Here at TYGRIS, we get that keeping your operation running smoothly is vital, and that wasted downtime should be avoided at all costs. Lubrication is an essential part of maintaining ball bearings, by keeping up high performance and prolonging bearing life.
Lubrication works by reducing the friction between moving parts through separation, which reduces wear and tear to keep bearing surfaces in fantastic condition. We understand that reducing breakdowns and downtime is important, and in this guide, we’re discussing how to lubricate a ball bearing, the type of oil or grease you should be using, and the proper lubrication process.
Why Should You Lubricate Ball Bearings?
Using the right bearing lubricant has a whole host of benefits, all of which can help you boost productivity and improve operations.
1 - Protect Surfaces From Corrosion
Corrosion is a big issue for all metal components, particularly for ball bearings. Seized components can halt production in its tracks, which is why regular care and maintenance are so important. Lubricating your ball bearings can prevent component seizure and keep your operation going.
2 - Provide Heat Transference
When it comes to rolling bearings, heat is conducted through the friction caused by rolling elements. By lubricating these elements, the friction and risk of overheating are reduced, as the lubricant provides heat transference.
3 - Keep Out Contaminants
Contaminants can cause a range of issues for your equipment, and using a proper lubricant for your bearing shields them from environmental pollutants.
4 - Create A Barrier Between Surfaces
Ball or roller bearings operate with sliding surfaces and roller contacts, which create friction. Using a lubricant creates a barrier between these surfaces, which improves efficiency and prevents unnecessary breakdowns.
What Should You Use To Lubricate Ball Bearings?
There is a range of different lubricants on the market, which fall into either an oil or a grease category.
Knowing the type of lubricant you should be using is vital, and the best place to start is by checking the recommended product suggested by your bearing manufacturer.
Other factors to consider when selecting the right lubrication system include:
- Machine Type
- Bearing Size
- Bearing Speed
- Operating And Environmental Conditions
An oil lubricant is often used in high-speed and high-temperature applications that demand heat transference for working sliding surfaces. Oil lubricants are either natural or synthetic oil, both of which are usually enhanced with corrosion-fighting additives to prevent seizure.
The most common base for synthetic oils is polyalphalefins (PAO) and silicones, both of which offer unique advantages. The viscosity of the oil is also worth bearing in mind, as different levels will have a different impact.
Compared to a grease lubricant, oil is easier to distribute and works to lubricate other machine components. It also provides less drag and is easier to change out - giving you less downtime while the machine is being cleaned. Oil also offers a more versatile range of application systems, however, it is also more prone to leaking.
While some components use oil, the majority of bearing applications use a grease lubricant to reduce friction. Grease adheres to surfaces better than oil, and is less likely to leak or runoff. This is especially useful for components that are often washed down.
The adhesive properties of grease give it a much longer lifespan, which extends re-lubrication intervals. This already lowers the time spent on maintenance, but grease can also be pre-lubricated to cut down on future upkeep.
Grease lubricants consist of three components:
- Base Oil
These components impact the performance of the grease and mean some are better suited to your application than others. The viscosity of the base oil also impacts the lubrication film, and the consistency class of grease set by the National Lubricating Grease Institute (NLGI) affects how the grease distributes through your bearings.
The Best Oil For Bearings
PROTEAN Penetrate +
PROTEAN PTFE Multi-Lube - TF8620
This food-safe oil is a versatile penetrating lubricant that penetrates components and is perfect for chains, bearings, and slides in sensitive environments.
- Strong Anti-Wear Performance
- Fast Penetrating And De-Watering Properties
- Leaves A Long Lasting Lubricating Film Enhanced With PTFE
PROTEAN Penetrate+ - TF5605
This NSF H1 registered lubricant is highly versatile and is a brilliant choice for a light-duty penetrating oil or as a dewatering fluid and anti-corrosion oil for chains, bearings, and slides.
- Long Film Life
- Excellent Corrosion Protection
- Does Not Leave Carbon Deposits
TYGRIS Graphite Penetrating Oil - R209
Graphite oil is a great option for bearings operating in a demanding environment, providing lubrication in high temperatures and freezing seized or corroded components.
