Failure of a Low-Alloy Steel Bearing in an Electric Motor Because of Stray Electric Currents
Rough operation of the roller bearing mounted in an electric motor/gearbox assembly was observed. The bearing components made of low-alloy steel (4620 or 8620) and the cup, cone and rollers were carburized, hardened and tempered. The contact surfaces of these components (cup, cone and roller) were revealed to be uniformly electrolytically etched by visual examination. The action similar to anodic etching was believed to have occurred as a result of stray currents in the electric motor (not properly grounded) and the presence of an electrolyte (moisture) between the cup and roller surfaces of the bearing. As a remedial action, the bearing was insulated for protection from stray currents by grounding of the motor and the moisture was kept out by sealing both bearings in the assembly.