Understanding Shaft Deflection, Runout, and Whip in Rotating Equipment

Packing in Cutaway PumpDiagnosing and addressing issues like shaft runout, shaft deflection, and shaft whip are essential for ensuring the proper operation and longevity of rotating equipment, such as pumps, motors, and turbines. These issues can lead to excessive vibration, premature wear, and even catastrophic failure. Here’s how you can diagnose and repair these problems:

Shaft Runout, or shaft eccentricity or radial runout, is a term that refers to the deviation or displacement of a rotating shaft from its true centerline or axis of rotation. It is a type of misalignment in which the shaft does not rotate perfectly around its central axis but instead exhibits a wobbling or eccentric motion.


  • Use a dial indicator or laser alignment tools to measure shaft runout. Place the indicator against a stationary reference point near the shaft and rotate the shaft.
  • If the indicator needle or laser beam deviates significantly from a straight line, it indicates shaft runout.
  • Identify the location of the maximum runout to pinpoint the problem area.


  • Correct minor runout issues by gently tapping the shaft with a soft mallet or applying shim stock to compensate for misalignment.
  • For severe runout, consider replacing or re-machining the shaft to restore its concentricity.

Shaft Deflection refers to the bending or flexing of a shaft when subjected to a load or force. It occurs when a shaft is not rigid enough to resist the applied forces and undergoes a noticeable deformation.


  • Measure shaft deflection using a dial indicator or laser alignment tools.
  • Position the indicator or laser at two points along the shaft’s length, one near the bearing and one away from it.
  • Apply a force perpendicular to the shaft (e.g., using a dial indicator’s contact point) to induce deflection.
  • Compare the deflection at both points. If they differ significantly, it indicates shaft deflection.


  • Addressing shaft deflection may involve redesigning the system to reduce the load, increasing the shaft diameter, or using a stiffer material.
  • If feasible, reinforce the shaft or add additional supports to minimize deflection.

Shaft Whip, or rotor whip, is a mechanical phenomenon in rotating machinery, particularly in high-speed equipment. It refers to the lateral or sideways vibration and movement of a rotating shaft as it spins. Shaft whip typically happens when a rotating shaft is not perfectly balanced or experiences other dynamic forces. 


  • Shaft whip occurs when the shaft vibrates excessively in a lateral (side-to-side) direction during operation.
  • Use vibration monitoring equipment or analysis to detect shaft whip.
  • Measure the amplitude and frequency of lateral vibrations.


  • Address the root cause of shaft whip, including imbalances, misalignments, or worn bearings.
  • Balance the rotating components (e.g., impellers, fans) to reduce vibration.
  • Check and adjust the alignment of the shaft and bearings.
  • Replace worn or damaged bearings.
  • Ensure the foundation and mounting structure are robust and properly aligned.

It’s important to note that diagnosing and repairing these issues may require specialized equipment and expertise. If you are not experienced in these matters, consult a SEPCO-qualified technician or engineer who can perform the necessary measurements and recommend appropriate corrective actions. Additionally, preventive maintenance practices, such as regular shaft alignment checks and vibration monitoring, can help identify and mitigate these problems before they become severe.

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