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Home / Technical Articles / Regular Motor Maintenance To Avoid Failure (and Prolong Its Lifespan)

Motor maintenance

A well and carefully designed motor maintenance program, when correctly used, can be summed up as preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance and reactive maintenance. Inspection cycles depend upon the type of motor and the conditions under which it operates.

Regular Motor Maintenance To Avoid Failure (and Prolong Its Lifespan)
Regular Motor Maintenance To Avoid Failure (and Prolong Its Lifespan) - photo credit:

Motors need maintenance regularly in order to avoid failure and prolong their lifespan. Generally speaking, motors and motor parts should be maintained and tested at least every 6 months. Only then is it possible to maintain a motor’s life and its efficiency.

Factors which affect the life span of the motor due to lack of maintenance
Factors which affect the life span of the motor due to lack of maintenance

1. Preventive motor maintenance

The objective of this kind of maintenance is to prevent operating problems and make sure that the motor continuously provides a reliable operation Usually, preventive maintenance is a scheduled part of maintaining a whole system.

Motor preventive maintenance
Motor preventive maintenance (photo credit:

2. Predictive motor maintenance

The objective of this kind of motor maintenance is to ensure that the right kind of maintenance is carried out at the right time. In order to define these two parameters, it is necessary to monitor the motor operation regularly and thereby detect problems before they actually occur.

By keeping a log-book it is possible to compare historical data on a wide range of parameters and thereby anticipate potential problems.

3. Reactive motor maintenance

The main objective of this kind of maintenance is to repair and replace the motor when a failure occurs. Reactive maintenance or breakdown maintenance as it is referred to as well, does not imply any regular service or tests.

What to know about PREVENTIVE maintenance

Unexpected downtimes are costly because they often imply that a whole manufacturing process or parts of it is put to a stop. Preventive motor maintenance on a regular basis can help prevent motors to fail and thus, prevent unexpected production stops.

On the following paragraphs, I’ll present some of the important elements that preventive maintenance includes.

Motor preventive testing
Motor preventive testing (photo credit:

Motor ventilation

If the motor is installed and operates in an area with limited ventilation, the motor temperature may reach high temperatures that can damage the motor’s insulation and bearing grease, and cause it to fail Dust and dirt often block the ventilating passages.

Therefore, in order to prevent the motor from overheating, it is important to blow away the dirt on a regular basis.

Even though motors are protected, it is important to install them in areas with constant ventilation so that high temperatures do not damage insulation and bearings. The cooler a motor operates, the longer lifetime it has. Therefore, the fan cover and the cooling fin always have to be as clean as possible.

Dust and dirt often block the ventilating passages
Dust and dirt often block the ventilating passages

Humidity and condensation

In IP55 closed motors, water vapour may condense and consequently reach the motor windings and the bearings. Therefore, in this kind of motor, the motor temperature must always be warmer than the surrounding temperature during stand still. This can be done by using another solution is to remove the drain plugs allowing condensed water to escape.

Removing the drain plugs will change the motor enclosure from IP55 to IP44.

Stator equiped with heating element to prevent condensation problems
Stator equiped with heating element to prevent condensation problems

Loose connections

All electrical connections must be kept tight and torqued according to the recommended values Cold or creep flow during load cycles often cause joint failure. Fuses, cable connections, contactors and circuit breakers are often subject to loose connections and should thus be checked regularly as well.

All electrical connections must be kept tight and torqued
All electrical connections must be kept tight and torqued

Voltage and current imbalance

Voltage and current imbalance is certainly an area of concern and the values should be checked regularly in order to avoid problems with the motor. Voltage imbalance occurs when the voltage of three phases differs from one another. Voltage imbalance causes line currents to be unequal as well.

This results in different kinds of problems // Vibrations, torque pulsations and overheating of one or more of the phase windings. The voltage imbalance leads to a decrease in the motor’s efficiency and shortens its life.

Motor voltage imbalance

Undervoltage and overvoltage

Undervoltage and overvoltage wear out the motor’s stator insulation. Undervoltage stresses the temperature in the insulation

At lower voltages, motors run at a reduced full-load efficiency, run hotter, have a larger slip, produce less torque, and may have a shorter lifespan.

Usually, induction motors are capable of handling overvoltage situations. However, severe overvoltage may cause turn-to- turn, phase-to-phase or phase-to-ground short circuiting. That is a short-circuit between the phases or between the phases and the frame.

The major causes of motor failure, according to the Electrical Research Association, USA
The major causes of motor failure, according to the Electrical Research Association, USA


Today, bearings are the components in the motor that are most exposed to wear. The reason is that the insulation system is no longer subject to high temperatures because the efficiency of motors has improved over the years. The most common error is no longer short circuit but noise from the bearings and bearing damage.

