The stress intensity factors for short straight and branched subsurface cracks subjected to a Hertzian loading are calculated by the finite element method. The effect of crack face friction on stress intensity factors is considered for both straight and branched cracks. The calculations show that the straight crack is subjected to pure mode II loading, whereas the branched crack is subjected to both mode I and mode II, with ΔKI/ΔKII < 0.25. Although KI is small, it strongly influences KII by keeping the branched crack faces apart. Based on the ΔKII values and Paris’s crack growth model, the number of stress reversals required to grow a crack in a rolling component from an initial threshold length to the final spalling length was estimated. It was found that the crack propagation period is small compared with the expected bearing fatigue life. Therefore, crack propagation is not the rate controlling factor in the fatigue failure of bearings operating under normal loading levels.

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