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Types of Bearing Lubrication

Learning Outcome
When you complete this module you will be able to:
Describe the methods for simple care and maintenance of bearings and their
related lubrication systems.

Learning Objectives
Here is what you will be able to do when you complete each objective:
1. Define boundary and full fluid film lubrication.
2. Sketch and describe shell (sleeve) bearings.
3. Describe the construction and operation of thrust bearings.
4. Describe how to clean and replace roller and ball type bearings.
5. List the causes of bearing failure.

LUBR 6002

In the case of a turbine or engine main bearing. humidity. 2 LUBR 6002 .. it is necessary to provide lubricants which match the operating principles of the bearings and the conditions of temperature. A certain amount of metal to metal contact will exist between the surfaces but. For slow speeds and heavy loads “oiliness” or film strength of the lubricant is an all-important factor. encountered in various applications. This condition will exist only if the bearing clearance space is flooded with oil and if the moving surface in the bearing is in continual motion. 1 illustrates how fluid film lubrication is established in a shaft bearing. most of the wear in a bearing will occur during stopping and starting periods when the shaft is rotating below the minimum speed and only boundary lubrication is in effect. into two categories: boundary lubrication and fluid film lubrication. For the sake of clarity the bearing clearance space is shown greatly exaggerated. Fig. These conditions of operation indicate that a grease or a solid lubricant should be used. also called flood lubrication. The shaft must be rotating above a certain minimum speed in order to be able to force the oil beneath it. speed. the shaft will float on a film of oil. TYPES OF BEARING LUBRICATION Lubrication can be divided. Fluid Film Lubrication Fluid film lubrication. friction and wear will be reduced. For this reason.INTRODUCTION Since there are a number of types of bearing arrangements. The greases provide greater wetting ability than conventional oil. etc. as the surfaces are wetted by the microscopic film. Solid lubricants should be used only under special conditions. the rapidly revolving shaft will force oil underneath it and as a result. each having its own operating characteristics. Boundary Lubrication Boundary lubrication refers to lubrication where the surfaces are separated by only a microscopic film of the lubricant. very generally speaking. occurs when the lubricating film between surfaces is thick enough to completely separate the surfaces. This type of lubrication takes place when the supply of lubricant is restricted or intermittent. A Figure 1 Fluid Film Lubrication In Fig. 1(a) the shaft is not turning and is in contact with the bottom of the bearing. it tends to roll up the side of the bearing and oil flows in behind and below it. At high speeds. the oil film separating the shaft from the bearing becomes thicker due to the increased pumping action of the shaft. 1(b). At high speed Fig. As the shaft speed increases Fig. 3 LUBR 6002 . 1(c) the oil is forced by the shaft into the wedge shaped space in front of and below the shaft and enough pressure is produced to separate the shaft from the bearing surface. When the shaft begins to rotate Fig. the film thickness becomes less until at slow speeds it breaks down and only boundary lubrication exists. 1(d) the shaft is forced slightly over to the right due to the oil pressure. As the speed decreases.

) gives a more continuous supply. quite common on pump and motor bearings. but the bearing may still run short of oil if the feeder is not refilled at regular intervals. the bearing must provide sufficient clearance around the shaft and the oil must be supplied in the low pressure area of the bearing. is the ring-oiled bearing shown in Fig. 2. The relatively soft white-metal alloy is suitable for the lining because it will yield or deform slightly to conform to load conditions and it is soft enough to allow foreign particles to become imbedded in it rather than scoring the shaft. 4 LUBR 6002 .jpg P BC_2_0_11. This method is only suitable for small bearings which require a few drops of oil every few weeks or months. A more satisfying solution. A feeding device such as the automatic oiler (wick-feed. 2(b).SHELL OR SLEEVE BEARINGS The shell or sleeve bearing is usually constructed with a white-metal alloy lining carried on a cast iron or steel housing. etc. the oil drops back into the reservoir. BC_2_0_2. gravity feed. Its comparative softness allows it to “wear in” to a smooth condition and it is fairly corrosion resistant. The lower part of the bearing housing is filled with oil. In order to achieve full fluid lubrication. When the shaft rotates.jpg P The simplest and oldest method of lubricating the bearing is the hand-operated oil can. Some of the methods of oil supply to the sleeve bearing are illustrated in Fig. Fig. 2(c). Bearings on larger equipment need a steady oil supply. A ring rides on the shaft through a slot in the center of the upper part of the bearing. Fig. it moves the ring slowly and the ring picks up oil from the reservoir beneath the bearing and drags it up through the bearing slot from where it is distributed between the shaft and bearing.jpg P BC_2_0_10. 2(a).jpg P Figure 2 Methods of Oil Supply BC_2_0_14. Once through the bearing.

