6 Causes of Equipment Failure & How to Prevent Them

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Rotating equipment, such as fans, pumps, compressors, and turbines, are essential components in many industries, from manufacturing to power generation. However, like any mechanical equipment, the complex nature of these machines makes them prone to failure. Understanding the common causes of rotating equipment failure can help plant managers and maintenance teams prevent or mitigate problems, reducing downtime and extending the lifespan of their equipment.

In this article, we’ll delve into the most common causes of rotating equipment failure and how to prevent them.

Some of the most common causes of rotating equipment failure include:

Improper Installation

Incorrect installation can cause excessive stress and strain on equipment components, leading to premature failure. It is critical to check and adjust the alignment of the equipment regularly to avoid improper alignment. Rotating equipment can fail due to improper installation for several reasons.

One of the most common causes is when the equipment is not correctly mounted or secured. If the equipment is not properly bolted down, it can vibrate and move, causing excessive wear and tear or even failure. Improper alignment of the shafts, misalignment of the bearings, and incorrect tension on the belts can fail.

Additionally, if the equipment is not installed as per the manufacturer’s instructions and requirements, it can lead to improper function and an increased chance of failure.

Lubrication Issues

Lubrication issues can cause rotating equipment to fail for various reasons. Poor lubricant quality can create excessive friction and increase wear and tear on the machine’s components. It is caused by friction and heat, leading to increased vibration and imbalance.

Inadequate lubrication can also cause overheating, which can cause metal fatigue and lead to failure. Contamination of the lubricant can also cause friction, wear, and overheating. Incorrect lubrication levels can lead to excessive oil being pumped into the system, which causes a build-up of pressure and the potential for failure.

To reduce wear and tear, use high-quality oils and regularly inspect the equipment for signs of wear and tear.


Dirt, dust, and other contaminants can interfere with lubrication and cause abrasive wear on the surfaces of the rotating equipment. This can also lead to increased friction, leading to increased heat, and damage to seals, bearings, and other components. Contamination can also lead to corrosion and oxidation, which can cause parts to degrade and fail prematurely.

Additionally, contaminants can interfere with the flow of fluids, cause bearing failure, cause pressure spikes, block lubricant pathways, and reduce equipment efficiency.

To prevent contamination, regularly clean and maintain the equipment and use appropriate filters and shields to keep the equipment clean.


Excessive loads or operating equipment beyond the capacity can cause components to fail. Overloading of rotating equipment can lead to failure for a few reasons. First, the motor may be subjected to excessive torque, which may cause the motor to overheat or even cause it to stall.

Second, the engine may operate at an incorrect speed or voltage, which can cause the motor to be overworked or even fail.

Third, the motor may be overloaded with too much weight or force, which can cause the engine to be unbalanced and cause it to fail.

Lastly, the motor may operate in an environment with too much dust, dirt, or other debris, which can cause the engine to become clogged and eventually fail.


Rotating equipment can fail due to shaking when it is not accurately maintained or is subjected to conditions that exceed the allowable limits. Excessive vibration can result from different factors, including wear and tear, contamination, and poor alignment. Vibration can cause damage to bearings, seals, and other components, leading to premature failure.

Additionally, imbalance or misalignment of rotating equipment can cause vibration, leading to premature failure. To reduce vibration, it is critical to inspect and maintain the equipment regularly, use appropriate dampers and vibration isolators, and ensure that the equipment is properly aligned.

Regular maintenance and inspections can help detect potential issues before they cause significant damage.

Lack of Maintenance

Neglecting to perform regular maintenance and inspections can lead to equipment degradation and failure. Most equipment requires consistent maintenance for optimal performance, but too often, preventive maintenance is the first task to go when you’re short-staffed and overwhelmed.

It’s easy to brush off regular maintenance when things seem to be running just fine, and many companies work under the assumption that experienced workers will identify impending trouble before total equipment failure.

Equipment failures ranging from minor to catastrophic aren’t easily detectable and often go unnoticed. It can jeopardize your business operations on multiple levels. In other cases, companies lack efficient planning methods to ensure the performance of ongoing maintenance.

High repair costs, unexpected machine maintenance, unplanned downtime, productivity loss, employee health, safety issues, and decreased output are all consequences of the lack of maintenance of the equipment.

Understanding the common causes of rotating equipment failure and taking steps to prevent it can help ensure your equipment runs smoothly and efficiently. Proper maintenance and regular inspection of the equipment can help to reduce the risk of problems and extend the life of the equipment.

It is also significant to use quality components and materials when constructing or repairing the equipment, as this will help to ensure that the equipment performs optimally and is more resistant to failure.

Plant managers and maintenance teams can also consider implementing predictive maintenance techniques, such as vibration analysis, to detect potential difficulties before they occur. Taking the time to inspect, maintain, and monitor your equipment can save money and help you avoid costly downtime and repairs.

Even minor damage to your equipment results in significant performance and resource losses.