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    Bearing being measured by dial caliper

    Guide To Extending Bearing Life

    Why is it essential to try to ensure bearings last as long as possible? It isn’t so much about the cost of the bearing, it’s the time and effort to fix, and the cost of lost production due to unplanned downtime when bearings fail prematurely. Get the full life of the bearing by following these great examples of good practice.


    16% of premature bearing failure is due to poor mounting of the bearing. Correct installation not only ensures the good running of the machine but often reduced energy consumption as well.

    If force is applied to the wrong part of the bearing, damage will result. See figure 1. The use of the correct mounting equipment is vital to ensure the correct fitting of the bearing, without such damage and to ensure maximum life.

    For correct cold mounting, to avoid impact damage use the correct manual fitting tool for the bearing. See figure 2.

    Shows incorrect and correct ways of applying force to fit bearing correctly

    Alternatively heating the bearing correctly prior to fitting ensures easy fitting onto shafts. Induction heating is a safe and reliable method to use. Other means of applying heat can lead to bearing damage or contamination. See figure 3.

    Correct and incorrect ways of applying heat to bearings prior to fitting


    Poor lubrication accounts for 36% of premature bearing failure. Selecting the appropriate lubrication solution can help reduce failure and increase machine uptime, productivity and energy efficiency. It is vital that the right grease is applied in the right quantity, by the right method in the right place.

    Manual lubrication, while offering flexibility, can contribute to issues if not carefully applied such as over/under-lubricating. Automatic lubricators by comparison can address grease consumption, avoid spillage and contamination risk, human errors and simple failure to lubricate at the right times. Automatic lubrication is particularly effective at maintaining a relatively constant level of grease. See figure 4.

    Graph showing how auto-lubrication regulates level of grease better than manual lubrication


    Incorrect alignment of drive-shafts and belts causes fatigue, which is responsible for 34% of bearing failure. Poor alignment also contributes to increased energy consumption due to friction, excess belt wear, fatigue in seals, shafts and couplings, grease leakage, fatigue in foundation bolts and vibration / noise.

    Shaft alignment issues can commonly be addressed by using flexible couplings and/or shaft alignment tools. Belt alignment issues are far more common. See figure 5. The above reported problems can be addressed by using belt alignment tools to enable accurate alignment.

    Image shows ways in which belt alignment can be incorrect

    Basic condition monitoring

    Without condition monitoring, you’re running to fail. And so often this will happen when you can least afford it to. Regular preventative maintenance by replacing the bearings during planned downtime helps prevent surprises.

    A more informed strategy is to regularly monitor the performance of critical parts in search for any evidence of deterioration/vibration and predict when failure will occur. Checking vibration levels, analysis of machine oil, and monitoring the running temperature of moving parts can all be incredibly useful in getting advance notice of problems. And these solutions start at relatively affordable levels, especially when compared to the cost of unplanned downtime.


    Although the bearing may not be used again, it is extremely important to dismount it correctly so that the service life of the replacement bearing is not compromised. If removed incorrectly this can lead to damage to other machine components, such as the shaft and housing, which are often re–used.

    The use of the correct equipment such as bearing pullers (see figure 6) is vital to the correct dismounting of the bearing to prevent damage to these parts. The equipment required will clearly vary depending on the size and configuration of the bearing unit.

    Ways of removing bearings from shafts and equipment damage free

    In Summary

    While all the advice we give here is very effective at extending bearing life, it is also critical to ensure you purchase a quality bearing in the first place. Always purchase from an authorised distributor such as RS (for SKF, FAG, INA), to be assured of not only the warranty and the confidence of sourcing of all parts supplied, but the latest design and specification of part.

    RS is incredibly well placed for your bearing needs, offering a wide range, associated tools, lubrication and predictive maintenance instruments from stock, as well as a suite of on-site maintenance solutions including lubrication and condition monitoring.

    Created in collaboration with SKF