Shaft Alignment with a Fluid Coupling

Last week, a customer asked me how to do a laser alignment on a fluid coupling. This question comes up occasionally, so I thought it would be a good subject to address here on First, it would be helpful to define “fluid coupling.” Fluid couplings transmit power from a driving shaft to a driven shaft on the principle of hydrodynamic power transmission–the shafts are not connected mechanically. In fluid couplings, two bladed wheels face each other: a pump wheel on the driving side, and a turbine wheel on the driven side. The cavity or “working circuit” is filled with a fluid. The rotation of the pump wheel causes the movement of the fluid which drives the turbine wheel. These coupling types are referred to by many terms such as fluid couplings, fluid drives, fluid drive couplings, hydrodynamic couplings, hydraulic couplings, clutch couplings, etc.

Fluid couplings have many uses in a variety of industries. For the purpose of a shaft alignment discussion, we will focus on two basic types. Type 1 in which the shell is supported only by the shafts, and Type 2 in which the shell is supported by a set of bearings in a housing.

Fluid Coupling Type 1

Type 1 Fluid Coupling

Fluid Coupling Type 2

Type 2 Fluid Coupling

For fluid couplings supported by their own shafts (Type 1 picture), the shaft alignment application is a standard horizontal alignment of two shafts. The challenge is fixturing. As seen in the picture, the very simple solution is to use extension rods so that the laser alignment system  sensors extend far enough above the fluid coupling shell to take measurements. Magnetic fixtures attaching to the coupling (shell) generally do not work for these applications. In this picture, submitted by a customer, you can also see that they use a magnetic base as a steady rest for the laser heads. This alignment is often done in the same way you would do an “uncoupled” alignment because the shafts will rotate independently. Remember, with fluid couplings there is no mechanical connection between the shafts. The customer who submitted this photo does this alignment as a coupled alignment because they have a pin or bolt that is used to connect the two shafts so that they rotate together.

Fluid couplings supported by bearings (Type 2 picture) are a different application. In this case, the fluid coupling is considered an independent machine element. It will be connected to the driver with a mechanical coupling, and to the driven with a mechanical coupling. Therefore, the fluid coupling itself is not the alignment to be done. The alignment is from the driver to the fluid coupling input shaft, and from fluid coupling output shaft to the driven machine. This can be done as a machine train application but more likely it would be done in sequence – first aligning the fluid coupling to the driven machine (possibly a gearbox), then next aligning the driving machine (Motor) to the fluid coupling drive.

Precision alignment is particularly important for fluid coupling machinery for different reasons than mechanical couplings. Proper alignment is imperative to ensure performance (transmission of rotational speed), and to ensure proper sealing so that the hydraulic fluid does not leak from the shell.

Do you take any special steps when a fluid coupling is involved in your shaft alignment job?

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  1. Rao Vamsidhar on July 6, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    We do precision alignment with laser for fluid coupling to fan. Generally in fluid coupling with supporting bearings (Box type Voith make or Fluidrive), because of high oil temperature in the working system, thermal expansion will occur. So hot alignment is to be done. Generally we keep fluid coupling at lower level with driver/driven unit in cold condition by calculating the thermal growth. In the laser alignment we can set the target values for thermal growth thereby we can do precision alignment. Most of the fluid couplings (Voith or Fluidrive) would have gear couplings at the input and out put shafts. While taking alignment reading, we fix the coupling with 4no coupling bolts at 90 degree apart and take reading so that both fluid coupling and driver/driven machine can be rotated as a whole for more precise reading.

  2. ramesh on October 12, 2012 at 2:21 am


  3. stuur on January 16, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    how do we fill up a fluid drive coupling at which angle..

  4. High Vibration and Uncoupled? No Problem! on November 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    […] He was having repeatability issues and said he could feel vibration at the ends of the extension rods. Also, this style of fluid drive is typically treated as an uncoupled alignment and Mike wanted to verify the best way to take the measurements. Shaft Alignment with a Fluid Coupling. […]

  5. Brad Case on November 14, 2013 at 10:27 am

    You would need to contact the manufacture of your fluid drive coupling for the proper filling procedure. Thanks

  6. Brad Case on November 14, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Thanks for your great comment.

  7. Hamid on July 21, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Good Day,
    In our fluid coupling system we have jaw coupling between motor and turbo and then the coupling is connected to gearbox.Usually we align the motor shaft and jaw coupling.We don’t align motor shaft and gearbox shaft.Nevertheless,it is indeed recommended to align motor shaft and fluid coupling output shaft which is connected to gearbox shaft.
    I would like to get know the theory behind this matter.

  8. shailesh on January 15, 2015 at 6:18 am

    i want to know how to align the shaft of motor and gearbox if the gap of both shaft are greater then 1 meter…please give the answer..

  9. Stan Riddle on January 19, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Shailesh, do you mean the shafts are more than one meter apart? What tool are you using to perform this alignment?

  10. terrak mohamed on December 30, 2015 at 3:04 am

    I shall like having document for beginner on the alignment (lesson fundamental), if it is possible

  11. amit chand on February 20, 2016 at 5:23 am

    Can Phase analysis indicate Alignment issue in hydraulic coupling?
    We took readings on two machines and both showed phase change of 100 deg.
    The issue is motor is drawing higher power.We changed the gear box oil but no change observed.
    Motor RPM 1000 & SPEER RATIO 7.5Worm & worm wheel)

  12. Brad Case on February 22, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Amit, we need a little more information to answer your question Do you have a Type 1 or Type 2 fluid drive?
    Any other information you can supply about your application will will be helpful. Can you supply a picture of the application?


  13. Marc on September 9, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    Hi ,i want to know how to do a motor running test without dismantle everything in a part , witch part we can remove to be able to do our test.

  14. Ayoub on August 11, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    is soft foot check needed for this kind of shafts, Type 1

  15. Steve on August 21, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    Soft foot checks are always needed for components support by a base. In the case of type 1 as I have referred to it here, the fluid coupling is a coupling not supported by a base, therefore the soft foot would be checked on the driver, and possibly on the driven machine as well.

  16. Kumar on November 16, 2017 at 6:15 am

    Is there any play in fluid coupling’s out put shaft.
    In coupled condition how we can add the shims during alignment.

  17. Stan Riddle on December 8, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    I would think there would always be a slight amount of play. It would depend on the assembly arrangement and bearing types. I would recommend consulting the manufacturer.

  18. Sohail on November 18, 2019 at 12:35 am

    Hello, anyone has the information regarding balancing of fluid coupling of type 1. Please give information

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