Tips for Motor Maintenance

Farming is not just a lifestyle. Farming is a business where efficient operation, equipment downtime, and energy costs directly affect profitability. The driver for almost all of your equipment is the motor. The motor is the heart of pumps, fans, and feeders; elevators, augers, and unloaders, all essential and all subject to heavy use. When a motor fails, you might be able to troubleshoot it, but you may have to replace it. Either way, you’ll want to get it done onsite and as quickly as possible. The faster you can fix your motor, the less downtime you’ll have. When the time comes, here is some information you can consider.

A Brief Guide to Motor Terminology

While the experienced farmer will, no doubt, be familiar with these terms, it will be important for those new to working with machines to understand what the following words mean as they are commonly confused.

  • Current—What powers the motor. Too much current will damage it. “Operating current” is the average current the motor is expected to draw with typical torque. “Stall current” applies just enough torque for the motor to run at stall speed (0 RPM).
  • Torque—”Operating torque” is the amount of torque the motor was designed to give. “Stall torque” is the amount of torque made when power is applied at 0 RPM, or, stall speed.
  • Voltage—Used to keep current flowing in one direction and overcome back current. The more voltage, the more torque. Be sure to use only the correct amount of volts with your motor. Too few and the motor will not work. Too many and you can short windings which can lead to power loss or motor burnout.
  • Velocity—The speed or RPM of the motor. Motors run most efficiently at high speeds. Geared motors will not be as efficient and will reduce speed and torque.

Common Reasons for Motor Failure

Generally speaking, the causes of motor failure are not mysterious. You can usually pinpoint the cause as being one of the following five common occurrences:

  • Inadequate Lubrication—While most motors have permanent lubrication, seals will fail which can lead to leakage and bearing issues. If you need to replace your bearings, keep in mind that too little grease will result in too much friction between moving parts. Too much grease results in overheating as moving parts need to work harder to function normally.
  • Excessive Heat—When a motor overheats, it will cause the winding insulation to melt. Once the insulation is damaged, the winding will short-circuit and the motor will fail. Every time a motor’s windings rise 50° F (10° C) above the intended temperature, insulation life can be reduced up to 50%. It’s important that motors are well-ventilated and housed away from heat sources.
  • Dust—Even the smallest particles of dust will accumulate and cause abrasion. Abrasion will eventually wear the motor down by blocking cooling passages, leading to overheating. Some dust particles conduct electricity and can disrupt a motor’s current. A motor’s “Ingress Protection” (IP) rating is a classification system for protection against elements like dust and moisture—something to be aware of when purchasing a new or replacement motor, particularly if it will be used in a dusty or wet environment.
  • Moisture—Moisture can cause winding insulation to breakdown and metal parts to corrode. A running motor expels moisture, but moisture can collect with intermittent motor use. Making sure your motors stay warm enough during shutdown periods will help to mitigate condensation-related issues.
  • Power Supply Problems—Can lead to distortion in voltage and currents, and thus to reduced motor life and efficiency due to overheating and overloading.

It’s worth remembering, as well, that these problems are often interrelated and an apparent fix may not be the final, overall, solution.

Information for Quick Motor Replacement

When a motor goes down, you’ll obviously want to fix or replace it as soon as possible. Time is money. If you’ve run your diagnostics and still aren’t sure of the problem, a replacement motor may be the best and needed solution. In order to facilitate a fast replacement, have the following information on hand when you place an order or head to the local supplier:

  • Motor application
    • Washdown—Generally used in productions regularly exposed to moisture and humidity
    • Farm/Ag—Used with feeders, elevators, and unloaders
    • Definite Purpose—For irrigation pumps, pond aerators, grain stirring, milk transfer pumps, and feed augers
    • Fan/Blower—For crop drying, aeration, hatchery and incubator fans
  • Brand
  • Model and catalog number

Any of the three will be an adequate start, particularly if you have a supplier to help you out. If you only need a part, the following information can be useful in getting the right one:

  • Direct/Shaft drive or Belt drive
  • Horsepower and/or RPM
  • Shaft size
  • Frame type: Base mount, c-face, or yoke mount

Motor Troubleshooting Safety

Because your motors are electric, there will be a risk for shock if you aren’t careful. So, before removing your motor or performing any maintenance:

  • Disconnect power to the motor
  • Discharge all capacitors
  • Keep hands and clothes away from moving parts
  • Make sure safety guards are in place

Often unassuming and hidden from sight, your motors are immensely important tools that you rely on every day. You may not realize just how critical they are until they’re not working right. So, being able to perform quick maintenance or replacement will be key to keeping your operation running as smoothly and productively as possible.

Did we forget anything? Tell us in the comments section and then check out our wide selection of top-of-the-line motors and parts!