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Bearing Failure Analysis

Our experienced bearing engineers can identify bearing failure problems and provide customers with cost-effective actionable solutions.

Variables will always apply due to the different applications and environments, but the history of the bearing is written in the metallurgy.

Preventing failure is vital to maintaining reputation, saving costs and time, saving lives, or simply avoiding inconvenience. You could encounter a combination of all of these; understanding why failures occur and knowing the steps to preventing them should always be considered as critical.

At LILY our experience speaks volumes and is a primary ‘go-to’ source for bearing failure analysis across many different industries and applications. We serve a wide range of customers including those in industry: commercial airframes, power plants, and some in space, nuclear, or cryogenics. When these businesses confront baring failure they know to come to LILY to determine the cause of the problem and offer solutions to fix and mitigate future problems. We assist by providing users with knowledge and expertise on failure modes as well as providing our testing facilities and specialist equipment to ensure customers avoid any types of inconvenience, unwanted costs (,or worse) that failed bearings can cause.

Types And Causes Of Bearing Failure


Correct lubrication is vital to preserving the life of the bearing. If a visual inspection is conducted and discolouring in the grease has occurred or it smells burnt then this could indicate that there is a potential lubrication failure, which inevitably leads to bearing failure. If lithium-based grease is used the surface may brittle and even light taps with a sharp instrument can shatter it. If the bearing is running in an oil bath and fluid isn’t reaching the races efficiently enough, they could become dry to the touch or possibly ‘blued’. Any of the above warning signs will require in-depth examination as soon as possible.


If one side of any bearing is even slightly misaligned in relation to the other, the path of the rollers or balls will run to one side of the race from the other. This will occur on around half of the circumference of the non-rotating surface. The rotating ring is also very likely to have a wider roller path, which commonly results in frictional forces producing a high temperature that is enough to affect efficiency or cause lubrication issues.


One of the most common causes of bearing failure stems from contaminations. The cause of these failures is usually the fairly straightforward presence of foreign objects inside the bearing. In the majority of cases contamination will leave visible marks like pitting, scoring, or scratches. However, visual inspection cannot always determine whether contamination has occurred, especially if the environment of operation is one where fine mists of fluids or fine dust particles are commonly present. LILY can provide insight onto which bearings suit a variety of unique environments as well as providing consistent testing to ensure the longevity of your bearings and applications. Failure prevention costs less than replacements.


Regardless of whether it is caused by adjacent component failure or simply a build-up of static charge, electric arc erosion happens when a current passes through a bearing and its contact point between races and rollers. This can then result in adversely high temperatures on certain parts of the bearing which then could result in surface pitting on contacting faces. LILY can advise on how these mishaps can be avoided.


Your bearing(s) cage can be damaged in numerous ways, some of the most common include a lack of lubrication, excessive vibration, or wear and overspending. If you have or are experiencing cage damage, contact us and we can provide help and support to find the most effective solution.


Brinelling damage is damage that is caused to the raceway. The most common cause for this kind of damage is incorrect installation or replacement of a bearing, or when too much thrust force has been applied, intentionally or not. Visually, brinelling should be recognisable by small indentation of the race which aligns to the location of the balls. Users need to be aware that one direct cause of brinelling could hammer blows to the bearing, or a shock load on a static shaft. LILY can assist in advising how to identify causes of brinelling and help you to manage them out of the equation.


False brinelling is caused by vibrations in a static bearing. It could potentially be caused by a machine in which the bearing is being installed, but cat sometimes also be caused during the transportation of equipment. Users should be visually aware of indentations on the axial and circumferential components of the raceways. It can appear very similar to brinelling, however false brinelling is characterised by the degradation of the material from a combination of both chemical and mechanical action.


Fatigue failure results from a weakening in the grain of the bearing steel. This type of damage can be visually identified by flaking of the raceway, however, fatigue failure begins beneath the surface before migrating to the raceway, so is invisible to the eye early on. This can be normal near to the end of the life of a bearing, however fatigue failure can occur at any time due to excessive loads being applied. LILY can assist during the design stage to ensure you that your bearing(s) will truly hold up to the projected static and dynamic loads that are projected, thus preventing fatigue failure from happening.


Examining the wear path pattern in a bearing that’s been removed from its service can secure an idea of the operating conditions that the bearing came under. By establishing the difference between normal and abnormal wear on a pathway we can identify whether the bearing has been used properly or not.