Therefore, when carrying out preventive maintenance on the motor, replacement and maintenance of bearings are indeed important factors!!

Causes of failure in rolling bearings
Causes of failure in rolling bearings. Only about 1% of all rolling bearings reach expected life.

Some bearings are referred to as greased-for-life bearings or maintenance free bearings. However, these terms are misleading. They do not imply that the bearings do not need maintenance at all.

Greased-for-life bearings or maintenance-free bearings have to be replaced eventually. When, depends on either the lifespan of the bearings (L10h) or on the lifespan of the grease that is used as lubrication (F10h). The lifespan of the bearing varies between 16,000 – 40,000 hours or more.

As to the lifespan of the grease it is normally at least 40,000 hours under normal operating conditions.

Bearing life

It is possible to calculate the lifespan of bearings based on the material fatigue if we know the motor’s operating load and speed. To make these calculations it is essential that the bearings are mounted and lubricated correctly. The calculations do not take the effect of adverse operating conditions into account.

Bearing lubrication

Bearings in standard motors are always lubricated with grease either once and for all (greased-for-life) or they may be relubricated via lubrication nipples. Actually, only a small amount of bearings reach their optimum lifespan. The explanation is linked to maintenance.

The major reasons for premature bearing failure are //

  • Wrong mounting
  • Contamination
  • Incorrect handling
  • Incorrect maintenance
  • Incorrect or no lubricant, (too old lubricant, wrong amount of lubricant, dirt in lubrication etc )


Motors should be kept clean, free of dust, debris and oil. Soft brushes or clean cotton rags should be used for cleaning. A jet of compressed air should be used to remove non-abrasive dust from the fan cover and any accumulated grime from the fan and cooling fins.

Terminal boxes fitted to motors with IP-55 protection should be cleaned. Their terminals should be free of oxidation, in perfect mechanical condition, and all unused space dust-free.

Motors with IP(W) 55 protection are recommended for use under unfavourable ambient conditions.

Regular Motor Maintenance To Avoid Failure and Prolong Its Lifespan
Regular Motor Maintenance To Avoid Failure and Prolong Its Lifespan (photo credit:

References //

  • Grundfos Motor Book
  • Installation and Maintenance Manual for Electric Motors by WEG

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More Information

Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.


  1. malcom edmond koroma
    Jul 20, 2023

    i am very happy to be here,i need more details about induction motors

  2. Rajasekar
    Sep 21, 2022

    Really it is a very useful information to troubleshoot the motors, please share the maintenance check list to be followed.

  3. Alok Ranjan Barman
    Sep 18, 2022

    It’s a really nice to learn from you. Very good content and would love to see more and more. Along with that a pre-dispatch checklist must be there. Here is the link you can find the non standard but essential details that need ro be checked before dispatch of motor

  4. Percy Captain
    Aug 31, 2022

    This is great information to assist industries to understand Electric motor problems and remedies.

  5. Shammy Peterson
    May 10, 2021

    Thanks for pointing out that you can make sure that the motor continuously provides a reliable operation by scheduling regular preventive maintenance. This is something that we failed to realize. We checked our electric motor at home and noticed deteriorated parts that might have been causing issues with insulation resistance. I will hire a professional to make sure that it’ll be repaired properly.

  6. Chukwunyere john
    Mar 16, 2020

    Thanks for your enlightening articles. I would appreciate notifications

  7. Taylor Wright
    Nov 25, 2019

    It’s interesting that 46 percent of motor failure is due to rotor failure contaminants. My uncle has noticed that his work truck has been harder to start up when it’s cold outside. Thanks for the tips and I’ll show him this article so he can have it looked at by a professional.

  8. Alozie Gowin c.
    Aug 30, 2019

    I am very greatful to you engineer Edward, for this wonderful and educating write up of yours, with this, you have really answer most of my questions on motor maintenance, more grease to your elbow, keep educating us, thanks.

  9. Florin
    Jul 12, 2017

    Very useful info. Thanks

  10. kirankumar
    Jul 12, 2017

    Really preventive maintenance save motor and also cost

  11. joseph kariuki njoroge
    Mar 15, 2017

    I wish you can include more about AC generators

    Mar 02, 2016

    Dear Edvard, I am thankful to you always for your efforts to develop knowledge of all engineers who will visit your site by writing very useful articles like above, the regular motor maintenance to avoid failure which is very useful to all maintenance engineers.

    I wish you all the best and like to read all technical articles related to maintenance and projects.

    Yours lovingly
    Thirumalaisamy Gnanavel.

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