Bearings are machine elements that constrain relative motion to only the desired motion while reducing friction between moving parts. They’re highly-stressed and therefore extremely susceptible to wear and tear. Due to their importance, if aviation industrial bearings were to be severely damaged, there would be serious costs and losses at best, and potentially fatal results at worst. Fortunately, there are simple ways to avoid this.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to ensure the longevity of a bearing is to make sure that they’re installed correctly, and with the right tools. Up to 20% of all bearing failures is caused by incorrect installation, and the failure of even one bearing can prove disastrous for the entire system. Just taking the time to use the right tools to properly install the bearing is all it takes to mitigate 20% of problems.
Another simple way to avoid bearing failure is to make sure the optimal type of bearings are used. Bearings have a tendency to fail while machines are in mid-operation because they were not the right kind and therefore could not stand to work under that particular application and/or environmental conditions.
Thorough and careful cleaning of the bearings is also important to keep in mind. For the sake of time, cleaning with jets of high-pressured water or steam is often favored over a careful and thorough cleaning. However, this can cause grease to be flushed out and allow for particle contaminants to penetrate and affect the bearings.
One final and important thing to consider is regular scheduled maintenance and condition monitoring. It’s easy to ignore bearings in favor of more visibly important aircraft parts and components. However, the costs and losses incurred by a failed bearing can be as high as that incurred by damage to a bigger component. With routine inspections and maintenance, minor issues and problems like shaft misalignment or insufficient lubrication can be solved before they become disastrous.
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