3. This pressure is brought about by the pumping action of the rotating journal or shaft. Also. To minimize end leakage. any sharp corners at the joints will tend to scrape the oil from the shaft. 5 LUBR 6002 . 3 is a sketch of a sleeve bearing showing the point of oil supply and the point of greatest pressure. Fig.Oil Grooves in Bearings Grooves are frequently employed in the top half of the bearing or non-pressure area for distributing the lubricant evenly ahead of the pressure area. when bearings are composed of two or more parts fitted together.5 inches of either bearing end. Use grooves only where necessary for longitudinal distribution of the lubricant along the shaft (journal). 2.25 cm or 0. Grooves in the actual pressure area are considered harmful because they tend to disrupt the oil film and reduce the size of this area. Do not cut grooves in the pressure area. Chamfer or round off all sharp edges of bearing segments or grooves to prevent scraping the lubricant from the shaft. Figure 3 Sleeve Bearing The ability of an oil film to lift and support a heavy load is dependent upon hydraulic pressure. all corners and edges should be chamfered or rounded to prevent this scraping action. The principles of correct design and grooving of bearings may be briefly summarized as follows: 1. grooves and chamfers should extend only to within 1. 4. and any grooves in the pressure area which permit oil to escape will tend to encourage metallic contact. and consequently.

6. Heavily loaded slow-speed bearings should have the lubricant application point closer to the pressure area than is required in higher-speed and more lightly loaded bearings. clearance). 3. Misalignment of shaft and bearing. chamfer. 4 shows the location of oil groove and chamfer in a sleeve bearing. Where this is not possible. Fig. Improper viscosity of oil. 2. Locate the lubricant application point in a portion of the bearing that is not under pressure. Usually the cause of the bearing trouble is one or more of the following: 1. BC_2_0_3. Improper bearing design (oil groove. Another sign is “knocking” or other unusual noises which indicate excessive wear.jpg P Figure 4 Oil Groove and Chamfer Bearing Failure One of the first signs of a failing bearing is a rise in its operating temperature. 6 LUBR 6002 .5. 4.jpg G BC_2_0_16. an auxiliary groove placed slightly ahead of the pressure area may be required to improve distribution. Loss of bearing metal due to corrosion or metal fatigue.

it may help to slacken off the bearing caps to increase the clearance. The heat produced may expand the shaft and thus reduce the clearance in the bearing. 2. however. In this case. 3. If water is to be used it should be applied to the shaft adjacent to the bearing and thus bring about a gradual cooling.5. This cooling takes place in one of the three following ways: 1. graphite or white lead may be added with the cylinder oil. This method is used for oil as well as grease lubricated bearings. Water should never be applied directly to the bearing as it may cause sudden shrinkage or distortion. Temperature of oil too high. Oil can be allowed to flow from the bearing reservoir and circulate through an oil cooler away from the bearing assembly before being recycled through the bearing for further lubrication and heat removal. Loss of oil supply. These latter substances help to smooth the bearing surface by filling in the hollows that may exist. A special cooling water channel is cast in the bearing housing through which the water flows. Frequently. the application of steam cylinder oil will aid in cooling the bearing and in extreme cases. are more difficult to cool. it is usually sufficient to increase the supply of oil. The oil picks up the heat when it passes through the bearing and transfers it to the water passing through the coil. A special water coil is immersed in the oil basin of the bearing. Large bearings. Emergency Cooling of a Hot Bearing In the case of a small bearing. in this way increasing the rate of heat removal from the bearing. these bearings are usually water cooled. 6. To prevent excessive bearing temperatures which could lead to trouble. 7 LUBR 6002 . Intolerable amounts of heat can be developed in bearings which are heavily loaded or if they support shafts which conduct heat from hot water or steam to which they are exposed.

A simple type of thrust bearing.THRUST BEARINGS The purpose of a thrust bearing is to prevent a rotating shaft from moving in an axial direction. These pads are free to tilt and thus allow the formation of an oil wedge to separate the bearing pad from the shaft collar. Lubrication is therefore of the boundary type and the load that this type of bearing can carry is limited.gif G Figure 6 Tilting Pad Thrust Bearings 8 LUBR 6002 . known as a collar thrust. 5. which are an integral part of the shaft. Fig. is shown in Fig. Figure 5 Collar Thrust Bearing A more suitable design of thrust bearing has the bearing surfaces in the form of pads. the Michell in 6(a) and the Kingsbury in 6(b). 6 shows two types of tilting pad thrust bearings.gif G BC_2_0_6. In this type.jpg P BC_2_0_5. BC_2_0_4. the collars. have their complete area pressing against the bearing surface and there is no room for an oil wedge to be formed.

