Reliability Engineering Snapshot TM

Illustrated Case Studies in the Maintenance Reliability Engineering World of Failure Analysis, Predictive Maintenance, and Non Destructive Evaluation



Lubrication - Case Study No. 28: Failure of an Automatic Grease Dispenser

Wax Component of GreaseNope, it ain't lipstick, or lip balm. It's supposed to be grease, or what's left of it. Using "auto-lubers" can give one a sense of false security. These automatic grease dispensers are not immune to generating their own set of problems.

The short 2" x 1/4" pipe nipple was all the distance between an automatic grease dispenser, or "auto luber," and the bearing it was supposed to be lubricating. What you're looking at is the wax filler in the grease. It was extruded out of the pipe nipple using a solid rod. It was hard. This little insignificant pipe nipple almost went back into operation. However, over a period of a couple of years there had been several bearing failures with these auto lubers installed. Suspicions arose, and with this particular failure nothing was left unturned. The auto luber was still full of grease. It was still full of grease even after 3 months of installation. The level never went down in it. The wax that remained prevented the grease from ever getting to the bearing.

Auto lubers are designed with a pressure-charged cartridge. Manufacturers brag about this feature, enough so that one gets a false sense of security, thinking that they can push through anything and for any distance. Anymore, we mark the grease level in the auto lubers and make sure that the level does go down and the grease is being dispensed.

This particular failure involved high heat. This was on a split bearing assembly which ran hot. The auto luber was fitted directly on top of the bearing housing. The heat caused the oil in the grease to separate out prematurely. Eventually all that was left was the wax filler.

Auto lubers are life savers, they really do work; but don't bet the farm on these things, because they are fallible.

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