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Top 10 Most Common Bearing Failures and How to Prevent Them

From your noisy washing machine to your machine’s smooth operation, bearings keep things running. Learn how to prevent those frustrating breakdowns by understanding the top 10 bearing failures!

Bearings can fail due to various factors, including inadequate lubrication, contamination, misalignment, improper mounting, fatigue, excessive loads, corrosion, electrical pitting, and seal failure. As maintenance professionals, engineers, and individuals responsible for equipment maintenance and operation, your role in preventing these issues is crucial. You play a vital part in maintaining the smooth operation of your machines by ensuring proper lubrication, clean environments, precise alignment, and using correct installation techniques throughout the bearing's life cycle.

Let's examine the most common reasons for bearing failures, what signs to look for, and how to fix them.

Top 10 Common Bearing Failures to Know

The top most common causes of bearing failures are mentioned below:

Inadequate Lubrication

Inadequate lubrication is a leading cause of bearing failure, responsible for around 40%.

Increased friction, overheating, and unusual noises are signs of inadequate lubrication. These issues can lead to accelerated wear and tear. Understanding these signs allows you to identify potential bearing failures early and take preventive measures.

Inadequate lubrication
Inadequate lubrication

To prevent this, regularly check and replenish lubricant levels. Use the correct type of lubricant for your specific bearing. Implementing a lubrication schedule can ensure consistent performance and longevity.

Imagine a scenario where a bike's bearings failed due to inadequate lubrication. However, the performance improved significantly after implementing the right lubricant and maintaining a regular schedule. This success story is a testament to the positive outcomes of proactive maintenance and high-quality lubricants.

Regular maintenance and using high-quality lubricants are vital to avoiding inadequate lubrication issues.


Contamination is another major cause of bearing failure, accounting for up to 20% of all issues. Signs of contamination include noise, vibrations, and premature wear. Contaminants like dirt, dust, and moisture can enter bearings and disrupt their function.

rusty bearings
rusty bearings

To prevent contamination, ensure seals are intact and properly installed. Regularly clean the surrounding environment and use high-quality lubricants with anti-contaminant properties.

Consider a situation where a machine's bearings failed due to dust contamination. However, by improving the sealing and cleaning processes, we were able to extend the bearing life significantly. This reassures us we can effectively manage and prevent bearing failures with the right prevention strategies.

Proper maintenance and cleanliness are crucial in preventing bearing contamination.


Misalignment is a common cause of bearing failure, responsible for about 13% of cases.

Signs include uneven wear, vibration, and noise during operation. Misalignment occurs when the shaft and bearing are not correctly aligned, causing excessive stress.

To prevent misalignment, ensure proper installation and alignment of the shaft and bearing. Regularly check alignment and make adjustments as needed.

I had an experience with a conveyor system where misalignment caused frequent bearing failures. After realigning the system, the bearings lasted much longer.

Proper installation and regular checks are essential to avoid misalignment issues.

Improper Mounting

Improper mounting accounts for roughly 16% of bearing failures.

Signs include premature wear, uneven load distribution, and noise. Improper mounting can damage bearings during installation, affecting their performance.

To prevent this, use the correct tools and techniques for mounting. Follow manufacturer guidelines and ensure bearings are installed with care.

In one instance, a bearing failed quickly because it was forcefully mounted. Using the right tools and following proper procedures extended the bearing's lifespan.

Careful and correct mounting practices are crucial for bearing longevity.

Bearing fatigue

Bearing fatigue is a leading cause of bearing failure, responsible for around 34% of cases.

Signs include spalling, flaking, and cracks on the bearing surface. Fatigue occurs due to repeated stress cycles over time.

bearing fatigue
bearing fatigue

To prevent bearing fatigue, ensure proper lubrication and avoid overloading. Regularly inspect bearings for early signs of fatigue and replace them as needed.

I once worked on a pump system whose bearings showed fatigue after years of use. Implementing a routine inspection and maintenance schedule helped us catch issues early and prevent failures.

Proactive maintenance and avoiding excessive loads are crucial to preventing bearing fatigue.

Excessive Loads

Excessive loads contribute to about 18% of bearing failures.

Signs include deformation, overheating, and rapid wear. Excessive loads place undue stress on bearings, leading to premature failure.

Excessive Loads causing deformation
Excessive Loads causing deformation

To prevent this, ensure bearings are appropriately rated for their load. Avoid overloading equipment and regularly monitor load conditions.

I recall a manufacturing machine that experienced frequent bearing failures due to excessive loads. We significantly extended their lifespan by redistributing the load and using appropriately rated bearings.

Proper load management and using the correct bearings are essential to prevent failures caused by excessive loads.


Corrosion accounts for approximately 10% of bearing failures. Signs include rust, pitting, and flaking on the bearing surfaces. Corrosion is often caused by exposure to moisture, chemicals, or improper storage conditions.


To prevent corrosion, use corrosion-resistant bearings and ensure proper sealing. Keep the bearing environment clean and dry, and apply protective coatings if necessary.

In one project, we faced bearing failures due to corrosion in a humid environment. Switching to stainless steel bearings and improving sealing significantly reduced the issue.

Maintaining a clean, dry environment and using corrosion-resistant materials are crucial to preventing bearing corrosion.

Electrical Pitting

Electrical pitting causes around 8% of bearing failures.

Signs include small craters, fluting patterns, and irregular wear. This occurs when electrical currents pass through the bearing, causing localized melting and damage.

To prevent electrical pitting, use insulated bearings or grounding devices. Ensure proper electrical connections and avoid stray currents in the system.

In a previous job, we had motors where bearings failed due to electrical pitting. Implementing grounding rings and using insulated bearings solved the problem.

Proper grounding and using appropriate bearings are crucial to preventing electrical pitting in bearings.

Seal failure

Seal failure accounts for approximately 14% of bearing issues. Signs include lubricant leakage, contamination, and increased wear. When seals fail, contaminants enter the bearing, causing damage and reducing efficiency.

seal failure
seal failure

To prevent seal failure, regularly inspect and maintain seals. Use high-quality seals suitable for your application and ensure they are correctly installed.

In one case, a poorly installed seal caused repeated bearing failures in an industrial fan. Upgrading to better seals and ensuring proper installation resolved the issue.

Regular inspections and using high-quality seals are essential to prevent bearing failures due to seal issues.

Improper Storage and Handling

Improper storage and handling contribute to about 12% of bearing failures.

Signs include rust, dents, and contamination before use. Mishandling can damage bearings, leading to early failure.

To prevent this, store bearings in a clean, dry place. Handle them with care, avoiding impacts and contaminants.

I once saw bearings fail prematurely because they were stored improperly in a damp area.

After changing storage practices, the bearing lifespan improved significantly.

Proper storage and careful handling are crucial to maintaining bearing integrity and preventing failures.


Bearing failures often result from inadequate lubrication, not using appropriate bearings, contamination, misalignment, improper mounting, and excessive loads. Regular maintenance, proper storage, and careful handling are crucial to preventing these problems. 

Critical practices include regular inspection for wear and contamination, using the correct lubricant and maintaining a lubrication schedule, keeping the bearing environment clean, following proper installation procedures, and ensuring bearings are appropriately rated for their loads.

Implementing these practices can significantly reduce bearing failures and extend bearing lifespan, providing smoother and more efficient operation.

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