jpg P BC_2_0_17. The smooth. To provide lubrication to reduce the small amount of sliding friction that is present even in the antifriction bearings.In the plain or shell bearings.jpg P BC_2_0_9. Therefore. 3. 7. rollers.jpg P Figure 7 Roller Bearing BC_2_0_19. the sliding of one surface over the other is largely replaced by a rolling motion. 4.jpg P 9 LUBR 6002 . 2.jpg P BC_2_0_15.jpg P BC_2_0_8. and raceways from corrosion.jpg P BC_2_0_13. In this type of bearing. The main purposes of the lubricant in these bearings are: 1. BC_2_0_7. Fig. the principle is somewhat different. In the lubrication of ball and roller bearings. or it may be thick enough to float the shaft as in the case of fluid film lubrication. This film may be microscopic in thickness as in the case of boundary lubrication. low friction operation of these types of bearings depends to a large extent on the highly finished surfaces of the components. To serve as a heat transfer medium to conduct away any heat generated at the contact points of rollers or balls. the bearing will fail rapidly. To protect the accurately ground and highly polished surfaces of the balls. the main purpose of the lubricant is to separate the surfaces by means of a lubricating film. To provide a seal to prevent the entrance of dirt or other impurities into the bearing housing. therefore friction is largely eliminated (hence the name antifriction). if corrosion and consequent roughening of the surfaces occur. which is also referred to as an antifriction bearing.

In some cases steam cylinder oil may be necessary. which would result in contamination of the lubricant. seals are installed on the shaft where it enters the bearing housing. or leather rings. grease provides a better seal to prevent entrance of these impurities into the bearing housing. 9 shows a seal mounted in the housing of a ball bearing which can be either oil or grease lubricated. In general. 5.The lubricant used may be either oil or grease. Fig. 2. and to prevent the lubricant from leaving the housing. etc) from entering the bearing housing. Where the atmosphere is polluted with impurities. 10 LUBR 6002 . 3. depending upon operating conditions. This is an advantage in regard to keeping the adjacent surroundings clean. synthetic rubber. Where ambient temperatures are low. In applications where speeds are not high and temperatures are not extreme. Bearing Seals In order to prevent foreign matter (dust. 3. 8. Grease is less likely to be flung out or to leak from the bearings. For light machines or instruments where resistance to rotation must be kept to a minimum. water. oil is preferred for the following conditions: 1. greases may be preferred for the following reasons: 1. Grease is more satisfactory for protecting bearings from corrosion during idle periods as it does not drain away as oil tends to do. Where bearings are located adjacent to other parts which require oil lubrication. 2. 4. Where speeds are high and the use of grease will produce excessive heating due to the work done in churning or displacing the grease. enclosed by their own steel casing and sometimes fitted with a light spring to force the seal against the shaft. Fig. These seals consist of felt. grit. For high operating temperatures.

an oil lubricated bearing may require cleaning annually while a grease lubricated bearing may require cleaning less often. then the bearing may be cleaned without dismantling. 11 LUBR 6002 .Figure 8 Shaft Seals BC_2_0_12.jpg P Figure 9 Ball Bearing with Seal Cleaning Antifriction Bearings Depending upon operating conditions. The most satisfactory method of cleaning the bearing is to remove it from the shaft and dismantle it. If this is not possible or convenient.

After draining off the light oil. Cleaning by Dismantling The most effective method of cleaning a bearing is to dismantle and remove it from the shaft. The machine may then be run without load for a short period. it can be inspected for signs of wear or failure. The bearing is then filled with light oil and the machine is again run for a short period to remove any traces of solvent. If it is not possible to remove the end covers. The bearing should not be removed from the shaft by hammering on the inner or outer race. The ring that is press-fitted on the shaft or in the housing.1. is more precisely called the race. All dirt must be cleaned from the outside of the bearing and the shaft. In cases where the shaft and bearing can be placed in a vice. The race is the ring assembly within which the balls or rollers rotate. 12 LUBR 6002 . in addition. Note that when removing the bearing by this method. as the case may be. the bearing may be cleaned by removing the drain plugs and draining the old lubricant. Care must be taken to avoid damage to the bearing when dismantling it. After removing the end covers. a solvent can be sprayed into the bearing to flush out old lubricant and sludge. the bearing is then filled with its normal lubricant. The process is repeated until only clean solvent drains from the bearing. parallel steel blocks should be inserted under the face of the inner race in order that the force will be applied squarely and no damage due to distortion will result. Cleaning Without Dismantling Make sure all dirt has been removed from the outside of the bearing and the surrounding parts. either oil or grease as the case may be. In this way the bearing can be thoroughly cleaned and. More precisely. The machine is stopped and the plugs removed to drain the solvent together with the loosened sludge and impurities. Then a light lubricating oil is sprayed into the bearing after which the end covers are replaced and the bearing refilled with the normal lubricant. there is an inner ring and an outer ring. 10. 2. This method is illustrated in Fig. a safe method is to drive the shaft from the bearing by means of a brass drift pin and a hammer. The plugs are then replaced and the bearing filled with solvent. The ring that rotates freely is called the shield or separator.

