Shims 101

Stainless steel shims have for the most part replaced cutting shims from rolled stock. They speed up the alignment process dramatically. They usually assure a more accurate alignment since they come in many different thicknesses. They are clean, flat, and their thickness is marked on each shim. Since they are stainless steel, they are not prone to rust.

Here are some good guidelines for using shims.

  • The thinner shims are sharp. Care should be taken when using them.
  • Shims should be installed under motor feet until they contact the bolt and then be pulled back slightly. This is so the bolt threads do not bend the shim as bolts are tightened.
  • Shims should be clean and flat.
  • Use fewer, thicker shims – not a large number of thinner shims. Try to use no more than 4 shims under each foot whenever possible. If the machine needs a large amount of shim, try to use one thick, steel block, and a small number of shims. The block can be drilled, milled, or torched out, but should be ground flat before use.
  • Shim stacks should be measured with a micrometer or caliper. Never just go by the numbers etched onto the shim. In most cases, shims 0.020″ and smaller are from ground stock, with a tolerance of +/- 0.0005″. Shims 0.025″ and thicker are made from rolled stock, and can have a tolerance of +/- 0.005″. This can be important when aligning to close tolerances.
  • Dirt is a shim–as is rust, paint, sand, and anything else between the foot and the base. All of this should be taken into consideration when measuring shims already in place. Under most circumstances, painted, rusty, or otherwise tarnished shims should be replaced with clean stainless shims. Used shims can always be cleaned and re-used later.
  • When measuring shims for replacement, try to remove the entire stack of shims, being careful not to disturb the stack while removing. Measure the entire stack with a micrometer or caliper. The best place to measure is normally in the inside radius of the shim.
  • When angular soft foot is present, it is advisable to cut a shim to fill in the void from the angular soft foot. However, only one shim should be cut. Cutting shims in a “stair step” fashion is not advisable, since it is difficult to get each step shim back to the same place.
  • When placing shims under machine feet, “sandwich” thinner shims in between thicker shims whenever possible.
  • If traditional rolled shim stock must be used, the stock should be cut cleanly, de-burred, and peened to minimize the possible errors which could occur.
  • Shims come in various sizes – A, B, C, D, – for a reason. The first consideration when choosing a shim size should be the diameter of the bolt. The shim should fit around the bolt with sufficient clearance to keep the threads from biting into the shim, yet should not have a gap larger than the washer used on the foot bolt. If the gap is too big, the foot may tend to bend while tightening.

COMMON SHIM SIZES

“A”-2×2”, with a 17/32 (0.531)” bolt slot.

“B”-3×3”, with a 25/32 (0.781)” bolt slot.

“C”-4×4”, with a 1-1/4 (1.25)” bolt slot.

“D”-5×5”, with a 1-5/8 (1.625)” bolt slot.

Hog Brand Shims
  • Shims should be stocked in various sizes and thicknesses, as needed for alignments.
  • Some things are not shims:

Wood
Cardboard
Soda cans
Washers
Wedges

  • Keep your shims in a box, in order! This will prevent wasting time finding the right shim and keep the shims cleaner.
  • Lastly, place shims neatly under the feet. It really won’t make your alignments any more accurate, but is a reflection of your work.

Do you have some shim “best practices”? We’d love to hear them!

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About the Author

Stan Riddle

Stan Riddle joined VibrAlign in 2008. He has 30 years experience in aligning industrial machinery. Stan began his maintenance career working as a machinist and millwright for companies such as Weyerhaeuser, R.J. Reynolds, and Tyco Electronics. He also has over 25 years experience in Predictive Technologies, such as vibration analysis, thermography, oil analysis, and ultrasonic inspection.


He is a certified Level III Vibration Analyst with the Vibration Institute, and is a Past Chairman and Board Member of the Piedmont Chapter.


Stan and his wife live in Yadkinville, NC where he enjoys wood carving, fishing, and anything else outdoors.


3 Comments
  1. Mohd. Habibur Rahman

    In which situation we shall choose copper shims and so do for SS shims?

  2. david zdrojewski

    Stan,

    As always, a great post…I never trust what happend before I got there. That being said, if I need to make an alignmnent correction, I break all of the bolts, remove the shims from, say, the left front feet, mic them or count them, clean under the foot, and then replace the old shims with new ones of that amount. Next, I remove the shims, clean and replace those under the RIGHT front feet with new shims of that same amount.

    The process continues by measuring, cleaning and replacing those under the left REAR feet. Again, I clean and replace the other rear foot with that same amount.. In esscence I am starting anew with a clean base and clean shims under all of the feet.

    This gives me a great foundation to complete the rest of my prealignment steps (including soft foot). I have learned from experience that trying to figure out what someone else did before me costs me more time than starting fresh.

    Lastly, because I am frugal (some miht say cheap), i throw the old shims into a bucket for cleaning an sorting later when there is much less time constraint.

    PS This comment comes from 30,000+ feet as i return from the west coast and a a great week of training in Oregon & Oklahoma. We have an awesome job!

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