Depending on the application it may be necessary to have either a positive or a negative operational clearance in the bearing arrangement. In the majority of applications, the operational clearance should be positive, i.e. when in operation, the bearing should have a residual clearance, however slight, see section Bearing internal clearance.
However, there are many cases, e.g. machine tool spindle bearings, pinion bearings in automotive axle drives, bearing arrangements of small electric motors, or bearing arrangements for oscillating movement, where a negative operational clearance, i.e. a preload, is needed to enhance the stiffness of the bearing arrangement or to increase running accuracy. The application of a preload, e.g. by springs, is also recommended where bearings are to operate without load or under very light load and at high speeds. In these cases, the preload serves to provide a minimum load on the bearing and prevent bearing damage as a result of sliding movements of the rolling elements, see section Requisite minimum load.