It should then be rotated by hand while submerged in the solvent until all lubricant and impurities have been removed. the puller plate must be positioned so that the pressure is evenly applied upon the press-fitted race and that no load is exerted on the shield or separator. The bearing can then be checked for roughness by slowly rotating it by hand. it should be immersed in light oil and rotated by hand in order to coat all parts with the lubricant. Do not blow out the bearing with a high pressure air jet as this will have a sandblasting effect on the surface. 13 LUBR 6002 . After the bearing has been removed. it should be soaked for a period of 12 to 16 hours in a container of clean solvent. When using a bearing puller. Roughness is usually a good indication that the bearing is no longer serviceable.Figure 10 Removing Antifriction Bearing Another method of bearing removal is by the use of a bearing puller. After removing the bearing from the solvent. Fig. 11 illustrates two different puller designs.

3. If the bearing is found to be in satisfactory condition then it can be reinstalled in the machine or. or races. BC_2_0_18. races. it can be stored. 2. Pitting or flaking of balls. if it is not immediately required. Cracked balls.jpg P Figure 11 Bearing Pullers 14 LUBR 6002 . The proper way to store the bearing after cleaning is to dip it in rust preventive and wrap it in grease proof paper. Discoloration indicating overheating. 4. Rusting or corrosion. rollers.The bearing is also inspected visually for the following defects: 1. or separators. rollers. shields.

In cases where an extremely tight fit is required. the bearing inner race may be heated in an oil bath or an oven in order to expand it evenly.Replacing Bearings Before installing a bearing on a shaft or in a housing. This ensures that the bearing can be pressed into place without scoring or scratching. The tube should rest squarely on the inner race so that it will not damage any bearing parts. The bearing should be smeared with oil and then tapped along the shaft using a pipe or tube and a wooden striking block and a hammer. Figure 12 Bearing Installation 15 LUBR 6002 . 12 shows a method of installing a bearing on a shaft. Fig. This heating should not be carried out with a welding torch or blow torch as this method will produce uneven heating and distortion. it is essential that the shaft or housing be absolutely clean.

then the surface under the balls or rollers will be indented or nicked. even when properly maintained and lubricated. such as a grease. 3. will cause uneven loading of the bearing resulting in flaking of surfaces and excessive wear. will eventually fail due to metal fatigue. the bearing housing should not be filled more than one-third full. hard pieces of lubricant will be pressed into the bearing surfaces which will produce flaking and pitting. Causes of Antifriction Bearing Failure Ball and roller bearings. due to a driving belt that is too tight. 1.Applying Grease Lubricant When grease is used as the lubricant for ball or roller bearings. for example. However. 16 LUBR 6002 . Misalignment Misalignment of a shaft. Improper Fitting If. Also. when pressing a bearing into place on a shaft. and some of these conditions are discussed below. Poor Quality Lubricant If the lubricant. 2. Care must be taken to ensure that dirt does not enter the bearing when applying the grease and the softest grease which is suitable for the particular service should be used. certain detrimental operating conditions can cause premature bearing failure. then the rollers or balls will not be free to move and the bearing will wear. This may be due to forcing the bearing onto a shaft which is too large. An improper fitting procedure will also cause cracking or splitting of the bearing race. the force is applied through the balls or rollers. This condition is known as brinelling and will cause eventual bearing failure. forms a hard mass within the bearing. More than this amount will result in excessive drag or fluid friction which will produce overheating. It may also be due to the force not being applied squarely to the race during installation.

High Operating Temperatures Usually. the bearing can withstand operating temperatures up to 120°C (250°F). however. False Brinelling This occurs in stationary bearings that are subjected to vibration. 17 LUBR 6002 . For this reason it is advisable to control bearing temperatures to the manufacturer’s recommendations when possible. Above this. the metal tends to soften and excessive wear will result. The generally accepted maximums are in the range of 65°C to 70°C (150°F to 160°F) unless otherwise stated.4. It resembles true brinelling as described in the section on improper fitting in that it produces indentations in the surfaces in contact with the balls or rollers. 5.

Notes: 18 LUBR 6002 .