This paper proposes an online adaptive condition-based maintenance method with pattern discovery and fault learning capabilities for mechanical systems. The method is mainly based on a subtype of neural network techniques called self-organizing map (SOM). It is able to reduce local clusters from the same pattern and optimize the SOM architecture to further decrease the calculation cost in matching patterns in the neuron fitting process. Moreover, distance analysis and statistical pattern recognition (SPR) on neurons of the SOM are combined to establish rules and criteria for conducting and controlling the discovery and learning process so continuous process as purging prototypes on the map can be avoided. An experiment on condition monitoring of a machine tool test bed demonstrates and validates the effectiveness of the proposed approach.