When you think of the term thrust bearing, the automotive sector may be the first to spring to mind — however, thrust bearings of all varieties and sizes have many different applications. Firstly, it’s important to understand and delve into their unique properties.

The basics

Thrust bearings is a term used to describe a group of rotary bearings that are designed to carry axial loads. An axial load is one that is transmitted linearly along the shaft. This group of bearings should, however, never be subjected to radial loads.

Thrust bearings, or axial bearings as they are sometimes referred to, encompass thrust ball bearings (supplied by SMB Bearings), cylindrical thrust roller bearings, tapered roller thrust bearings, fluid bearings and magnetic bearings.

Specifically, thrust ball bearings are made up of rolling elements mounted into a cage. The cage sits between two flat or grooved washers. The grooved washer type have raceways for more accurate rotation.


In addition to the obvious automotive uses, thrust bearings are commonly used in marine and aerospace applications. Other uses include food and beverage processing machinery, medical devices, handheld machine tools and a wide range of other applications. Our miniature thrust bearings exhibit low noise and smooth operation, which makes them perfect for use in RC helicopters.

Most importantly, before choosing your bearing type, consider if the material and lubrication choice will be suitable for your desired operating environment.

Our variations

Our miniature thrust bearings are fabricated from chrome steel and are coated with a layer of preservative oil to protect against moisture and corrosion. However, our lubrication facility allows these bearings to be supplied with specific oils, greases or dry lubricants to suit your application conditions. They are also available in stainless steel although minimum quantities may apply.

The more straight-forward type of miniature thrust bearing has identical washers and no raceway. These can endure axial loads in either direction but have reduced load and speed ratings compared with single-direction axial bearings.

Some have a raceway or groove on each washer. In these instances, one washer has a slightly larger inside diameter so that it is located in the housing and the shaft can rotate inside it. These bearings can accommodate thrust loads in one direction only and must be installed according to the load direction. They have a greater load capacity and higher speed rating than the flat washer type.

If you’ve still got further questions about thrust ball bearings, speak to a bearing specialist. Contact the SMB Bearings team directly on +44 (0) 1993 842 555 or e-mail sales@smbbearings.com.

Our determination to remain specialised gives us a high level of product knowledge, providing bearing and lubrication solutions to existing or potential customers, whether individuals or large corporations. We don’t just sell bearings, we help to solve your problems. - Chris Johnson, managing director of SMB Bearings.