- Excellent Load Bearing Performance
- Operates In A Higher Temperature Range Than Other Oils
- Fast Release Of Rusted Components
The Best Grease For Bearings
Lithium EP2 Grease
Very High Temperature Grease
TYGRIS Lithium EP2 Grease - TG8404
This grease is the ultimate multi-purpose solution for use in all anti-friction applications and bearings subjected to demanding load conditions.
- High Extreme Pressure And Anti-Wear Performance
- Excellent Corrosion Protection
- Highly Versatile Lithium Grease
TYGRIS Very High Temperature 2 Grease - TG8704
This medium-consistency grease is ideal for applications in extreme temperatures such as oven and kiln car bearings or drying tunnel mechanisms.
- Operates In Temperatures Of Up To 600°C
- Extends Component Life
- Graphite Lubricating Film Reduces Wear
PROTEAN Ultima 2 - TF6304
This food-safe grease is a must-have for any industry looking to streamline its range of food-grade lubricants and is a high-performing grease that performs well under wet conditions and in high-load applications.
- High Anti-Wear Performance
- Provides Long Lasting Lubrication At High Temperatures
- Excellent Water Resistance
How To Lubricate Ball Bearings
As we touched on earlier, there are several lubrication system options available - particularly with oil lubricants. There are many different methods to choose from, however, there is a selection of applications that are generally used most often.
1 - Spatter Lubrication
This method of lubrication splatters the bearings by moving parts that are dipped into the oil at regular intervals, and the most common type of lubrication is an oil ring system.
This application option reduces the operating temperature and is excellent for bearings subjected to higher speeds.
A separate oil ring acts as the oil catch and hangs loosely from the sleeve on one side of the bearing.
The ring then follows the bearing rotation to transport the oil and distribute it through the component. However, the oil ring means that this method is only suitable for horizontal applications.
2 - Force Feed Lubrication
For bearings operating at high speeds and subjected to heavy loads, protecting them from the friction is vital. Increased operating temperatures cause oil to break down much faster, giving you a shorter reapplication interval and increasing the risk of damage.
A force-fed lubrication system uses an oil pump to distribute the oil through the bearing and collects it to be filtered and cooled before reentering the system.
This method is often used for compressors and boiler feed pumps to soak the bearing.
Drip Feed Lubrication
This method is also known as the oil-spot method or the gravity feed system and uses compressed air and oil combination to meter out oil at set intervals.
This method is an effective way to use high-viscosity oils. While this system involved applying the oil by hand, modern systems use drip feeding to apply lubrication to bearings that require small amounts of oil regularly.
The Step-By-Step Process
Step 1: Cleaning Your Bearings
It's important to completely remove any existing oils or grease from your bearings, as not cleaning the bearing surfaces can impact the operating life. To do this, use a solvent that does not leave behind any residue, or isopropyl alcohol.
Step 2: Determine The Proper Fill Quantity
The proper fill quantity helps make sure all surfaces of the bearing are properly lubricated and stops you from over-applying grease or oil. The quantity of lubrication can be found through the operating speed, design, and bearing free space.
Step 3: Determine Bearing Free Space
The proper fill quantity is usually determined as a percentage of the bearing free space, which can be found by consulting reference charts published by your bearing manufacturer.
Step 4: Run-In Procedure
The last step is vital, and if it's skipped or not done properly you could end up with over-lubricating and excessive operating temperatures. If done correctly a run-in procedure expels any excess grease found in the system and establishes a low equilibrium operating temperature.
The Most Common Mistakes
1 - Applying The Wrong Amount Of Lubrication
Using too much or too little of a lubricant is one of the mistakes we see most often and is the easiest to avoid. Using too much grease causes a build-up which increases friction and operating temperatures. Use too little, however, and the life of your components is shortened significantly.
2 - Sticking To A Schedule And Not Addressing Issues
While maintaining a regular maintenance schedule is important, it could be causing issues for your bearings. If your lubricant is performing well, then adding more isn't necessary and can lead to over-application.
Instead, monitor friction levels with an ultrasound to determine when and if more grease is needed.
3 - Not Using The Right Ultrasound Instrument
A 'listen-only' ultrasound provides audible feedback, however, the sound is subjective and can vary from person to person. A simple way to address this issue is by using ultrasound with a digital decibel meter, which allows you to quickly diagnose issues with certainty.
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