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.
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.
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.
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.
OTHER PROBLEMS SOMETIMES INCORRECTLY DIAGNOSED AS LUBRICATION
- Seal or shield failure/damage
- Bad bearings or gears
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