What Are Thrust Washers and How Do They Function?

Thrust washers are a type of mechanical hardware component that are found in a vast number of assemblies such as appliances, power tools, machines, vehicles, and much more. While thrust washers are called washers by name and have a similar appearance, they are actually a type of bearing. In this blog, we will provide an overview of the thrust washer, allowing you to better understand its construction, functionality, and applications.

Functionality and Applications of Thrust Washers 

In general, a bearing is a type of machine element that may be implemented within an assembly in order to restrain undesired motion and mitigate the amount of friction generated between two components. Common bearings often come in two major types, those being flat and roller bearings. As a flat type bearing, the thrust washer is often placed between a revolving component and one that is stationary, allowing it to ensure the revolving component remains in place. Furthermore, they are capable of supporting axial loads and may prevent movement of components along a shaft. With a bearing surface, the thrust washer can be used in various high-wear applications.

As compared to a standard washer, thrust washers are typically designed with a focus on lubrication. With lubricants, components can slide against each other more easily, and lubrication will often depend upon the material that is used. As metals tend to provide a high ability for lubrication, thrust washers are typically constructed from metal alloys so that components can slide over them with ease. As such, thrust washers have an extended bearing life as compared to components built from other materials.

The bearing lives of components is very important, as failure can cause other components to face damage, or the assembly as a whole may cease to function correctly depending on the issue. Thrust washers tend to have lower service life expectancies as compared to roller bearings, due to the fact that roller bearings provide space between components to supply fluid lubrication. Despite this, thrust washers may be specifically designed to have dry lubricants such as boron nitride, graphite, or molybdenum disulfide. By implementing graphite or other materials into the thrust bearing metal during casting, such particles are exposed as the body of the washer is worn away. With the exposed materials, the amount of wear that the component faces slows, and two such bearing surfaces can become slick enough to be very resistant to continued wear.

With their use, thrust washers are beneficial to almost all applications in which an electric motor is present. This is because thrust washers are very capable of accommodating the forces of control axial displacement. Propeller shafts within marine vessels also benefit from the presence of thrust washers, utilizing them for the transmission of the spinning propeller’s axial thrust into a forward or backwards motion. Additionally, thrust washers can act as weight bearings and erratic motion dampers for smaller electronics, such as turntables.

Beyond acting as a bearing surface by itself, thrust washers may also be a part of a larger bearing. In some cases, sleeve bearings that are placed around a shaft may contain their own thrust washer, and these hardware components are referred to as flanged sleeve bearings. Such bearings are very beneficial for motor shafts, accommodating the radial and axial forces that are generated by the motor. Another variation of the thrust washer comes in the form of thrust washer series, which is when multiple thrust washers are placed together within an engine so as to facilitate high velocities. This is very beneficial for instances in which the RPM reaches high values, as standard sliding bearings would not be able to accommodate the velocity.

With hardware such as thrust washers, bolt components, and bearings, facilitating the operation of a number of mechanical systems becomes easy. When it comes time to begin sourcing the various parts and components that you need for your projects, look no further than NSN Axis. NSN Axis is a trusted distributor of aircraft parts of all kinds, providing customers rapid lead-times and competitive pricing on all that we carry. Get started today with a personalized quote on the parts that you are interested in when you fill out and submit an Instant RFQ form as provided through our website.


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August 18, 2021
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