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Chapter 6 - The Functions of

Lubricants reduce wear and friction by:
Lubricating all true rolling contacts
Lubricating sliding contacts between the
raceways and rolling elements.
Lubricating sliding contact between the
rollers and guiding elements.
Both ball and roller bearings have true rolling
and sliding contact areas in loaded areas of the
rolling element.
Lubricants also:
Protect rolling elements and rings from
surface corrosion.
Help prevent intrusion of foreign matter,
(with grease pack.
!ct as a heat transfer medium.
"hree factors determine the thickness of the oil
#peed of rotation
Base Oil Viscosity
$iscosity is a measure of the friction between
different layers of a li%uid that is set in motion,
or a li%uid&s resistance to flow.
High viscosity ' high resistance to flow
Low viscosity ' low resistance to flow
"he kinematic viscosity of base oils is usually
e(pressed in centistokes (c#t, with the units
*s. !n alternate measure is #+# (#aybolt
+niversal #econds, although the conversion
between the two is nonlinear. ,ote that since
base oil viscosity changes with temperature, it
is always e(pressed at a given temperature,
generally -./ 0.
$iscosity changes inversely with temperature.
!s temperature goes up, viscosity goes down
and vice versa. "he original viscosity is
unchanged if the base fluid is not altered
(o(idi1ed or otherwise chemically altered.
Lubrication Regimes
2echanical systems lubricated with oils or
greases operate in three lubrication regimes:
3. Boundary layer: thin film 4 about the si1e of
the molecules that make up oil.
SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service 1
The Functions of Lubrication
). Hydrodynamic: thick film 4 complete
separation of the moving surfaces.
5. 6lastohydrodynamic: thick film 4 under
7olling element bearings generally behave in
the latter two regimes. Plain bearings (bearings
without rolling elements can operate in all three
8n the elastohydrodynamic regime, bearing
rotation builds up a thin wedge of oil that
separates the roller and raceway surfaces. "he
e(treme pressure in the contact area ().. 4
9..,... P#8 causes deflection of the roller and
raceways. "he bearing components act like
springs. 8n the bearing&s load 1one, the rollers
and raceways undergo compression, then
tension each time a roller passes through the
loaded 1one.
o! "o Lubricants #or$ in
0onsider a typical sealed bearing. :rom a
standstill, the new, loaded bearing begins to
run. "he grease pack supplied in the new
bearing is forced out of the raceways by the
rotation of the ball set and cage, and into the
unswept area of the bearing. "he bearing
generates friction and heat in the rolling and
sliding surfaces. "he heat transfers to the
grease pack, which releases a small amount of
oil to the bearing, reducing friction and heat.
"his process continues until the bearing
reaches a steady4state condition where the
temperature is stable. 8t will remain in this state
until it reaches normal fatigue life, or until it runs
out of lubricant. Lubricant design lives for
sealed bearing applications are typically greater
than bearing design life, from which comes the
term ;sealed for life.< 8f not ;sealed for life,<
periodic replenishment or replacement of the
grease is needed. Best practices for these
modes of lubrication are covered later in the
"he ,ew #=: Life 2ethod is based on the
assumption of total separation of the rolling
surfaces by a lubricant film (called
hydrodynamic lubrication. 8n normal situations,
the lubricant should be able to achieve this full
separation. >uring startup and shutdown, and
at very low rotational speeds, this film cannot be
2 SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service
The Functions of Lubrication
The Incredible Performance of a Lubricant:
"he lubricant film between rolling elements and
bearing raceway is e(tremely thin (..3 4 3
micrometer. "he pressures in the lubricant film
are also incredibly high (3.,... 4 -.,... bar, or
atmosphere. +nder these pressures, the oil
changes its apparent viscosity to appro(imately
the hardness of silver in the contact area (visco4
elastic behavior. "he viscosity returns to
normal viscosity when the bearing is unloaded.
Effects of Particle Contamination:
"he oil film in the bearing is very thin, generally
from ..343 micron (-4-. millionths inches in
thickness. ! dirt particle may be ten times this
si1e or greater. "he ,ew Life 2ethod allows us
to %uantify the damage produced by specific
particle types by si1e and hardness. Large, soft
particles can create the same amount of
SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service
The Functions of Lubrication
damage as small, hard particles. "he result is
the same: a dent in the bearing. "he dent
creates a ;stress riser,< like the edges of a
pothole in the road. !s rolling elements enter
and leave the ;pothole,< the load is focused at
the corner of the dent. "his leads to premature
fatigue, followed by spalling, which completes
the failure cycle.
