Lubrication Checkup: Automated Systems

“We are currently implementing a plant-wide ‘equipment reliability’ initiative promoting a tangible increase in failure reduction, life-cycle improvement and asset availability. We employ many automated lubrication systems and would like some basic advice on how to improve and sustain their reliability.”

When set up and maintained correctly, an automated, centralized lubrication system is a very stable and reliable system. When system failures do occur, they are likely to result from maintenance neglect, abuse and poor set-up.


Cleanliness Is Godliness. Lube systems use fine-tolerance components in their pumps and metering valves, which are NOT dirt-tolerant. Thus, you should: 

  • Clean reservoirs and pump assemblies prior to filling or top-ups to avoid dirt contamination.
  • Check and change or clean fluid filters regularly.
  • Use a filter cart to transfer bulk oils to reservoirs. 
  • Ensure fill-caps and breathers are clean and installed properly.

Don’t Mix and Match.
Mixing lubricants can be detrimental to bearing life. To reduce such problems:

  • Label reservoirs with the correct lubricant-identification tags.
  • Identify lubricants on PM job tasks.
  • Fill reservoirs using dedicated transfer equipment for a specified lubricant.
  • Use positive-locking fill-port connectors on lubricant reservoirs and transfer equipment.

Tune Your System.
If a lube system is using more or less lubricant than normal, or specific bearings show evidence of lubricant leakage or seem to be failing prematurely, your system is in need of a tune-up. Take the following steps:

  • Review for any changes in pump and meter-point settings or sizes against original design drawings/schematics.
  • Review system integrity for open or blocked lines and check for any intentional damage.
  • Verify the system is designed to deliver the current lubricant viscosity and weight.
  • Confirm that warning-system devices are working and machine operators are regularly performing system checks and informing maintenance of any exceptions that are found.

Doing an occasional simple system review can ensure sustained reliability. MT

Lube questions? Ask Dr. Lube, aka Ken Bannister, author of the book Lubrication for Industry and the Lubrication section of the 28th edition Machinery’s Handbook. He’s also a Contributing Editor for Maintenance Technology and Lubrication Management & Technology. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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