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Many bearings require periodic maintenance to

prevent premature failure, but many others require
little maintenance. The latter include various kinds of
fluid and magnetic bearings, as well as rolling-element
bearings that are described with terms
includingsealed bearingandsealed for life. These
containsealsto keep the dirt out and the grease in.
Nonsealed bearings often have agrease fitting, for
periodic lubrication with agrease gun, or an oil cup for
periodic filling with oil.

Factory machines today usually havelube systems, in

which a central pump serves periodic charges of oil or
grease from a reservoir throughlube linesto the
variouslube points in the machine'sbearing surfaces,
bearing journals,pillow blocks, and so on. The timing
and number of suchlube cyclesis controlled by the
machine's computerized control, such asPLCorCNC,
as well as by manual override functions when
occasionally needed.

Bearing life is often much better when the bearing is

kept clean and well lubricated. However, many
applications make good maintenance difficult. For
example, bearings in the conveyor of arock crusherare
exposed continually to hard abrasive particles.
Cleaning is of little use, because cleaning is expensive
yet the bearing is contaminated again as soon as the
conveyor resumes operation.


A sleeve bearings entire purpose in life is to maintain

a continuous layer of lubricating oil on the surface of
the motor shaft. In operation, the oil flows from a
reservoir to the feeder wick which rides right on the
shaft. As the shaft rotates, the feeder wick pumps a
microscopically thin layer of oil from the reservoir
down onto the shaft.

So what causes mechanical breakdowns in what is

essentially a closed lubricating system?

The most common enemies of bearings are water (that

can interrupt the flow of oil to the shaft), solvents, or
the wrong lubricant.

As a rule of thumb, any type of oil that is labeled

motor oil is okay to use as a lubricant. Detergent oils
are acceptable as well; the detergents will not harm
the motors windings.

Another thing to remember is to avoid using

chlorinated solvents or industrial degreasers such as
WD-40 as lubricants. The solvents can attack and
destroy the insulation in the windings leading to motor

When you apply too much lubrication (especially to the

sleeve bearing systems in smaller electric motors), the
oil bypasses the bearing flinger and dissipates
throughout the motor. Too much lubrication causes oil
circulation to exit the closed loop within the bearing
system, and the bearing freezes up.
Remember that heat kills motors, and sleeve bearings
help to reduce the amount of heat the motor generates.
Proper care and maintenance of sleeve bearings can
help to prolong the life and service of your motors.