While most of the different aspects of the automotive world are now computerized and completely scientific, there is a part of engines and the automotive world that continues to truly be an art form. The ability to Babbitt an engine’s bearings has become a lost form of using bearings for the crankshaft or any other part under the hood, but this used to be the only way an engine had bearings and it’s still a preferred method for some of the different machines in the world that need to use something that’s much quieter in its application.
What is Babbitting?
This process uses a melted metal pour that’s created to make the bearings used for the metal parts that can wear out over time. This system is used for those vehicles that were built before World War II, but this is also used for some of the largest machines in the world including the engines of the propeller shafts in military submarines. A Babbitt bearing is quiet and makes it easier for these vehicles to operate in stealth mode, which wouldn’t be as quiet when using typical ball bearings in the engine.
A proper babbitt is unique and dependent upon a variety of factors including the alloys uses in the metal pour. It’s important to avoid having any air in the liquefied metal and the hardening has to be perfect in order to work. This makes the process of creating a babbitt bearing a true art form that only a few people in the world perform any longer. This is a way to have the metal bearings needed in a place where no standardized bearings will fit and be able to be used during the application, making a babbitt bearing one of the more unique solutions which have been around for a long time.
What has replaced the Babbitt bearing?
In modern engines, you’ll see shell bearings instead of the babbitt bearings. These shell bearings are durable and with the use of modern oil pumps, the oil can be injected into the bearing housing to make sure lubrication will take place the right way and allow you to have the bearings that will last longer. This wasn’t the case with older machines which used a splash process of introducing oil into the bearing housing. This was more of a hope that it would work rather than true technology and science at work.
The art of creating babbitt bearings is not as widely used as it once was, but this is still an important aspect of engine building. Babbitt bearings are used in the turbines in the Hoover Dam and are still prevalent in some seriously large machines, but for the most part, the automotive world has moved away from this type of bearing. If you want to restore a car that was built before World War II, you will need to employ a person that knows how to pour and create the babbitt bearings you need, but otherwise, you’ll probably never think of this long lost art form of meta, alchemy, and faith.