Brass bearings and bicycles

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blackhawknj

Look Ma, No Hands!
Nov 29, 2016
35
70
Plainsboro, United States
Overhauled the bottom bracket of my 1960s Sunbeam, discovered it has brass ball bearings in it. That's a first for me. Any pros and cons for brass ball bearings vs. steel ?
 

Andrew Gorman

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 15, 2008
2,889
Pasadena (Hastings Ranch), United States
All I can think of is that it was a home repack, and those were the balls they had on hand. Brass is lot softer so wouldn't last as long, The balls are usually used in plumbing valves, etc. The fact they worked just shows how lightly stressed bicycle parts are.
 

dweenk

Finally riding a big boys bike
Nov 13, 2014
212
Maryland
All I can think of is that it was a home repack, and those were the balls they had on hand. Brass is lot softer so wouldn't last as long, The balls are usually used in plumbing valves, etc. The fact they worked just shows how lightly stressed bicycle parts are.
I'm going back to my childhood here, but I have no doubt that I would have used BBs as bearings. With proper grease who knows how long they would last.
 
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49autocycledeluxe

I live for the CABE
May 29, 2017
1,313
59
fremont california
yeah, sometimes in a pinch things get substituted. when I was about 14 I painted my bike and wanted to get it all back together and used preparation H on the headset bearings.... they were steel bearings though.
 

vincev

I'm the Wiz, and nobody beats me!
Nov 2, 2008
12,991
crown point<indiana
I was thinking old BB's. No reason to use brass when steel balls are so cheap. They do sell brass ball bearings.
 

GTs58

I'm the Wiz, and nobody beats me!
Sep 2, 2012
10,885
Central Arizona
It also can hold the grease more effectively
It's actually oil. Oil soaked or oil impregnated bronze is used for bushings and bearings. In the end of a flywheel they use an oil soaked bronze pilot bushing that carries the end of the input shaft on a manual transmission.
 
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FSH

Finally riding a big boys bike
Aug 27, 2018
260
Corona
It's actually oil. Oil soaked or oil impregnated bronze is used for bushings and bearings. In the end of a flywheel they use an oil soaked bronze pilot bushing that carries the end of the input shaft on a manual transmission.
Oilite powdered bronze is soft, but works very well as a bearing surface.
 

Archie Sturmer

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Jun 13, 2018
968
Los Angeles, CA, USA
I have found that some acidic solvents (used), for removing calcium lime rust (CLR), tend to deposit a pinkish copper film layer on steel parts; the acid is not exposing any existing copper alloy content.

And then there is the red and yellow brasses and bronzes, and the leaded and unleaded.

A benefit of brass ball bearings on a show bike might be that they would not be a source of rust. I avoid bronze hardware on bicycles, including axle or stem washers, but use them (painted or not), sometimes even with nylon washers, for fender mounting hardware.
 
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