The five-ball fatigue tester and full-scale rolling-element bearings were used to determine the effect of component hardness differences of SAE 52100 steel on bearing fatigue and load capacity. Maximum fatigue life and load capacity are achieved when the rolling elements of a bearing are one to two points (Rockwell C) harder than the races. There appears to be an interrelation among compressive residual stresses induced in the races during operation, differences in component hardness, and fatigue life. Differences in contact temperature and plastically deformed profile radii could not account for differences in fatigue life.

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