"etermining Lubricant
"he slower the speed, the higher the
viscosity re%uired to establish an oil film.
"he larger the bearing, the higher the
viscosity re%uired to establish an oil film.
6(ample: ))).?6 at )... 7P2
dm ' (-. mm @ ?. mm*) ' 9A mm
(corresponds to dotted lines on chart
$iscosity from the chart is about B. #+# (35
c#t. However, this is below the minimums
recommended by #=:. #olid lubricant additives
(2o#), graphite, etc. may be needed at n ( dm
C 5.,... (basically the upper half of the chart.
Viscosity Minimums
Ball and cylindrical roller bearings at least
35 c#t (B. #+# viscosity
#pherical roller bearings at least )3 c#t
(3.. #+# viscosity
#pherical roller thrust bearings at least 5)
c#t (3A. #+# viscosity
,ote 4 you may wish to annotate your own
catalog charts with these minimum values.
7elating back to the e(ample, although the
chart gives 35 centistokes as the minimum
re%uired viscosity, for the #pherical roller
bearing, #=: recommends a minimum of )3c#t
at the operating temperature for the e(ample.
"his will ensure the rolling and sliding surfaces
of the bearing are properly lubricated.
:or these calculations, the viscosity should
always be e(pressed in mm)*s (c#t, rather
than in #aybolt +niversal #econds (#+#, as
the conversion between these units is nonlinear.
! SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service
The Functions of Lubrication
Viscosity-Temperature Chart
,ote D "his chart applies to viscosity
classification numbers according to
8nternational #tandard 8#E 5--F43?BA for oils
having a viscosity inde( of ?A. !ppro(imate
e%uivalent #!6 viscosity grades are shown in
,ote 4 the red line indicated synthetic 8#E $G
5) oil having a viscosity inde( of 35F (see
section below.
Ence the re%uired oil viscosity is selected, we
must correct for temperature.
"he viscosity re%uired at the operating
temperature to ensure ade%uate lubrication can
be determined from the diagram, provided
mineral oil is used. "he diagram is also valid
for greases based on mineral oils, and in this
case, the value gives the re%uisite base oil
viscosity at the operating temperature.
"hese recommendations apply at the bearin
operating temperature (not the housing.
Bearing inner ring temperatures are typically
five to ). degrees higher than housing
temperatures. Hith good initial application
information, it is possible to compute e(pected
operating temperatures in applications. "hese
estimates are generally close enough to actual
operating temperatures that practical pre4
selection of oil viscosity is %uite reliable. 8f
desired, contact #=: for assistance in
predicting bearing operating temperatures.
!ynthetic "ils
#ynthetics do not o(idi1e as fast as mineral oils,
and are, therefore, useful in high temperature
applications, such as centrifugal pumps, which
often operate over ).. : continuously. "hey
SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service "
The Functions of Lubrication
e(tend the time interval between oil changes,
reducing maintenance cost. However, it is
important to note that synthetics are
contaminated Iust as %uickly as mineral oils. !n
oil cleanliness condition monitoring program is
vital to ensure the life of the application is not
compromised by particle contamination.
#ynthetic oils ;appear< to perform better than
e%uivalent viscosity grade mineral oils at higher
temperatures. However, for rolling element
bearings, the oil film thickness in the contact
area does not benefit from the synthetic oil&s
higher viscosity inde(. "herefore, when
choosing the proper oil viscosity using a
synthetic oil, use the base 8#E $iscosity grade
as for standard $8 ' ?A mineral oil. (8n other
words, use the same charts provided in #=:
2ineral oils with a higher viscosity inde(
(greater than $8 ?A may be available from your
supplier. "hese oils do offer better protection at
higher temperatures, but care must be taken to
ensure a steady supply, as manufacturers may
not always guarantee the $8 8nde( of the
delivered product.
Composition of a Lubricant
Eils used in industrial applications come from
three sources: mineral, synthetic, and natural
(animal or vegetable. 2ineral and synthetic
oils are preferred as they are more stable and
generally provide wider operating ranges than
natural oils. ,atural oils and greases are
generally restricted to use in food grade
applications. #ynthetic food grade oils and
greases are available that offer greatly
improved performance, although at a higher
ac%uisition cost.
Oil Types
8ndustrial oils are generally of two types:
petroleum or synthetic. 7aw petroleum is
refined to produce napthenic or parrafinic oil,
while synthetics are man4made oils.
