Bearings are common components to mechanical assemblies, rotating between parts for the means of constraining motion and mitigating the forces of friction. Thrust bearings in particular are rotary bearing types that are permanently placed between moving surfaces, set apart from other variations through their role of supporting axial loads. Thus, bearings are commonly found in marine, aerospace, and automotive applications alike, often seeing implementation within engine assembly parts, gearboxes, rotators, clutch pedal components, and more. As such bearings are regularly put under high amounts of stress and are dependent upon proper lubrication and placement for their functionality, failure is a possibility. In this blog, we will discuss the most common reasons for thrust bearing failure and how to prevent such occurrences.
As stated before, bearings are highly dependent upon lubrication in order to properly function and bear high pressures. As lubricants come in a variety of types and qualities, it is crucial that the correct one is used for the assembly in question. If forward pressure reaches a threshold that exceeds the ability of the oil, metal to metal contact may be established. This can quickly result in bearing failure, and the possible failure or damage of the assembly itself.
Failures are also commonly associated with incorrect installations, whether being the improper seating of a bearing, using a part that is not designed for the particular assembly, or other issues. For the engine assembly of an automatic car, an incorrect torque converter, wrongly oriented transmission pump gear, or unmatching fastener can quickly result in major problems. As pressures and incorrect assemblies are both common causes of thrust bearing failure, one should always be adamant about quality installations and part procurement.
When installing a thrust bearing, it is paramount that the individual is well-trained and takes sufficient time to ensure a proper fit. If installing thrust bearings for the crankshaft or main caps of an engine assembly, all surfaces and components should be well lubricated with clean substances. The amount of torque given to the thrust bearing and other radial bearing components is also highly important as improper tightness can either lead to quick loosening or damage to the assembly and bearing. To maximize the life of a particular bearing, one should refer to manufacturer specifications prior to installation.
The surface finish of a crankshaft or assembly surface can also affect the service life of bearings, and such issues typically occur over time. As scratches, indents, and hatches are created on the surface of the assembly, the oil film of a thrust bearing can quickly be wiped away as if the assembly was a windshield wiper. This can rapidly cause a thrust bearing failure due to the abrasive force and friction resulting from a lack of oil film. To prevent such occurrences, one must regularly polish the surfaces of pieces that come into contact with thrust bearings and other assembly components. The thrust bearings themselves should also be regularly polished as well to further protect all parts.
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