How Bearings Work

By: Karim Nice

Bearing Loads

The bearings that support the shafts of motors and pulleys are subject to a radial load.

Bearings typically have to deal with two kinds of loading, radial and thrust. Depending on where the bearing is being used, it may see all radial loading, all thrust loading or a combination of both.

The bearings in the electric motor and the pulley pictured above face only a radial load. In this case, most of the load comes from the tension in the belt connecting the two pulleys.


The bearings in this stool are subject to a thrust load.

The bearing above is like the one in a barstool. It is loaded purely in thrust, and the entire load comes from the weight of the person sitting on the stool.

The bearings in a car wheel are subject to both thrust and radial loads.

The bearing above is like the one in the hub of your car wheel. This bearing has to support both a radial load and a thrust load. The radial load comes from the weight of the car, the thrust load comes from the cornering forces when you go around a turn.