Both napthenic and parrafinic are widely used in
industry. #ynthetic oils are used where their
ac%uisition cost (three to five times that of
petroleum oil is offset by their improved
performance and longer life. !mong synthetic
oils, synthetic hydrocarbons (#H0 oils are the
most common. >iesters, especially poly4alpha4
olefin (P!E oils are gaining more widespread
use. #ilicone oils are used where their great
water shedding capacity is desirable, especially
in marine applications. :luorocarbon oils are
used only in e(treme applications (e.g.,
aerospace, high4tech where cost is secondary
to performance.
# SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service
The Functions of Lubrication
Oil and &rease 'dditi(es
#nti-Corrosion #dditi$es
"here are two types of anti4corrosion additives:
water4soluble and oil4soluble, which normally
give good protection in damp operating
conditions. !lthough, when the water content in
the lubricant is too high, even these additives
cannot provide complete protection.
#nti-%oam #dditi$es
:oam damping action can be achieved by the
addition of small %uantities of silicone fluid.
Bubbles created by the application will burst
when they contact the oil in the reservoir. !ir in
the oil gives shorter oil and bearing life.
#nti-"&idant #dditi$es
Eil e(posed to high temperatures and in contact
with air o(idi1es, and new chemical compounds
are formed. "hese new compounds can
increase the viscosity of the oil and may cause
corrosion. !nti4o(idants improve the stability of
the oil ten to 3A. times.
Viscosity Inde& 'VI( Impro$ers
"hese are often composed of large4molecule
polymers. !s temperature increases, these
coiled long4chain molecules e(pand, restoring
lost viscosity. 0ommon in engine oils, they are
generally not recommended in industrial
applications. "he long4chain molecules can
shear into smaller molecules, reducing oil
viscosity and oil film thickness. 8n addition, the
load carrying capacity for 6H> contacts is
unaffected by the addition of $8 additives. "he
base oil (and viscosity inde( must be used to
select the proper oil viscosity for rolling element
bearing and gearbo( applications.
SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service $
The Functions of Lubrication
E&treme Pressure 'EP( #dditi$es
:or heavily loaded bearings, i.e. rolling mill
bearings, it has been customary to recommend
the use of greases containing 6P additives,
since these additives increase the load carrying
ability of the lubricant film. Hhen a bearing is
subIected to high load, the sliding in the rolling
contact area will increase. Eil film breakdown
under these conditions can cause local
asperities (surface roughness of the mating
surfaces to make contact. "his can cause high
local spot temperatures, sometimes resulting in
locali1ed welding contacting surfaces. 6P
additives attempt to bond chemically with the
metallic surfaces and cause the asperities to
shear off rather than become welded together.
0ertain 6P additives are aggressive towards
bearing steels at elevated temperatures. #=:
does not recommend 6P additives under
continued operating temperatures above F. 0.
6P additives may also be successful in lightly
loaded bearings where rollers may slide
e(tensively in operation.
Eriginally, most 6P additives were lead4based
compounds. "here was evidence to suggest
that these were beneficial in e(tending bearing
life where lubrication was otherwise poor. >ue
to environmental and health reasons, lead is
being replaced by other combinations of
additives which do not always offer the same
8n addition, some of these new additives have
been found to be aggressive to bearing steels.
>rastic reductions in bearing life have been
recorded, in some instances. "ake care when
selecting an 6P grease, and obtain assurances
from the lubricant manufacturer to ensure the
6P additives incorporated are not of the
damaging type. 8n cases where the grease is
known to perform well, perform a check to
ensure that its formulation has not been
!olid #dditi$es
!t low speeds and high loads, solid additives
may be needed where the oil film cannot
separate the rolling and sliding surfaces in the
bearing. "he most commonly used solid
additives are molybdenum disulfide (2o#) and
graphite. 2o#) can bind with water to form
sulfuric acid. 8t can also precipitate out,
reducing operating internal clearance. :inally, it
can act as an abrasive in certain lubrication
regimes. 8n short, use molybdenum disulfide
with care when selecting for use in rolling
element bearing applications.
% SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service
The Functions of Lubrication
&rease (s) Oil
Grease can be used to lubricate rolling bearings
under normal operating conditions in the
maIority of applications. Hhere grease
lubrication of spherical roller thrust bearings is
concerned, consult the General 0atalog or
contact #=:.
Grease has the advantage over oil in that it is
more easily retained in the bearing
arrangement, particularly where shafts are
inclined or vertical. 8t also contributes to sealing
the arrangement against contaminants,
moisture, or water.
! speed rating for grease lubrication is %uoted
in the bearing tables for each individual bearing.
