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Sleeve bearing clearance depends on many factors

Plant Engineering
Publication date: 
June 2016
Chuck Yung, EASA Senior Technical Support Specialist

It’s fair to say that one’s outlook on life is colored by experience. A good example of this with sleeve bearing motors is the question, “What’s the proper clearance between a shaft and the sleeve bearing it rides in?” Chances are each of us has a rule of thumb for this, probably related to shaft diameter. Some of these may look familiar:

  • One thousandth, plus 1 per in. of diameter
  • Two thousandths, plus 1 per in. of diameter
  • 0.0015 in. per in. of diameter
  • 0.002 in. per in. of diameter.

They can’t all be right, yet many of us may have used one of these rules (probably not the same one, either!) with great success. Which one, if any, is correct? The answer depends on the application.