Gearboxes are prevalent in numerous industrial and heavy duty applications. They are often critical to production in any application and can prove very costly in the event of unplanned downtime and the associated losses in productivity. Implementing a routine oil analysis program to monitor gearbox wear and contamination can prove to be an extremely viable means for preventing gearbox failure, reducing downtime and controlling maintenance costs.
Although these systems are typically thought to be capable of enduring higher concentrations of wear and contamination than turbines or hydraulic systems, the bearings are not. The wearing of metal surfaces, caused by various forms of contamination, can cause bearing failure, which can adversely affect gear shaft alignment and eventually cause the entire gear system to fail.
Testing will differ according to fluid type and any filtration processes in place. The most significant differences are in testing industrial gearbox oils for viscosity at 40°C and Total Acid Number vs. viscosity at 100°C and Total Base Number in heavy duty applications.
To determine the presence of wear debris and to identify the type of wear occurring, testing should include Particle Count and Direct Read Ferrography as well as Analytical Ferrography to qualify the type of wear and its possible sources.