Bearings have been used in industry for hundreds of years to provide rotational motion in a wide variety of different applications. As technology has improved so has the manufacturing processes used to make the bearings meaning they are more likely to be resistant to everything the environment in which they are used throws at them. However like any mechanical device a bearing need to be maintained regularly so that it remains in a good working condition through its usable life.
Although bearings have improved considerably over the years there is still one thing which every bearing user will fear – rust. It’s uncommon to find a bearing used outside which isn’t prone to a little rust contamination and usually this won’t affect the bearing at all as it will be confined to the exposed surfaces. But if the rust is allowed to make its way into the inner bearing structure, between the rolling elements, it’s likely that a bearing failure will ensue.
It’s just about impossible to stop rust contamination if you use a bearing outdoors but there are things you can do to reduce the rust forming and to give the bearing a chance at rotating for its factory-designed number of rotations.
When you install any bearing it is really important to install it in an environment which is free from rust and protected from moisture. Whilst it may not be possible to stop moisture forming completely, such as in the case of condensation, everything you can do will prolong the bearing’s life. Similarly if you install a bearing into an environment which has already seen rust contamination it will only be a matter of time before the bearing also starts to rust.
The way the bearing is handled during the fitting process may also cause rust to form unduly. All bearings should be handled wearing gloves as the heat from your fingers may be enough to cause condensation which will start the rusting process. Likewise if the bearings aren’t stored in an environment which is stable and sees quick changes in temperature, or if the bearings are stored out of the protective packaging in which they were delivered you are giving the bearing a chance to start the rusting process much quicker than anticipated.
Although bearings may seem to be a structurally sound mechanical device they need to be treated with care to prolong their life and stop problems occurring further in the bearing’s lifecycle.
John James wrote this article about ball bearings on behalf of www.bearingboys.co.uk.