"he values are lower than corresponding speed
ratings for oil lubrication to account for the initial
temperature peak that occurs when starting up
a bearing that has been filled with grease during
mounting, or which has Iust been relubricated.
"he operating temperature will sink to a much
lower level once the grease is distributed in the
bearing arrangement.
"he pumping action inherent in certain bearing
designs also makes it necessary for the speed
ratings for grease lubrication to be lower than
those for oil lubrication. :or e(ample, in
angular contact ball bearings and taper roller
bearings, which become more accentuated as
speeds increase, or with the pronounced
working of the grease that occurs, for e(ample,
in full complement cylindrical roller bearings.
"efinition of &rease
Lubricating greases are thickened mineral or
synthetic oils, the thickeners usually being
metallic soaps. 8t is not simply a thick oil, or a
solid wa(. 8f you look at a grease under the
microscope, the thickener structure looks like a
sponge or mesh. "he thickener can release
minute amounts of oil to lubricate the bearing
contacts (oil bleeding, and can even take the
oil up again. "his is one main advantage of a
grease over oil, it acts as a reservoir over a long
!dditives can also be included to enhance
certain properties of the grease. "he
consistency of the grease depends largely on
the type and concentration of the thickener
used. Hhen selecting a grease, the viscosity of
the base oil, the consistency, operating
temperature range, rust inhibiting properties,
and the load carrying ability are the most
important factors to be considered.
SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service &
The Functions of Lubrication
Grease Grades
! penetrometer is used to measure grease
stiffness. 2echanical stability is a comparison
of grease stiffness before and after working the
grease. "he dropping point should generally be
).. : above operating temperature.
0hoose the grease grade based on the
application conditions. 0hoose a higher grade
in vibratory applications. #=: recommends
higher penetration inde(es for bearings 5.. mm
8> and above. 0ontact #=: for assistance in
large bearing lubrication.
Like butter, grease becomes stiff and hard when
cold. !t high temperatures, many types of
grease soften.
)LGI Consistency )umbers
)LGI Penetration #ppearance *se
)umber +, -./ mm0
... --A 4 -BA $ery :luid
.. -.. 4 -5. :luid gear bo(es
. 5AA 4 5FA #emi4:luid etc.
3 53. 4 5-. $ery #oft
) )9A 4 )?A #oft bearings
5 )). 4 )A. 2edium Hard
- 3BA 4 ).A Hard
A 35. 4 39. $ery Hard sealing
9 FA 4 33A 6(tremely Hard
2ost bearing applications use greases of ,LG8
grades 3, ), or 5. "he maIority of bearing
applications use ,LG8 grade ). 8n some cases,
provision is made in the application for separate
greasing of the bearings and seals, which may
re%uire different grades, if not entirely different
types of greases.
Grades ., .., and ... are used in splash
applications where the components are wetted
during running. "he low4consistency grease
remains present on the splashed surfaces
longer than oil would in the same application.
Grease grades - 4 9 are used where additional
contaminant e(clusion is needed, especially in
sealing applications.
&rease Compatibility
2i(ing of greases with incompatible thickeners
usually results in softer consistency, but may
also cause stiffness.
1' SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service
The Functions of Lubrication
Grease Compatibility Table
Ene of the most common errors when using
grease is mi(ing greases of different bases.
Polyurea and Lithium 0omple( greases (the two
most commonly used industrial grease bases
are generally incompatible. "he chart above is
a good guide to incompatibility, but
manufacturers are constantly changing
formulations and introducing new products. 8f in
doubt, never mi( greases. "est first for
&rease Thic$eners
Greases are made by combining an acid with a
base, and mi(ing with oil to produce the final
product. "ypically, this is a metallic base, such
as sodium, lithium, or calcium hydro(ide. "he
chemical reaction (called saponification
produces a matri( that can hold a surprising
amount of oil. "ypical greases contain five to
ten percent base, and ?. to ?A percent oil. "he
thickener adds no lubricating properties of its
own, it simply acts as a reservoir to hold the
lubricant in place until needed by the
application. Heat or mechanical action can
release oil from the grease pack.
Initial &reasing
Grease the empty space in the bearing 3..
percent, fill the housing 3*5 to J full with
grease, or up to the bottom of the shaft.
Greasing the application while running allows
the grease to be distributed evenly throughout
the bearing and housing.
6lectric 2otors:
7emove the drain plug
!dd recommended grease %uantity
SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service 11
The Functions of Lubrication
!llow time for e(cess grease to purge
7eplace drain plug when grease stops
purging (typically ). 4 5. minutes for smaller
Ever4greasing can lead to catastrophic failure,
especially in higher speed applications. (;high
speed< is over J the rated speed for the
bearing in the application. 8f desired, slow
speed applications may be greased 3.. percent
full for contamination protection.
