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The Humble Roller and Ball Bearing

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

We all know how these function but unless you maintain your own car they are never seen. Situated in the wheel hubs, the differential casing and the dynamo they whirl away, spinning like a Sufi Mevlevi. Inside the water pump they circulate coolant and within the steering box they keep us in a straight line.

Going about their work without a grumble unless you neglect the oil or greasing.

Fitted in my Jensen 541 were mainly British Timken bearings, although I have seen Fafnir and SKF amongst others used in various spare parts we have.

A simple bearing consists of an Outer and Inner Race and rollers or balls. and are usually made from Chrome Steel. The manufacturing process of a roller or ball bearing is a relatively simple one if not lengthy in engineering terms.

The outer and inner races are made in a similar way by Turning on a CNC lathe leaving additional material for finishing. A hardening process is then carried out followed by Grinding of all surfaces to fine tolerances. Then they are Honed to achieve the correct geometry.

Ball and Roller making would seem to be a fiddly process. They start as a slug of rod that is stamped to form a rough shape known as Cold Heading. Then they are tumbled to remove burrs and flash before initial grinding. A hardening process follows before finish grinding and Honing.

Crucially these un-championed gems of engineering keep our cars running and the world turning. Maintain yours with plenty of grease and they should have a long happy life.

British Timken

Chester Road, Aston, Birmingham 7

Images are kind permission of Grace's Guide to British Industrial History

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