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  • Robert Switzer

The Importance Of Your Equipment's Bearings

Updated: Feb 22

Bearings are a crucial part of how efficient and reliable your facility's equipment will operate. You will find bearings in most of your manufacturing equipment and machinery. Knowing the type of bearings you have and how they fail are important for your maintenance program.

What Are Bearings

Reasons Bearings Fail

Testing Your Bearings

What Are Bearings

A bearing consist of rolling elements (balls, needles, rollers) that are walled by smooth surfaces called races to allow rolling. Bearings are components that reduce friction and load on moving objects. Without having bearings, internal parts would be worn out and needing replacing from the friction.

There are a two categories of bearings, radical and thrust. Radical bearings are used to support turning shafts. Thrust bearings will be used to support axle loads. The two most common types of bearings are:

  1. Ball Bearings- these can be found in drivelines, driveshafts, steering, high temperature machines, and in many other industries such as toys, home appliances, and aerospace.

  2. Roller Bearings- you can find these in engines, gearboxes, axle systems, propeller shafts, differentials, and other heavy duty uses.

Consider these factors when you are looking at replacing your bearings. One factor is to know if you need a bearing that is able to handle high rotation speeds. If your equipment has more vibration and impact movements when operating then consider bearings that can handle the vibration. Some of your equipment will be susceptible to more contamination from water, dust, and other lubricants and you will have to look at the sealing qualities the bearing has. Know what type of load you bearing will need to handle either axial load (parallel to axis) or radial load (perpendicular to axis).

Reasons Bearings Fail

Bearings can break down as quick as a few months rather than a few years from these common causes. The main cause is from human error. This could be from improper installation or not keeping up with the maintenance.

Bearings not being correctly aligned when installed will create increase wear so it's important to check and confirm alignment when installing and testing bearings. Proper lubrication for bearings is crucial in keeping the bearing from being over lubed. Over lubing a bearing is one of the top reasons for bearings to fail, because bearings need to be lubed based on their size and speed. To much greasing of the bearings causes excess heat and damage. You are able to use the correct amount of grease for a bearing by using technology such as ultrasonic testing equipment.

Creating a maintenance program that has the correct protocols for the staff to grease bearings at the correct intervals and the exact amount necessary will help increase the life span. Test your bearings frequently to make sure that they don't have an issue with mis-alignment so you can catch it early enough to prevent major damage. There are a handful of option to choose from when deciding on technology to use for analyzing your bearings.

Testing Your Bearings

Keeping up with the condition of your bearings is crucial and they should be tested at least quarterly. Some technology will need to be performed more often to be sure you are being preventive on the bearings maintenance. Some options for bearing testing technology are:

  • Vibrational- this technology uses human testing and/or accelerometers to read the frequency from vibrations caused by defects in the bearing

  • Thermography- use infrared to pick up infrared thermal energy given off from excessive bearing friction.

  • Ultrasonic- this type of testing picks up sound frequencies beyond our hearing ability to pick up bearing deterioration. This technology is able to detect early bearing problems.

Use the available technology out there to help you properly lubricate your bearings. First choose the proper type of lubrication based on the type of bearing and if its sealed or not. Consider the bearing temperature and if it requires grease or oil. To keep from over lubing your bearings you can use auto lubers that will lubricate the bearings on an auto time frame and set amount. You can also use ultrasonic testing equipment that will determine when the proper amount of lubrication is added to the bearing.

Having some knowledge on bearings and ways to prolong their lifespan will help keep your equipment running more efficient and increase its reliability. If you'd like to learn more about preventive maintenance or using ultrasonic testing for your bearings please take a look at our website or reach out to us with any questions.


Duda, E. (2022). Bearings, bearings, bearings… the world runs on bearings [web log]. Retrieved from

Plant Automation Technology (2022). Bearings Types What It Is And How They Work [web log].

Retrieved from

F. (2018, October 17). Choosing the right bearing. Buying Guides DirectIndustry.

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