!fter run4in, remove e(cess grease from
housings and seals to prevent e(ternal
contaminants working their way into the
&rease Run-in
"hree e(amples of the results of greasing can
be seen from the graphs. "op center is a
normally greased application, lubricated with
the proper amount of grease in a single
application. !n initial temperature spike is
followed by a gradual drop4off to a steady4state
condition. "he left4hand graph shows
insufficient greasing, which barely spikes, drops
off and gradually climbs back up to an
unacceptable level. "he bearing in the right
graph is over4greased. !fter climbing to an
unacceptable level, the temperature remains
unacceptably high. 8n some cases, the initial
temperature spike during run4in can be
unacceptably high. "he resulting loss of
clearance may lead to preload, thermal
runaway, and catastrophic failure.
Lubrication *odes
>epending on application demands, bearing
relubrication falls into three primary modes:
3 4 ,o relubrication (greased for life
+se with sealed and shielded bearings
8nitial grease selection important
) 4 Eccasional relubrication * replenishing
+se with open bearings
0onsult #=: * General 0atalogue
5 4 0ontinuous relubrication
+se for highly demanding applications, or for
sealing purposes
0onsult #=: or the General 0atalogue
Grease selection is of primary importance for
sealed and greased4for4life bearings (for
e(ample, depending on the operating
temperature of the application. #electing a
sealed and greased4for4life bearing does not
imply that it is suitable for all applications.
7elubrication is often applied, not for lubrication
reasons, but for sealing purposes. "his is a
good reason to consider using sealed bearings.
12 SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service
The Functions of Lubrication
&rease Relubrication+ o!
Often and o! *uch%
1elubrication Inter$als
7elubrication intervals (tf for normal operating
conditions can be read as a function of bearing
speed (n and bore diameter (d of a certain
bearing type from the above chart. "he chart is
valid for bearings on hori1ontal shafts in
stationary machines under normal loads. 8t
applies to good %uality lithium base greases at
temperatures not e(ceeding B./ 0.
"o account for accelerated aging of the grease
with increasing temperature, it is recommended
that the intervals obtained from the chart be
halved for every 3A degrees increase in bearing
temperature above B./ 0. "he ma(imum
operating temperature for the grease should not
be e(ceeded. 8ntervals may be e(tended at
temperatures lower than B./ 0, but as
operating temperatures decrease, the grease
will bleed oil less readily. !t low temperatures,
an e(tension of the intervals by more than two
times is not recommended. 8t is not advisable
to use relubrication intervals in e(cess of
5.,... hours. :or bearings on vertical shafts,
the intervals obtained from the diagram should
be halved.
:or large roller bearings with a bore diameter of
5.. mm and above, high specific loads in the
bearing imply that ade%uate lubrication is
obtained only if the bearing is more fre%uently
relubricated than indicated by the diagram, the
lines are therefore broken. 8t is recommended
in such cases that continuous lubrication be
used for technical and economic reasons.
Grease 1elubrication #mount
Grease %uantity can be obtained from the
following e%uation for applications where
conditions are otherwise normal, i.e. where
e(ternal heat is not applied.
SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service 1
The Functions of Lubrication
Gk ' (..5 ... ..A > ( B ( 3.
B ' total bearing width
(for thrust bearings use total height H, mm
:or 6nglish units (inches and ounces the
following apply:
:or smaller bearings, the amount is %uite small,
leading to the ability to seal the bearing and
achieve acceptable grease life for the life of the
!n easier way to determine grease relubrication
intervals is with the #=: >ialset program,
developed for use with the #=: #ystem )-
#ingle Point !utomatic Lubricator. !vailable at
www.skfusa.com, >ialset offers enhanced
accuracy for determining grease replenishment
%uantities and rates by accounting for
temperature, moisture, contamination, and shaft
Grease 1eplenishment
7olling bearings must be relubricated if the
service life of the grease used is shorter than
the e(pected service life of the bearing.
7elubrication should always be performed when
the bearing&s lubrication is still satisfactory.
"he time at which relubrication should be
undertaken depends on many factors, which
are related in a comple( manner. "hese
include bearing type and si1e, speed, operating
temperature, grease type, space around the
bearing, and the bearing environment. 8t is only
possible to base recommendations on statistical
rulesK the #=: relubrication intervals are
defined as the time period, at the end of which
?? percent of the bearings are still reliably
lubricated, and represent L3 grease lives. "he
L3. grease lives are appro(imately twice the L3
"he information given in the relubrication charts
is based on long4term tests in various
applications, but does not apply to applications
where water and*or solid contaminants can
penetrate the bearing arrangement. 8n such
cases, it is recommended that the grease be
fre%uently renewed to remove contaminants
from the bearing.
