in the spectrum "#igures $
and %& 'andom impacting of high magnitude was indicated in the time waveform
"not shown& (n alarm showed that lower-order harmonics dominated the
spectrum, and their magnitudes suggested bearing fault in an advanced stage
Figure 1. Harmonics of inner race bearing defect frequency M=BPFI.
Figure 2. Harmonics of outer race bearing defect frequency L=BPFO.
Figure 3. oise modu!ating by bearing cage frequency "=F#F.
The modulation of a random signal by the cage frequency was also observed in the
)ea*+ue data "#igure ,& It has been theorized that due to dry operation, both the
inner and outer races wore out to a point that the round geometry of the races had
been compromised In addition, insufficient lubrication caused increased friction
between the rollers and the cage !ecause of being sub-ected to modulation by the
cage, friction became apparent in the )ea*+ue data
(fter removing the gearbox from operation and disassembling it, the entire space in
the gearbox filled with grease, used mainly in open gears, but the lubricant was
completely washed out from the bearing areas "#igure .&
Figure $. %rease &as been 'as&ed out from t&e bearing areas. Bearing outer races
are une(en!y 'orn out.
Results of Metal Wear
The diagnosis was confirmed by observing the damage sustained by the input shaft
bearing /xtensive wear was present in the outer race "#igure 0& ( rough surface
was not the only result of the metal wear ( groove up to 11$0-inch deep also
developed in the path of the rollers
Figure ). * groo(e u+ to ,.,1)-inc& dee+ is +resent in t&e outer race.
The inner race exhibited a similar pattern "#igure 2& 3o pitting or spalling was
observed on the surface The cage was also excessively worn out and bro*e off in
several locations This, along with the smaller inner-race diameter, compromised
the separation of the rollers "#igure 4&
Figure .. /orn surface on t&e inner race. * groo(e de(e!o+ed in t&e +at& of t&e
Figure 0. 1age is damaged. o !ubricant is +resent.
(n observant reader may as* why grease was used in a gearbox instead of oil
5onsider this wintertime scenario6 In attempting to warm up the room, you turn up
the thermostat instead of shutting the door to retain the heat Dealing with a
symptom instead of the root cause is still a common approach to solving problems
In this case, the lubrication scheme was designed as an oil splash-type, but over
time, the shaft seal started to lea* To prevent oil from escaping, lubricant flow
properties have been ad-usted for the lea*ing seal by draining the oil and filling the
entire space of the gearbox with grease
7hile there was some grease still left in the bearing area, it operated almost
satisfactorily, possibly slightly hotter, than normal !ut once the initial charge was
depleted, the lubricant could not be delivered, even with the excess grease in the
gear casing The same is true for the lubrication of the gears
8a*ing lubrication modifications without considering the lubrication scheme could
be detrimental to you and your equipment

About the author:
David Gluzman is a 5ertified 'eliability /ngineer "5'/& with Temple-Inland
5orporation, a manufacturing company focused on corrugated pac*aging and
building products Gluzman also holds 8achine 9ubrication Technician 9evel I and
9evel II certifications through the International 5ouncil for 8achinery 9ubrication