May 18, 2016


By Stan Riddle

featured lube 2


Lubrication is sometimes incorrectly thought of as a job for unskilled workers, apprentices, or operators.  When I hear a maintenance person say, “I’m just an oiler”, I cringe a bit.

lube guy

Proper lubrication methods, formulations, quantities, and procedures are essential to machine reliability. A machine can no more do without lubrication than it can do without power.

When lubrication is diagnosed as a vibration problem, it often has already caused a secondary problem, such as wear, bearing or shaft damage, seal damage, or overheating.

It is very common to assume that a vibration diagnosis of “lubrication” must be followed by lubricating the component is question.  While this is a common response, and often a good diagnostic procedure, many times it just temporarily “masks” the real problem.  Modern lubricants can provide long term quality lubrication.  If re-lubrication is happening frequently, there must be a reason for it.

While under-lubrication is common in many facilities, over-lubrication can be just as problematic.  It can cause bearing overheating, bearing seal/shield failure, ingress of contaminants into the bearing, motor overheating, and product contamination/quality issues.

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Plus, it can be a waste of time and lubricants.  A good maintenance program should research proper lubricant types, levels and intervals, and implement them.

Pump Lube

And the lubricant system must be CLEAN.  That includes clean oils/greases. Clean fittings, clean storage and delivery devices.  Wipe fittings off before and after greasing.  Don’t put clean oil into a dirty bucket.  Be mindful of cleanliness, condensation, and proper lubricant storage.


  • Lubricate, and recheck. The recheck should not be done immediately after lubricating, but after some period of time to see if lubrication solved, or temporarily masked the problem.
  • Sample the lubricant for proper formulation, cleanliness, wear metals, moisture, etc. In addition, it is good practice to filter lubricants, such as bulk oils, before use.
  • Check seals. Seals keep lubricant in, and contamination out.
  • Perform testing to determine of the lubricant being used is correct for the application.
  • Confirm proper lubrication levels and amounts. Over-lubricating a bearing can be as detrimental as under-lubricating.


  • Contamination
  • Seal or shield failure/damage
  • Bad bearings or gears
  • Rubs

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