Roller Bearings: Damage & Replacement

Roller bearings are critical components that find use in countless machines. When roller bearings become damaged, other machine parts or the products they are intended to produce can become compromised. Similar to ball bearings, roller bearings are designed to carry loads and reduce friction between parts. As such, it is common for them to experience some abrasion over time that necessitates replacement or repair.

Around 10 billion bearings are manufactured across the globe each year, most of which outlive the equipment in which they are installed. A small fraction is replaced before they fail for preventative reasons and about 0.5% of bearings are generally replaced as a result of severe damage or complete failure. With this in mind, the following blog will cover the most common causes of damage, allowing you to better understand how you can prolong equipment life.


Roller bearings experience deformations in numerous ways. For instance, excess heat can cause metal flow which results in rib face deformations in the bearing cones. Deformation can also cause rollers to skew and the bearing to lock up.

Fatigue Spalling

This type of damage manifests itself on the surface of the roller bearings. Inclusion spalling takes place as oxides or other hard inclusions in the steel of the bearing start forming. Meanwhile, point surface spalling occurs because a raised surface or thick debris clings to the lubrication film on the bearing. In both types of spalling, the metal begins breaking away from the raceway.

Handling Damage

Handling damage is usually caused by the rough transport or installation of roller bearings, making them dent in certain areas. Nicking is also likely, wherein the metal raises due to contact with roller edges.

Cage Damage

Bearings of any type should always be handled with care. If a bearing is dropped or installed incorrectly, this can result in the cage showing early signs of damage. When this happens, rollers often skew and bind, and the cage ring gets obstructed during operation or installation.

Preload/Overload Damage

Excessive preload or overload can damage roller bearings in a multitude of ways. For example, if preload settings are too tight, this may also lead to cone bore contraction. Furthermore, full race width fatigue spalling can take place due to heavy loads that create a layer of lubricant and high temperatures.

When Should You Replace Your Roller Bearing?

Despite all the aforementioned signs of damage, it can still be difficult to know when it is time to replace your roller bearing. That being said, one must consider the amount of time between the initial damages and when the damage becomes unserviceable. Another important factor to consider is that high-speed bearings can be destroyed in seconds, while low-speed bearings can take months to break down. However, the early diagnosis of damage to bearings can prevent further damage to your applications and prevent delays in your operations. Detecting early indications of damage allows technicians to replace bearings during regular service intervals, preventing costly, unexpected downtime due to bearing failure. Some examples of what inspectors should look for include unusual noise, vibration, and temperature.


Industrials Unlimited is a leading distributor of high quality bearing types, some of which include needle roller bearings, thrust bearings, ball bearings, and various others. Beyond such types, we have over 2 billion new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find options in our inventory. Backed by rapid lead times and unbeatable cost savings, customers can rest assured that we can help them meet rigid time constraints or AOG situations without breaking the bank. Get started by requesting a competitive quote on any featured item(s) and see how Industrials Unlimited can serve as your strategic sourcing partner!


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