Fretting of Freon-Compressor Shaft because of a Loose Bearing
The shaft-and-bearing assembly in a freon compressor was subjected to severe pounding and vibration after six years of service. After about one year of service, the compressor had been shut down to replace a bearing seal. One month before the shaft failed, a second seal failure occurred, requiring the collar, spacer sleeve, seal, roller bearing, and lock washer to be replaced. The shaft was made of 4140 steel, heat treated to a hardness of 20 to 26 HRC. The seal, bearing, and lock washer were commercial components. Investigation (visual inspection, 4.5x images, x-ray diffraction, hardness testing, and microscopic exam) supported the conclusion that shaft failure was initiated by fretting between the bearing race and the bearing surface on the shaft because of improper bearing installation. Once clearance was established between the bearing and the shaft, the shaft began pounding on the inner bearing race, causing final failure of the shaft surface. Recommendations included proper fitting of the shaft and bearing race to preventing movement of the bearing on the shaft. Also, the lock washer and locknut must be installed properly.