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Innovative bearings

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Life is a compromise. As engineers we are all familiar with the principle of ‘give and take’, and once the problem is identified, until now we have always managed to come up with a workable solution which, if not altogether perfect, suits most of the people most of the time. Rather like engine plain bearings. A plain white metal, bi- or tri-metal engine main or big-end bearing has to cope with a range of conflicting requirements. First, it has to be strong enough to support the...

The thrust bearing

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I think it’s fair to say that the crankshaft thrust bearing will not be very high on the list of priorities for most engine designers. And yet with higher engine output torques requiring greater (if somewhat intermittent) axial forces within the torque converter or clutch assembly, the thrust bearing now has to do so much more than it was originally designed for. And while a radial bearing can accept forces of many thousands of pounds per square inch, limitations of space and simple...

Bearing the strain

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When discussing bearings it is sometimes easier to limit such studies to those of the crankshaft mains and con rod (both big and little ends). In more modern times the turbocharger bearing is perhaps attracting more interest, so these days we consider those of the camshaft only rarely. Running at half engine speed and not particularly highly loaded, the bearing design is probably dictated mostly by the process of assembling the cam into the engine. Inserted from the front or rear of the...

Clearance matters

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In theory at least, an engine bearing – be it big-end or crankshaft main – should be one of the simplest components to lubricate. Separated by a thin film of oil forced into a gap under pressure, when running at a constant rotational speed, the resulting ‘wedge’ of fluid forces the components apart, disengaging both shell and journal asperities. Since there is no contact between bearing and journal, no wear can take place and the power loss in the system is down to...


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As a general rule the most critical part of the lubrication system in any race engine is perhaps the big-end bearing. To ensure that this big-end bearing remains fully lubricated, the oil pump delivery pressure has to be such as to have overcome all the (pressure) losses down the line, as well as that necessary to overcome any centrifugal effects of the crankshaft. For this pressure to be maintained, the flow from the oil pump needs to make up for the losses through bearing leakage around...