Most technicians are worried about how the operating conditions their equipment is having detrimental effects on their machine’s lifespan and lubrication system. These conditions present themselves in the form of Dirty Environment, humid conditions and elevated or changing temperature; or a combination of these factors. It is necessary to be mindful about these issues for preventing your equipment and having risk mitigation strategies in place. It is best to consider these factors when choosing the location to install the equipment. In the following sections, we will discuss the various environmental factors that impact your lubrication to a great extent.
Dust filled, dirty environment can heavily impact your equipment's lubrication as it increases the risk of contaminant ingression – the primary cause of most equipment failures. Particle contamination occurs when stagnant particles or particles in the air enter the lubrication system through hatches or open ports. The risk of particle contamination is even greater in systems that have negative pressure. Contaminants that enter your lubrication system cause mechanical wear. Studies show that half of the bearing’s loss can be attributed to mechanical wear and tear which occurs through surface fatigue, surface adhesion and surface abrasion. Eighty percent of your machine ware throughout its lifespan is particle induced wear.
Another environmental factor that can Damage your machine’s lubrication system is elevated temperature. This condition can be best diagnosed if you have a proper understanding of the lubricant’s characteristics. Temperature affects the most important property of a lubricant - its viscosity. It is the lubricant’s ability to resist flow and shear. Viscosity is also affected by contaminants and moisture, but the impact that temperature has on lubrication is far greater than the other two. The Arrhenius rate rule states that, after a lubricant has exceeded its base activation temperature, its degradation rate will double with every 10 degrees increase (18 degrees F).
Wet conditions can also result in lubricant related failures. Moisture inside lubricants can appear in three different forms when your equipment is subjected to wet conditions: free, emulsified and dissolved. The form of water presence depends on the lubricant’s properties, additives, amount of moisture, and the application. Moisture affects many of your lubricant’s properties and aspects like film strength, oxidation and load carrying capacity.
While these three were the most common environmental threats, there are other factors that may substantially impair your equipment’s lubrication. These include everything from Excessive vibration to low temperatures. Your initial focus should primarily be on protecting your equipment from dust, elevated temperatures and moisture ingression respectively, in this order of priority, but also consider factors such as severity and equipment criticality. Ensure that your equipment is always clean, dry and cool. It is especially important to install proper hardware related to your lubrication system and execute maintenance procedures accurately to prevent issues caused due to extreme operating conditions.