How Does Shelf Life Affect Bearing Performance?

July 17, 2017

The shelf life of an item is defined as the maximum length of time a product can be stored in a usable condition. Batteries have a built-in storage lifespan, as do many chemical products. Those chemicals, even the ones inside the batteries, deteriorate over time when they’re left on the shelf. As for bearing performance, shelf life effects do impact the performance characteristics of these indispensable spinning components, too.

Where’s The Performance Handicap? 

If bearing materials can withstand dynamic stresses, they won’t be affected by shelf life problems. The heat treated alloys aren’t the problem, but what about the lubricant that optimises the rolling elements when they zip fluidly around the twin race segments? Chemical compounds deteriorate, heat treated metals parts don’t, not if they’re stored properly. But more on that latter exception later. On turning our focus back to the oil film, a substandard lubricant will impede performance. Among other things, the formulated oil ages. It separates until it can no longer “grease” the bearing parts.

Shelf Life Issues: Bearing Deterioration 

Many years ago, metal parts corroded when they were poorly stored. They deteriorated until their working parts no longer functioned as an optimised whole. Today, even if a storage management strategy isn’t exactly virtuous, the shelved items are fabricated according to a stringent manufacturing methodology. They’re rust resistant, if not entirely rustproof. Likewise, lubrication technology has come a long way, so shelf life considerations are accounted for during the formulation stage. Essentially, lifespan is extended, but that feature is conditional. For example, the oil in question could hypothetically be assigned a shelf life that extends beyond several years, but that feature only applies when the lubricant is stored in its original container.

Bearing Form Factors Affect Shelf Life 

When the oil is applied, a lubrication film forms around the rolling balls. They skate around the rings at high velocities while minimising friction. A superior performance factor is assured if the bearings are boxed and sealed. Again, there will be a performance hit due to the lubricant formulation, but chemical breakdown problems are minimised by advanced formulations, plus a few age-inhibiting additives. However, now that the oil and bearings are shelved as an integrated whole, there are other issues to address. Exterior contaminants are now a problem, but there is a solution, one that involves suitable packaging and a rust-inhibiting chemical preservative.

If an expiration date is attached to the bearing lubricant, what can be done when that date arrives and the product is still on the shelf? After all, the metal parts are still very much in prime condition. Avoid intolerable product wastage events by considering a bearing lubrication replacement service. Avoid this situation altogether, including the potentially costly oil replacement procedure, by knowing the shelf life of the lubricating agent.


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