The Crucial Role of Bearings in Automotive Products

Blog | January 20th, 2017

Ironically, most drive components rotate, which means they’re not designed to generate linear motion. In fact, there are gears, drive shafts, and axles rotating within a vehicle, so their accompanying bearings have a crucial role in automotive products. They’re in the transmission system, the steering column, and even operating deep within the engine. Finally, well, wheels wouldn’t do much good without bearings, right?

Bearings Convert Motion

Wheel bearings enable automobiles to sail on a bed of rotating parts. In essence, the axle is turning, the wheels are turning, and the drive shaft is generating power at the powertrain differential, but the chassis travels forward and back, not in a circle. In this case, the bearings are canceling radial friction, plus they’re converting the engine’s rotational power into linear motion. No other component is capable of this basic function, one that enables every wheeled vehicle to move across one axial plane, backwards and forwards.

A Powertrain Primer

On following the wheels and axles back towards the engine, we run into all sorts of additional bearings. The differential assembly of a rear-wheel drive connects to a driveshaft, so bearings live here. Four-wheel drive and front-wheel vehicles also use a differential configuration. Then there’s a mass of meshing parts engaging within the transmission compartment. If every bearing was to fail within these drive-critical components, the power would be locked within the internal combustion engine, somewhere within the crankshaft.

Bearings in Crankshaft and Engine Products

Engine starters and alternators work just like small motors and generators, so they use rotors and stator configurations. Again, at least a pair of ball bearings must be installed to support this rolling action. Then, it’s time for the central performer in this study, the introduction of the internal combustion engine and the crankshaft. That’s right, the core of the car is rife with rolling elements, parts that must be supported by friction canceling mechanical parts. Special lubricants aid in reducing the heat generated by thousands of rotating cycles per minutes, but this fluid is a supplementary aid, one that can’t work without a large group of sliding bearings.

This friction handling primer is meant as an elementary guide, for there are bearings elsewhere in the car. They open sunroofs and side windows, and they gift the steering system with fluid action. Finally, the most intricate examples of this product are still reserved for the wheels, with thrust bearings and load-handling rolling components providing extra maneuverability when vehicles take a sharp turn.

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