A global train operator identified a potential bearing fault on a fleet of vehicles in the UK and asked PCMS Engineering to investigate the root cause.
Overhauling the bearings would require the train operator to take the vehicles out of service, resulting in costly downtime.
Elemental analysis, a test used to measure the levels of wear metals, contaminants and additives in oil samples, was performed on samples that are routinely collected. The test can aid in predicting the likelihood of a bearing failure.
The sample results from one vehicle identified an increase in copper, which is an early indicator of a bearing fault.
After thorough analysis, interpretation and trend analysis it was discovered that the phosphorus levels had also risen from 300 parts per million (ppm) to around 1,000 ppm.
Further sampling and analysis of the whole fleet identified a similar trend on certain vehicles, indicating that it was an oil related issue and not a bearing fault.
The train operator was able to pinpoint the increase in phosphorus levels to vehicles that had been serviced at one specific train depot.
It was identified that the depot had started to use a different type of oil, which was an incorrect oil type for the application. After changing the oil back to a previous oil type, phosphorus and copper levels returned to a normal level.
PCMS Engineering are continuing to investigate the affects that different oil types have on all the bearings of these fleets, in particular the unique bearing, in order to provide confirmation of the correct oil grade to use.
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