Rust and Corrosion in Bearings: What are the Causes?

July 13, 2020

Bearings, with the application of appropriate lubricants, significantly help in reducing friction between two mechanical parts. They also constrain the relative motion of components to only the needed and desired motion. The design of these machine elements is intended to give either the free linear movement of a moving part or free rotation around a fixed axis.

To meet the needs of different machine assemblies, companies have utilised different types of bearings for their daily operations. Some types of bearings that are commonly used for intricate components include ball bearings, roller bearings, and many more. One common thing about all these bearings is that they are typically made from metal. And as part of its natural property, metal can be susceptible to corrosion and rust. Without any added enhancements and proper care, bearings made from metal can easily rust due to the following elements:

Contact with Corrosive Elements

A metallic product corrodes when it reacts to oxygen and water. Electrical current, chemicals, and even dirt and bacteria can also cause corrosion. With most metal bearings, their continuous contact with these elements can cause rusting and corrosion over time. Once the corrosion begins, the bearings would manifest some sort of flaking and cracks, which can be amplified if they are exposed to an alkaline solution. As the corrosion worsens, pitting will start to occur that can significantly damage the bearing.

Improper Application of Lubricant

The purpose of proper lubrication for bearings is that it can easily help dissipate heat, seal out solid and liquid contamination and exposure, and reduce bearing noise. Another benefit of applying appropriate type and amount of lubricant on bearings is that it can protect them against corrosion and wear. The presence of lubricant itself helps keep out corrosive elements that are present around the bearings. With improper lubricant application, you can expect your bearings to rust and corrode easily.

Penetration of Thin Oxide Films

Metal materials are used for bearings due to their durability and tensile strength. Some bearings can resist corrosion due to chromium. Others, however, resist corrosion through thin oxide films. These films are coated on bearings which will stop any reaction that may develop whenever they interact with corrosive elements. When the oxide film is penetrated, bearings would start to rust and corrode. This penetration typically happens because of the sloppy fitting between the bearing ring and the shaft.

Inappropriate Handling and Storage

Improper handling of bearings can easily lead to the formation of rust on their materials. Without adequate rust-preventive treatment during transporting, these hardware devices will most likely start to corrode once they are used for intended applications. Aside from inappropriate handling, storage can also affect the quality of bearings. If a storage area has high temperature and high humidity, then expect your bearings to rust and corrode easily since moisture can develop and penetrate their protective oxide film. Given all these causes of rust and corrosion in bearings, it is your responsibility to take care of them properly. From their handling to their storage, the bearings must not be subjected to corrosive elements and situations to effectively improve their longevity. If you want to know how to maintain them, feel free to contact us at Global Bearing Imports.

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