Why Motors Fail (and what you can do about it!)

I came across an interesting article in a recent edition of Control Engineering. The article, authored by Nicole Dyess, discusses some of the main reasons why industrial motors fail. It outlines “5 drivers of motor failure” that are especially relevant to the solutions offered by TDG Technologies, but which are also quite beneficial for you to know. I’ve summarized the findings here for you.


Top 5 Drivers of Motor Failure


BEARINGS are the main culprits, accounting for the majority of motor failures (51%). The key factors behind faulty bearings include over- and under-lubrication, inappropriate mechanical loads, shaft currents, excess heat, and contamination.


STATOR AND WINDING ISSUES represent 16% of motor failures. Arcing of electricity caused by winding failures can trigger shorts inside the motor. Causes of winding problems include over-voltage operation, excessive current, high ambient temperature or loss of cooling, an excessive number of motor starts or full reverses, physical damage, and penetration of contaminants.


EXTERNAL FACTORS such as environmental and load-related failures account for 16% of motor malfunctions. This can include incorrect mechanical loads, contamination, bad maintenance practices, and “Acts of God or War.”


ROTOR PROBLEMS cause 5% of motor failures. These problems can range from broken rotor bars to broken end-rings or core vibration. They can also include excessive starts or reverses, short interval timing, long starting times, excess heat or just physical damage to the rotor itself.


Finally, SHAFT OR COUPLING FAILURES account for 2% of issues with motors. Causes here include improper installation, excessive loading, corrosion, and physical damage to the shaft.


In about 10% of cases, there was no determinate cause of motor failures.


We all know that motors can fail at any time. One pressing question is:  What can we do about it? What actions can we take to mitigate or eliminate these failures? Monitoring your equipment and identifying potential problems quickly is essential. That’s where TDG Technologies can assist. Our wireless sensors are designed to monitor motors and other mission-critical equipment, taking precise measurements and alerting you when readings extend beyond the parameters you set based on manufacturer specs or your own preferred levels.


Our SmartHAWK® Vibration & Temperature Sensor automatically sends alerts to notify you if there are abnormal readings such as those caused by faulty bearings or broken rotors. This allows you to take immediate action to correct a potentially catastrophic and costly situation.


For monitoring 3-phase motors and reporting on measurements such as voltage, current, energy, and frequency, TDG Technologies has developed the SmartHAWK® Power Sensor. This device logs motor activity and reports on key metrics including motor run-time, on/off cycles, and energy consumption.


All SmartHAWK sensors are wireless and operate 24/7, freeing managers to focus on their primary job of running their operations while the sensors alert them when any system anomalies occur. Proactive preventative maintenance, such as that enabled by the SmartHAWK solution, improves asset performance and assists in optimizing motor-driven systems.    


If you want to learn more about our SmartHAWK™ line of wireless industrial sensors, our products and other information can be found at www.tdgtechnologies.com.  Feel free to also contact us directly at (760) 466-9234.

Randy Zanassi