Stainless steel bearings are more expensive but they will run at higher temperatures than chrome steel bearings and are also resistant to corrosion. Stainless steel bearings will cope with up to 300°C with the right lubricant while the load capacity of chrome steel bearings falls rapidly above 150°C.
Carbon steel (or high carbon chrome steel) is the most commonly used material for bearings. It has slightly better low noise characteristics than stainless steel. In addition, its hardness means it has better load capacity than stainless steel bearings. This means that the life ratings for chrome steel bearings are higher than those for 440 grade stainless steel bearings which makes them the best choice for most applications.
Where temperature and corrosion are an issue, stainless steel is recommended. In damp environments, there is a high risk of corrosion with chrome steel bearings.
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