7 Types of Bearings Used in Automotive Applications

Bearings play a crucial role in automotive applications, providing support and facilitating the movement of various components. There are several types of bearings used in automotive systems, each designed for specific purposes. Here are seven common types:

  • Ball bearings
  • Roller bearings
  • Needle bearings
  • Thrust
  • Spherical
  • Plain bearings/Bushings
  • Angular contact bearings

1. Ball Bearings:

  • Function: Ball bearings consist of small, spherical rolling elements (balls) held in a ring. They reduce friction between rotating surfaces, allowing smooth and efficient motion.
  • Automotive Applications: Wheel bearings are a common application in vehicles. They support the rotating hub and allow smooth wheel movement. Ball bearings are also used in alternators and gearboxes due to their ability to handle high-speed rotation.

2. Roller Bearings:

  • Function: Roller bearings use cylindrical or tapered rollers instead of balls. The rollers distribute the load over a larger surface area, enabling them to handle heavier radial and axial loads compared to ball bearings. This design reduces friction and provides increased durability.
  • Automotive Applications: Tapered roller bearings are commonly employed in wheel hubs, where they support the vehicle's weight and handle the forces associated with acceleration and deceleration. They are also used in differentials and transmissions, where high loads and durability are crucial.
Also Read: Driving Efficiency: A Comprehensive Guide to Automotive Bearings

 3.  Needle Bearings:

  • Function: Needle bearings serve the purpose of handling high radial loads in situations with restricted space due to their thin, cylindrical rollers featuring a high length-to-diameter ratio.
  • Automotive Applications: Renowned for their efficiency and capacity to endure substantial loads, these bearings find common application in automotive components like gearbox shafts and connecting rods, particularly in instances where space limitations are a significant consideration.

4. Thrust Bearings:

  • Function: Thrust bearings are designed to accommodate axial loads, preventing movement along the axis of rotation. They come in various types, including ball thrust bearings and roller thrust bearings, each optimized for specific load and speed conditions.
  • Automotive Applications: Clutch release bearings are a common example of thrust bearings in automotive systems. They facilitate smooth engagement and disengagement of the clutch by handling the axial loads associated with these operations.

5. Spherical Bearings:

  • Function: Spherical bearings facilitate misalignment and angular movement owing to their spherical inner and outer rings. This adaptability is particularly beneficial in scenarios where components may undergo diverse angles of motion.
  • Automotive Applications: In the automotive realm, spherical bearings are commonly employed in suspension components like control arms and strut mounts. Their presence allows the suspension system to absorb shocks and vibrations while accommodating movement in various directions.

6. Plain Bearings (Bushings):

  • Function: Plain bearings, commonly referred to as bushings, provide a sliding surface between two components to reduce friction. Unlike rolling element bearings, plain bearings operate with a sliding motion. They consist of a cylindrical sleeve, often made of materials like bronze or polymer that fits around a shaft.
  • Automotive Applications: Plain bearings are used in various automotive applications where sliding motion is necessary. For instance, they are commonly found in suspension systems, providing a low-friction interface between moving components like control arms and sway bars. Engine connecting rod bushings and various pivot points in the vehicle's chassis also utilize plain bearings.

7. Angular Contact Bearings:

  • Function: Angular contact bearings are designed to handle both radial and axial loads by placing the load at an angle to the bearing axis. This configuration allows for increased load-carrying capacity compared to standard ball bearings.
  • Automotive Applications: Angular contact bearings find applications in scenarios where both radial and axial loads are present, such as in front wheel hub assemblies. In these assemblies, the bearing accommodates the weight of the vehicle (radial load) as well as the lateral forces experienced during cornering (axial load). This design enhances the overall stability and performance of the wheel assembly.


In conclusion, bearings are indispensable components in automotive systems, playing a pivotal role in supporting and facilitating the movement of various parts. The diverse range of bearings tailored for specific purposes ensures optimal performance and durability in different applications within vehicles. From the widely used ball bearings in wheel hubs and alternators to the robust roller bearings handling heavy loads in transmissions and differentials, each type contributes to the overall efficiency and reliability of automotive systems.

Needle bearings, with their compact design and high load-bearing capacity, find a niche in transmission components, addressing space constraints. Thrust bearings, exemplified by clutch release bearings, manage axial loads, ensuring smooth engagement and disengagement of the clutch. Spherical bearings offer flexibility in suspension systems, accommodating varying angles of motion and enhancing shock absorption.

Plain bearings or bushings, operating with a sliding motion, play a crucial role in reducing friction in suspension systems and engine components. Lastly, angular contact bearings provide a solution for scenarios where both radial and axial loads are present, enhancing stability and performance in front wheel hub assemblies.

The careful selection and integration of these diverse bearing types contribute to the overall reliability, efficiency, and safety of automotive vehicles. As technology advances, continuous innovations in bearing design and materials will likely further optimize automotive performance, meeting the evolving demands of the industry and enhancing the driving experience for users.