It’s the worst feeling and the worst sound you can experience on a drilling jobsite: the loud crack, thwack and pop of a bearing breaking in your rotary head, destroying the drive gears inside and instantly transforming your drill into a glorified paperweight.

Your entire site literally grinds to a halt.

In that moment, your thoughts run wild. “How did this happen?” “What could have caused this?” “What could I have done to keep it from happening?” “Didn’t I check the oil?” “When did we change it last?” Whether it’s a rental or a company-owned rig, the outcome is the same — unexpected bills for repairs, downtime delays, and lost confidence in equipment reliability.

Feel familiar?

At IDE, we’ve heard this same scenario many times. We’ve had customers from all over the country come to us after experiencing these types of issues, from all types of drilling equipment manufacturers. They have felt the sound of the rotary head bearings, clanging around to render a rotary inoperable.

And we want you to know that even though you may not have our equipment on your jobsite, we’re here to help.

What we’ve found.

Many times, the symptoms many people look for and the way they look for them hide bigger issues that can lead to catastrophic failure. In many cases, simply checking the sight glass on the head to see if there’s fluid just isn’t sufficient.

It’s vital to check for water. We all remember childhood science classes where we learned that water is heavier than oil. A sight glass on the top side of the rotary will not give an indication that there may be water in the head because the water sinks to the bottom. This water leads to rust, which leads to premature failure, regardless of the oil level. It’s important to always check for water in the head by draining a small amount of fluid from the bottom of the head.

If water is present, now you know what the problem really is: failing top seals on the top of the rotary head. Remove the water, replace the seals, check the bearing for rust.

And this is why in-depth inspections by our IDE service technicians are so invaluable. Without them, problems can be compounded quickly. What was a small window of time to make an easy, fast repair can turn into a colossal roadblock to productivity.

As another example, our mechanics recently did an inspection where they noticed that worn rotary slides had compounded problems with a rusted bearing by side loading the head and further expediting the rotary head failure.

In both examples, the problems are preventable and manageable if caught in time. Seals and rotary slides are cheap, quick fixes. But unless these areas are regularly and expertly inspected, they can lead to big problems.

Let IDE help.

An IDE inspection can put the information you need in your hands, so you can be proactive and make sure your equipment is in top shape. We all know the best time for a drill to work correctly is TODAY.  Therefore, the best time to prepare for a drill to work is TODAY.