A part of excellent maintenance practice is timely cleaning of equipment. Contaminant particles can get between mechanical components and hinder movement or deal damage. A lubricant deteriorates overtime and must be cleaned and replaced to keep the machine protected and operating smoothly.
Bearings are machine components that limit relative motion to only the desired motion, and minimize friction between moving parts. Bearings are found in all kinds of equipment. Knowing how and when to clean a bearing is crucial to keeping them machine running smoothly and efficiently.
Industrial grease is commonly used to lubricate bearings. The thickness of grease allows it to remain in place amidst frequent movement and provides good protection against metal-to-metal contact. Like all lubrication products, grease also degrades over time. Its degradation is a natural process that can be sped up by contaminants and operation conditions that the grease is exposed to.
As the grease degrades, its viscosity and lubricating capability are negatively affected. Contamination and oil bleed can cause the grease to become more viscous to the point that it starts to solidify. The increasing viscosity obstructs the movement of the bearing. This causes the equipment to consume more power to overcome the obstructing force. This also results to increased heat generation which can cause wear on the bearing components.
The bearing must be regularly cleaned to removed hardened grease and contaminants. In some instances, the bearing might have to be opened and repacked in order to completely clean the components.