Controlling Contamination Part 1

Contamination is a primary cause of bearing wear or failure. And, there are three typical types of contamination.

  • Built-in contamination – which originates from the component manufacturing process or from the installation process.

  • Self-generated contamination – which arises from system components that have been worn or damaged by other contamination particles.

  • External ingression – contamination that has been generated from external sources like air, dirt, dust, and/or water.

While it can be a challenging and time consuming task, controlling contamination is possible.

According to a Vickers Inc. paper, Systemic Approach to Contamination Control, “properly selecting and placing contamination control devices in a system to attain the targeted cleanliness eliminates (the root cause of) up to 80% of hydraulic system failures.”

Also, according to SKF’s Bearing Maintenance Handbook, bearings can attain a much longer life than predicted by normal life calculation methods.

When rolling surfaces are effectively separated by a lubricant film and when the surface damage caused by contaminants is limited, it is possible, under ideal conditions, to speak of infinite life.

But you must follow some basic lubricant principles to help optimize bearing life.

Keep it clean, keep it dry, and always apply the right lubricant, in the right place, at the right time, in the right way.

While this sounds simple, it’s not always easy to do on a busy industrial plant floor.

Maintaining cleanliness and controlling contaminants is critical for any industrial organization.

In this four-part series on Contamination Control, I will review proper lubricant handling procedures and identify methods for minimizing contamination from water, air and other particulates. We’ll also review ways to reduce varnish and sludge.

I hope you will enjoy this series. And, as you read future parts of it, if you have any questions, please let us know in the comments section below.


Tom Dietz