7e4greasing is best accomplished while the
e%uipment is running. "his allows the grease to
distribute evenly throughout the bearing and
housing. "emperature spikes can be monitored
and e(cess grease may be allowed to purge
from the application.
8f the grease relubrication interval is less than
si( months, top off at half the recommended
interval. :or grease relubrication intervals over
si( months, completely remove and replace old
grease with fresh grease. ,ote: grease charts
do not apply in contaminated environments.
Ever4greasing can lead to catastrophic failure,
especially in higher speed applications. #low
speed applications may be greased 3.. percent
full, if desired, for contamination protection.
0lean off e(cess grease from housings and
seals to prevent e(ternal contaminants working
their way into the application.
Grease 1eplacement
Hhen the end of the relubrication interval (tf
has been reached, the used grease in the
bearing arrangement should be completely
removed and replaced by fresh grease. +nder
normal conditions, the free space in the bearing
should be completely filled and the free space
in the housing filled to between 5. and A.
percent with fresh grease. "he re%uisite
%uantities of grease used for #=: housings can
be found in appropriate #=: 0atalogs, or
contact #=:.
"o renew the grease fill, it is essential that the
bearing housing be easily accessible and easily
opened. "he cap of split housings and the
cover of one4piece housings can usually be
taken off to e(pose the bearing. !fter removing
the used grease, fresh grease should first be
packed between the rolling elements. Great
care should be taken to see that contaminants
are not introduced into the bearing or housing
1! SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service
The Functions of Lubrication
when relubricating, and the grease itself should
be protected. Hhere housings are less
accessible, but provided with grease nipples
and e(it holes or grease valves, it is possible to
completely renew the grease fill by relubricating
several times in close succession, until it can be
assumed that all old grease has been pressed
out of the housing. "his procedure re%uires
much more grease than is needed for manual
renewal of the grease fill.
Grease Paths
"o facilitate the supply of grease using a grease
gun, a grease nipple should be provided on the
housing. 8t is also necessary to provide an e(it
hole for the grease so e(cessive amounts will
not collect in the space surrounding the bearing.
"his might otherwise cause a permanent
increase in bearing temperature. However, as
soon as the e%uilibrium temperature has been
reached following a relubrication, the e(it hole
should be plugged or covered so oil bled by the
grease will remain at the bearing position. "he
danger of e(cess grease collecting in the space
surrounding the bearing and causing
temperature peaking, with its detrimental effect
on the grease as well as the bearing, is most
pronounced when bearings operate at high
speeds. 8n such cases it is advisable to use a
grease escape valve rather than an e(it hole.
8n the figures above, the upper figure shows
various methods for lubrication with grease. 8t
is important to know where the grease is going
to determine if your re4greasing efforts are
"he lower left figure shows a typical smaller
electric motor application with a shielded
bearing. ,ote we are primarily re4greasing the
end bell area to seal against contamination.
"he lower right figure shows a larger motor
configuration that reduces the chance of over
greasing. "he grease path goes first behind the
bearing. Gravity and the slinging action of the
bearing will drop the grease down into a
reservoir Iust behind the bearing. Hhen the
grease amount gets too high, it will simply spill
over a ;dam< plate, out the front of the motor
through a vent to the atmosphere.
Grease Escape Val$e
"he escape valve prevents over4lubrication and
allows relubrication to be carried out without
stopping the machine. ! grease escape valve
consists of a disc which rotates with the shaft
and which forms a narrow gap, together with
the housing end cover. 6(cess and used
grease is thrown out by the disc into an annular
cavity and leaves the housing through an
opening on the bottom of the end4cover. :or
assistance in design and dimensioning of
grease escape valves, contact #=: !pplications
6ngineering #ervice.
"o ensure fresh grease actually reaches the
bearing and replaces the old grease, the
lubrication duct in the housing should either
feed the grease adIacent to the outer ring side
face, or better still, into the bearing. "his is
possible, for e(ample, with spherical roller
bearings and double row full complement
cylindrical roller bearings.
