What Causes Roller Bearing Failure?

Roller bearings are essential components in machinery that facilitate smooth rotational motion between multiple parts. Though they are relatively inexpensive to purchase, the failure of even one of these bearings can add up to hefty costs in repairs if not used effectively. As such, it is essential to know the various factors that could cause bearing malfunction and maintain your assemblies accordingly. To learn more about these factors including how to best prevent them, read on as we discuss some key ways to safeguard your bearings from potential damage.

1) Lubrication Contamination

Since roller bearings rely on lubrication for frictionless motion, contamination can cause them to get stuck and worn down more quickly. The key to preventing lubrication contamination is to include a maintenance scheme that involves looking for the use of hard-wearing seals, debris build-up around the bearing, worn seals, excessive amounts of grease, and cracks or vibrations in the raceways of the bearing.

2) Corrosion

When first bought, bearings are packed and sealed with a non-corrosive material, but this material can wear away after the bearings have been opened. Therefore, bearings should only be unwrapped when ready for installation, and must also be inspected, and given a protective coat before they are put into the assembly. Additionally, if a bearing has been exposed to dirt, dust, sand, or other oils, rust can form in abrasive areas, seriously impacting the bearing’s effectiveness. To identify corrosion, it is important to look for red or brown rusting, vibrating bearings, or reduced load capacity.

3) Overloading

Overloading a bearing means violating the manufacturer’s guidelines for temperature, load weight, and speed processing. When used for more than it was intended to, a bearing is likely to wear more quickly and overheat. In these situations, the best course of action is to source a new bearing as quickly as possible, so that it is better suited for the working environment and application at hand.

4) False Brinelling

When the bearing is subject to extreme vibrations or wear even while the case of the inner race remains static, it can diminish some of the lubrication, causing linear wear in the axial direction. To combat false brinelling, it is helpful to use anti-wear lubricants in recommended doses and ensure that the entire mechanism will have shock absorbant features.

5) Shielding

While not all bearings will come with shielding, having a lack of it can cause issues later down the line. As such, there are two types of shielding available for most bearing types: steel shielding or plastic shielding. In general, it is very helpful to have some form of shielding to seal the bearing against dust particles and other debris.

6)  Spalling (Fit)

When the bearing is misaligned in its mounting, the bearing will likely show symptoms of fractures, loss of material in the races, increased vibration of the bearing, more operational noise, noticeable spread of wear, overheating, or the accumulation of small metal particles depending on whether it is a loose or tight fit. To ensure that this does not happen, one must refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper clearance between bearing components.

7) Improper Mounting

Similar to spalling, improper mounting involves a fit which is too tight, too loose, or misaligned with the surrounding components. Either scenario may produce cracking, denting, wear, fractured rings, overheating, bearing failure, and incorrect operating speeds. Note that bearings should usually be mounted with a press fit on the inner ring rather than the outer ring. To avoid this issue, it is important to ensure that all handlers of the bearing have the correct training and adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines.


If you have observed or experienced roller bearing failure in your assembly, you can rely on AOG Unlimited for strategic solutions that prioritize time and cost savings so that you may resume your operations as soon as possible. Backed by a widespread supply network that stretches across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, we can guarantee expedited shipping to fit all your operational requirements, even for AOG situations. Begin the purchasing process with us today for unbeatable service and quality-tested components. 


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