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Effect of water contamination on ball bearing life


Q  -  What is the effect of water contamination on the fatigue life of anti-friction
(ball) thrust bearings?


A  -  A study conducted by [ * ] on the effect of water contamination, of lubricating
oil, shows the following estimated reduction in the fatigue life of anti-friction (ball)
thrust bearings on their pumps:

  • A 0.002% water contamination, roughly equivalent to one drop of water in
    one quart of oil, reduces the fatigue life of anti-friction bearings [ * ] %.

  • A 3% contamination reduces the fatigue life [ * ] %.

  • A 6% contamination reduces the fatigue life [ * ] %.


We do not know the operating environment from which the study was made so it
should not be implied that most other pumps will experience the same effect from
water contamination. But it is fair to say that the detrimental effect is very drastic.
That is why the use of bearing isolators, as an upgrade, in bearing housings is
becoming widely popular in spite of its cost.


[ * ] Some information are excluded in this article.
Read more.


R: 0211-EFOF
C: operation, maintenance
F: bearing life

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Related topic:
Thrust bearing failures
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Photo shows ball bearing (anti-friction bearing) including parts consisting of outer race, inner race, balls, and cage