Hhere centrali1ed lubrication e%uipment is
used, ensure the grease has ade%uate
SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service 1"
The Functions of Lubrication
pumpability over the range of ambient
Greasin 2earins on Vertical !hafts
En vertical applications where the grease is
supplied from above, a stiff grease is re%uired
so it remains in the bearing (left. Hhere the
grease is resting on a plate, integral to the
bearing or not (right, a softer consistency
grease is re%uired to ensure the flow of
lubricant into the bearing.
'utomatic Lubricator
"he #P!L or #ingle Point !utomatic Lubricator
is used primarily to deliver grease to
applications that are difficult or dangerous to
reach. "hey are also used in applications that
are prone to over4 or under4greasing, as they
accurately control the %uantity and rate of
application. $arious methods are used to
deliver the grease, mostly through gas
production, which presses a piston to the top of
the grease pack. "he grease is e(pelled out
the bottom of the unit at a steady rate.
,tatic Oil Lubrication
!lso called oil bath lubrication. #tatic oil is
considered the baseline for friction comparisons
among various oil lubrication methods. 8n static
oil bath applications, the oil level should be set
at a height e%ual to center of the bottom4most
rolling element. 2inor oil level variations higher
or lower from center of the bottom4most ball can
influence operating temperature. "he minimum
oil level is 3 mm above the outer ring shoulder
diameter, which ensures a slight pool of oil in
the application during startup and provides
some static protection.
Hhen static oil is employed, a sight gauge is
recommended on the bearing housing to ensure
proper oil height, even when a constant level
oiler is employed. Both window (also called
bullet and standing tube gauges are available.
0heck the oil level carefully with a flashlight. Eil
varnishing over time may give the appearance
of a normal level when in fact the oil level may
have dropped dangerously low.
8#E $G 9F oil typically used in centrifugal pump
applications to ensure 35 mm
*s (B. #+#
minimum re%uired viscosity is maintained at the
bearing operating temperature.
Eil bath replacement is generally recommended
every si( months for typical applications, or
even less if continuous operating temperatures
e(ceed 3F. :.
7egular condition monitoring of the oil, including
viscosity, o(idation, and solid particle and
moisture contaminant levels, is recommended
at regular intervals to ensure highest %uality. !
rigorous oil analysis program ensures oil
changes are performed at the right time. 6arly
changes are costly, and late oil changes reduce
the service life of the application.
1# SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service
The Functions of Lubrication
0hanging the oil after the first five to ten
operating hours can greatly e(tend the life of
some applications by removing particle
contamination generated during transportation,
startup and running4in. 6ven greater life
e(tension can be obtained by attaching a filter
cart during run4in to continuously remove newly
generated particles. Hhen the desired
cleanliness has been achieved, follow up with
regular oil condition monitoring. Ebtain and
follow manufacturers& recommendations for
running4in new systems to enhance application
life. !lways double4check applications received
in a ;ready4to4install< condition for proper oil or
grease levels. ,ew e%uipment is often shipped
dry, or with protective coatings or fluids that
must be removed and replaced with the proper
lubricant prior to startup.
"il Lifter 1ins
Eil is conveyed to the tapered flinger by an oil
ring that dips into the oil bath. ,ote the
pressure e%uali1ation ducts (top and bottom,
which prevent leakage when the housings are
located in an air stream, for e(ample, in
industrial fans.
Circulating Oil ,ystems
Eil temperatures in the sump tank are generally
kept at 3). : to keep out water and prevent
thermal shock to bearing components. "he
obIective with circulating oil is to ma(imi1e the
oil viscosity at the bearing. #econdarily,
circulating oil carries heat away from the
application. >ry sump is preferred method,
generally resulting in less leakage and greater
heat removal. Eil e(it holes and piping should
be twice the inlet si1e to allow for good
drainage. Pipes should be angled downward
after leaving the housing. 0ontact #=:
!pplications 6ngineering for operating
recommendations on flow rates and
construction advice.
:iltration: )A micron absolute is a potential
starting point for filtration. Go to 3. micron
absolute as feasible. Pre4filtering oil from
vendors is becoming more commonplace.
Oil *ist and #ic$ ,ystems
:or very high4speed operation, it is necessary
that a sufficient, but not e(cessive, %uantity of
oil penetrates the bearing to provide ade%uate
lubrication without increasing the operating
temperature more than necessary. Ene
SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service 1$
The Functions of Lubrication
particularly efficient method of achieving this is
the oil Iet method, where a Iet of oil under high
pressure is directed at the side of the bearing.
"he velocity of the oil Iet must be high enough
(at least 3A m*s so that at least some of the oil
penetrates the turbulence surrounding the
rotating bearing.
>irected mist (left figure is recommended when
nLdm M 5..,..., or when a(ial loads are high.
