Greasing Bearings - How Much is Enough?
By: Thomas Yoon
Previously, we have talked about using suitable greases for
different applications. Basically, we want to use low
temperature greases for low temperature applications and high
temperature greases for high temperature applications. The
reason is quite simple - we want the grease to form a thin film
of lubricating oil between the rubbing surfaces.
If we use high temperature grease for normal temperature
applications, the chances are the grease will still be in
semi-solid state and will not flow to cover the contact surfaces
of the moving components during operating conditions.
Assuming you have chosen the correct grease, how do you determine
how much you need to put into the bearing?
Excessive grease lubrication can easily cause overheating. The
grease gets churned around within the moving parts of the bearing
and has nowhere to go. The temperature rises. The grease becomes
the wrong temperature selection even though the application is
A general rule to follow is that the bearing should be filled
completely but the free space in the housing only partially. This
gives room for the grease to be ejected from the bearing on
However, there is some grease, the so-called "totally-filled"
greases like lithium soap greases that can allow filling up to 90%
of the free space in the housing, without risk of a temperature
rise. This is because they are special. Their stability at high
temperatures is excellent and can be utilized over a wider
temperature range than sodium soap greases.
By filling up all the free space, impurities are effectively
prevented from entering and damaging the bearings and the
lubricating intervals can be extended.
For most other greases, the general rule applies.
Bearings can be divided into two categories - non-separable and separable
bearings. No matter which bearing type it is, the general practice is to fill up
the space between inner race, the outer race, and the rolling components (ball
or roller) on both sides of the bearing.
Because of its consistency, the grease should be able to remain in place without
dropping off. In this way, we can ensure that the rubbing contact surface
actually has grease on it.
For relubrication, how much is enough? The following formula gives
a good indication:
G = 0.005 DB
G = grease quantity in grams
D = bearing outside diameter in mm
B = total bearing width in mm
By practicing proper lubrication, the bearings should be able to
last for a long time. However, bearings can still fail if it has
not been installed properly or for other reasons.
Until next time...
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