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Bushings: How Critical Can They Be?

Like many components used in the transmission industry, the term bushing can be described using various other names. A plain bearing, sliding bearing, solid bearing, or friction bearing are all terms used to describe what many of us refer to as a bushing.

Bushings, like bearings, have been around longer than the automobile and are used in various industries. Bushings are compact, lightweight, have high load-carrying capacities, and are the least expensive form of bearing in use today. A bushing will act as a bearing if it’s inserted into a housing or bore to provide a surface for a shaft that’s rotating.

A linear bushing is typically pressed into a bore and provides support for a shaft that moves fore and aft (in/ out). If a bushing isn’t press fit, it’ll be retained with a dowel or snap ring to hold it in position.(From LandTop)

Bushing Design

From a design standpoint, why do engineers choose to use a bushing in some locations and a bearing in others? Why do we see some updated components replacing a bearing with a bushing or a bushing with a bearing?

It’s safe to say that the reason we use bushings and bearings in transmissions is primarily to reduce friction and wear and to maintain component alignment. Whether we’re talking about a bearing or a bushing, each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Bushings are usually chosen over a bearing for one of these reasons:

  • Bearings are typically 25-400% more expensive than a bushing.
  • The tooling needed at the manufacturing level to control the bearing bore dimensions and install the bearings into the bore is 50-75% more expensive than the tooling used for a bushing.
  • Bushings tend to be 50% lighter than a comparable needle bearing and 1/14th that of a comparable ball bearing.
  • A bushing is much less sensitive to shock loads or oscillations; bearings can develop brinelling, leading to bearing race damage and ultimately bearing and seal failure.
  • Bushings can tolerate much greater shaft misalignment.

A bushing provides a much larger contact area than a bearing, spreading the load across a larger area.

Bushings can be made of a variety of materials, such as bronze, steel-backed babbitt, plastic, nylon, or cast iron. The key to the material design depends on the type of use the bushing will experience. The bushing material must support and protect the component from damage. This means it must be hard enough to support the load but soft enough to protect the shaft moving inside it.

It’s important to understand that a shaft isn’t typically centered in the bushing during rotation.

Bushings can be made of a variety of materials, such as bronze, steel-backed babbitt, plastic, nylon, or cast iron. The key to the material design depends on the type of use the bushing will experience. The bushing material must support and protect the component from damage. This means it must be hard enough to support the load but soft enough to protect the shaft moving inside it.

It’s important to understand that a shaft isn’t typically centered in the bushing during rotation.

This offset distance is known as eccentricity, which provides clearance for lubrication as the shaft rotates. This means the bushing provides a very precisely sized bore for the shaft to ride in as it carries the lubricating oil with it. Since this oil clearance is critical to the longevity of the shaft and the bushing, it’s important to use the correct lubricant type and viscosity.Self Lubricating Bearings manufacturer in China | Bushing MFG

This offset distance is known as eccentricity, which provides clearance for lubrication as the shaft rotates. This means the bushing provides a very precisely sized bore for the shaft to ride in as it carries the lubricating oil with it. Since this oil clearance is critical to the longevity of the shaft and the bushing, it’s important to use the correct lubricant type and viscosity.

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