(,ote: nLdm ' 7P2 ( (>@d*). Eil mist may
also provide a positive pressure against the
ingress of e(ternal contaminants. Eut gassing
of vapori1ed oil may occur, which may need
monitoring for compliance with local regulations
on air pollution.
Eil wicks (right figure, vertical shaper spindle
can be used to meter small amounts of oil
reliably. "he wick conveys the oil to the rotating
collar, from which it is thrown off and drains
back through the bearing. "his method
circulates and filters the oil, delivering clean
lubricant to the bearing.
'ir - Oil "eli(ery ,ystems
!ir4oil delivery takes advantage of the ;wall
attachment< effect allowing very small amounts
of oil to be delivered to applications that would
be over lubricated by traditional oil bath
systems. 0lean, dry, compressed air
(instrument air is delivered through a tube into
which oil is supplied at a predetermined rate.
"he oil spirals down the tube, arriving at the
!ir4oil delivery is superior to oil mist as it does
not remove additives from the oil. "he oil can
also be recovered for filtration or water removal.
$acuum evaporator systems are especially
valuable in this regard, some are capable of
removing up to ) GPH from the recovered oil.
0omplete systems can be provided for
permanent installation or on carts for temporary
.seful Life of Oil
"il Chane
"he fre%uency with which it is necessary to
change the oil depends mainly on the operating
conditions and the %uantity of oil.
Hith oil bath lubrication, it is generally sufficient
to change the oil once a year, provided the
operating temperature does not e(ceed A./ 0,
and there is little risk of contamination. Higher
temperatures call for more fre%uent oil changes.
:or e(ample, for operating temperatures around
3../ 0, the oil should be changed every three
months. :re%uent oil changes are also needed
if other operating conditions are arduous.
Hith circulating oil lubrication, the period
between two oil changes is also determined by
how fre%uently the total oil %uantity is circulated
and whether or not the oil is cooled. 8t is
generally only possible to determine a suitable
interval by test runs, and by regular inspection
of the condition of the oil to see that it is not
contaminated and is not e(cessively o(idi1ed.
"he same applies for oil mist lubrication.
General recommendations for pumps,
gearbo(es, and other applications with a static
sump are as follows:
3). : 4 3-. : 4 change oil every 3) months
3-. : 4 )3) : 4 change oil every 9 months
over )3) : 4 change oil every ) months
1% SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service
The Functions of Lubrication
! proper oil analysis program may allow safe
e(tension of the recommendations above.
Cleanliness Control
"il Lubrication
3ater E&traction
Hater is e(tremely detrimental to bearings.
Ene teaspoon of water in one gallon of oil
reduces the oil viscosity appro(imately A.
percent. "his is Iust over ..3 percent water
content, or 3... ppm. !im for ).. ppm
(...)N water content in filtered, circulating
"il %iltration
:ilters use a ;beta< rating to define their
' n3 * n)

,o. of particles per volume unit larger than
( microns upstream from the filter

,o. of particles per volume unit larger than
( microns downstream from the filter
B9 ' BA, means only 3 in BA particles greater
than 9 microns will pass the filter
Cleanliness Classifications
"wo cleanliness classification systems are in
use: ,!# 395F and 8#E --.9. "hese systems
rank oil cleanliness by the number of particles
of certain si1es present in the oil. "ables are
available from #=:. #=: recommends 8#E
--.9 0lass 3A*3) or ,!# 0lass 9 for circulating
oil systems.
%lushin )e4 Circulatin "il !ystems
Bearings can be damaged in the first few
minutes of operation by hard contaminants in
the system. :lushing should be accomplished
before the first startup of the machine. #=:
recommends using a low viscosity oil and
ma(imum flow rates to achieve the highest
turbulence in the system. Lower flow rates
should not dislodge contaminants during normal
"il !amplin
7egular sampling gives the best results.
#amples from pressuri1ed piping are preferred.
En4line particle counters give more accurate,
timely results. "o determine oil condition, check
the following oil characteristics:
Particle distribution by si1e
Particle type and shape (by microscope
Hater content
Loss of additive content
!dditional information on condition monitoring is
covered later in the material.
,tandstill /recautions
:ree water in the oil or grease is the greatest
danger. !void high4pressure cleaning when
seals are often compromised. 6(plore new
sealing types and sealing methods. Purge or
replace contaminated lubricant with fresh and
clean lubricant. 8n circulating oil systems,
remove free water before shutdown with
SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service 1&
The Functions of Lubrication
2' SKF Reliability Systems - Bearing Maintenance and Service