Lubricant is to bearings what wheels are to skateboards - it is simply impossible to function without them! Bearing lubrication is an essential technology for all things rotating and ensures longevity and high performance of the bearings, wheels, and ultimately the skateboard. It separates the moving components within the bearing such as the rolling element, the inner and outer rings, and the shield by creating a barrier between them, reducing friction, and allowing easy movement.
We use lubricants in bearings to ensure several functions from preventing bearing failure to making machines run smoothly. Yes, it is important to use lubricants in bearings, however, it’s also equally important to make the right choice of lubricant, use the right application procedure, and know the general dos and don’ts of bearing lubrication.
Therefore, we’ve compiled for you an everything-you-need-to-know guide about using lubricant in bearings, so you never have to worry about wear and tear again!
What is the purpose of using Lubricants?
Often not given the credit it deserves, bearing lubricant is what defines the life of your bearings! Well-lubricated and maintained bearings have a higher life-expectancy as well as consistently high efficiency. Conversely, under- and over-lubrication drastically reduce the performance of the bearings and are among the key causes of bearing failure.
These multipurpose life savers make all the additional, lengthy, and sometimes greasy and messy steps of timely lubrication worth all the effort. We use lubrication in bearings to ensure their smooth functioning in the following ways:
One of the primary functions of lubricants is to reduce friction. When two surfaces move, they reduce the heat generated by creating a barrier or a film between the sliding surfaces, therefore reducing energy consumption, and improving efficiency and performance.
Lubricants maintain the inner cleanliness of bearings by removing and suspending impurities within the fluid, depending on their solvency - their ability to dissolve impurities. They also prevent contaminants from sticking to surfaces within the bearings.
Stabilises Bearing Structure
Bearing lubricants are designed to function under different weights and loads and depending on their type - oil, grease, or synthetic - they help stabilise bearing structures in varying degrees and ensure a long service life
Minimises Oxidisation and Corrosion
Lubricants create a protective layer around the bearing that prevents external elements from entering the bearing. Water is unable to enter the bearings’ material, thereby reducing or eliminating the rusting process. Lubricants also prevent the surface of the bearing from coming in contact with oxygen in the atmosphere, thus preventing oxidisation.
Decreases Wear & Tear
Reduced friction and energy consumption keep bearings working smoothly over long periods of time. Lubricants also act as carriers for additives to form a protective layer on the surface of the metal that minimises wear and tear.
Types of Lubricants for Bearings
There is no one size fits all for lubricants! The ideal lubricant for you might not be ideal for someone else. Factors to consider when choosing a lubricant for your bearings range from performance requirements and operating conditions, to bearing size, interface, and base material of lubricant among other factors.
Largely speaking, lubricants can be divided into two types based on their viscosities:
Oil lubricants are considered more suitable for high speeds and temperatures because of their ability to transfer heat away from the surfaces of the bearings. These lubricants are made of either a natural mineral oil or a synthetic oil and are prone to evaporation at high speeds, if not shielded properly. They also need to be reapplied more regularly.
- Easy application and distribution
- Requires little effort to drain and reapply
- More suited to high temperatures
- Frequency of maintenance with oil and filter change is high
- Can leak easily, causing reduced or no lubrication abruptly
- Oil leakage can also be an environmental concern
Grease lubricants are made of an oil base and an additional thickener that gives it the semi-solid consistency. Used in several machineries including bearings, grease lubricant sticks better to bearing surfaces, can be used for pre-lubrication, and has a longer shelf life. Like everything else, it comes with its advantages and disadvantages.
- Doesn’t leak easily and stays in place
- Improves sealing of the bearing position
- Simple design of application equipment
- Requires little to no tracking and is largely maintenance-free
- Requires more effort to clean and restock
- Does not usually dissipate heat and increases friction
- Does not eliminate contaminants
- Specialised grease for high temperature is not pocket-friendly
Are You Using Bearing Lubricants the Right Way?
So far, we’ve covered why we use lubricants in bearings and what are the different types of bearings on the market. Now it’s time to shed light on the right way to use lubricants. Not that it’s a tedious process, however there are several reasons why the process of lubrication may go wrong. Some of them are:
Incorrect Lubricant Selection
It is important to choose your lubricant well, based on your requirements as well as qualities of the lubricant, from viscosity to thermal and hydraulic stability, and corrosion prevention among others.
Inadequate or Excess Lubrication
If the bearing isn’t lubricated enough, it could cause bearing and ultimately equipment failure due to excessive friction. If the bearing is over lubricated, it could cause significant temperature increase and energy loss, ultimately resulting in bearing failure again.
Contamination of Lubricant
Lubricants can also become contaminated by both internal and external elements such as dust, water, dirt, metal particles etc that accumulate in the oil and cause the bearing to wear down faster.
Therefore, it is crucial to choose the lubricant wisely, use only pre-mediated optimal amounts of lubrication, and prevent it from getting contaminated at all costs. If done effectively, this would ensure reduced friction, contamination, heat generation, and corrosion and an overall extension of the life of the bearing.
Best Lubrication Procedures and Recommendations
There are many different methods of lubrication that come recommended for oil and/or grease lubricants. The four most used and standard processes are oil drip feed lubrication, oil splash feed lubrication, oil force feed lubrication, and grease lubrication.
While grease is applied with a special equipment that deposits the grease between the balls for uniform application on the rolling surface, oil can be dripped, splashed, or force fed into the bearings, with or without equipment, depending on the machinery and usage.
For skateboarders, the best lubricant can vary depending on whether they skateboard for pleasure or competitively, what the environment for skateboarding is, and whether they enjoy speed or leisure. We recommend the following lubricants for all your skateboarding needs:
- Ionic Flux Gold Series: It is a low viscosity bearing oil with reduced rolling resistance, optimised for application before races.
- Ionic Flux Black Steel: It is a low viscosity bearing oil that has special additives against contaminants like dirt and moisture.
- Ionic Flux Black Ceramic: It is an ultra-low viscosity bearing oil that is designed specifically for competitive skaters.
Bearing lubrication plays a crucial role in your skateboarding experience! While it’s important to choose your equipment and model wisely, it is also equally important to familiarise yourself with the lubricant that’s compatible with your needs as well as of your bearings. A well-suited, good-quality lubricant goes a long way in keeping your bearings and your skateboards well-functioning, failure-free and fun!
So, choose and invest wisely, and feel free to reach out to us here if you have any questions.