What Are Thrust Bearings?


Thrust bearings manage the load of different applications in many types of equipment. You can choose among different types of thrust bearings depending on the load and the application for which you're using the bearings. This type of bearing allows rotation or linear movement, which prevents friction and allows a system or application to last longer.

Uses of a Thrust Bearing

  • Cars, roller skates, computers, robotic machines and many other types of equipment use thrust bearing. Cars use thrust bearings in the wheels, axles and drive-shaft, while high speed equipment utilizes a type of thrust bearing to ensure the moving parts perform efficiently and last longer during the high-speed rotation. Imagine a plate rotating on a stationary object like a pole. The stationary object will cause the plate to overheat and it will take more force to turn the plate, but place a bearing on the plate and the plate rotates easily with little force. This is why manufacturers use a bearing, and its purpose.

Types of Thrust Bearings

  • Seven main thrust bearings are on the market. Ball, spherical roller, cylindrical roller, two types of tapered, crossed roller and needle. The type of thrust bearing really concerns the design of the ball or rollers installed inside the bearing. Perfectly round rollers, like a basketball, are the ball thrust-bearing design. The roller, tapered, spherical and needle thrust bearings use more of a conical or long, slender roller, like the design of a drinking glass as the thrust-bearing design.

How a Bearing Works

  • The thrust bearing has smooth metal surfaces that surround the balls or rollers. These allow a shaft to turn freely without rubbing against another part. The ball section or internal section of the bearing carries the load of the bearing. The load is the weight applied to the bearing which can only come in two ways, thrust and radial. This means, the load comes in two different kinds.The thrust is the weight of the part attached to the bearing and the radial is the pressure or stress placed on the thrust bearing during horizontal rotation. A bar stool where the seat rotates is a good example of a thrust load, while a good example of a radial load is the rotation of the drive-shaft in a car or the weight or pressure of car tires rolling when driven in a straight line.

Thrust Bearing Problems

  • Thrust bearings are a wearable component of any system. Since the bearings do all the turning or rotating, lubricating or maintaining bearing lubrication is an important preventive maintenance measure. A thrust bearing that is failing will be hot and make a grinding noise when turned. It will also be harder to turn the wheel when the internal bearings are wearing down. An engine has to work harder because it is not as easy to turn a component part when the thrust bearings begin to fail. Replace the thrust bearings immediately; complete the process before the bearings do more severe damage to the equipment.

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