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HQ 957103

JUNE 2, 1995

CLA-2 R:C:M 957103 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 8482.99.35

Donald J. Unger, Esq.
Barnes, Richardson & Colburn
200 East Randolph Drive, Suite 7920
Chicago, IL 60601

RE: NY 897323 Affirmed; Stamped Steel Rings for Grease Seals; Grease Seals, NY 848970, NY 872179, NY 804823; Parts of Ball or Roller Bearings, Section XVI, Note 2, HQ 952019; Unfinished Articles, GRI 2(a); Washers of Iron or Steel, Subheading 7318.22.00; Articles of Iron or Steel, Subheading 7326.90.85

Dear Mr. Unger:

In letters dated September 28, 1994, and March 30, 1995, on behalf of the Nakanishi Manufacturing Corporation, you ask that we review a ruling in which the Area Director of Customs, New York Seaport, held that stamped steel rings for bearing seals were classifiable as parts of ball bearings in subheading 8482.99.35, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).


The articles in question are steel rings with holes in the middle used in the production of grease seals for ball bearing assemblies. The rings are stamped from zinc coated steel sheets and have raised inner and outer circumferences in the form of lips. The rings are then coated with a binding adhesive which is their condition as imported. After importation, rubber disks are bonded to the steel rings to form grease seals which are then assembled into ball bearings. The rubber is said to be essential to the seals' function of keeping grease in the assembly and dirt and other foreign matter out.

In NY 897323, dated May 19, 1994, these stamped steel rings for bearing grease seals were held to be classifiable in subheading 8482.99.35, HTSUS, a provision for other parts of ball bearings. You maintain that this classification is incorrect.

You propose as a first alternative classification the provision for washers of iron or steel, in subheading 7318.22.00, HTSUS. You cite relevant Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes and dictionary definitions of the term "washer" to support this claim. A second alternative classification you propose is the provision for articles of iron or steel, in subheading 7326.90.90 (now 85), HTSUS, because the articles in question are not provided for elsewhere in the tariff schedules.

The provisions under consideration are as follows:

7318 Screws, bolts, nuts, coach screws, screw hooks, rivets, cotters, cotter pins, washers (including spring washers) and similar articles, of iron or steel:

Threaded articles:

Non-threaded articles:

7318.22.00 Other washers...Free

7326 Other articles of iron or steel:

7326.90 Other:

7326.90.85 Other...5.1 percent

8482 Ball or roller bearings, and parts thereof:




8482.99.35 Parts of ball bearings
(including parts of ball bearings with integral shafts)
...10.8 percent


Whether the stamped steel rings are washers for tariff purposes; whether they are unfinished grease seals for ball bearings; whether they are parts of ball bearings.


Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6. Under GRI 2(a), an incomplete or unfinished article is to be classified as the complete or finished article if, in its condition as imported, it has the essential character of the complete or finished article.

The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the Customs Cooperation Council's official interpretation of the Harmonized system. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the System. Customs believes the notes should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

As to the first claim, the term washer is not defined in the text of the HTSUS. However, relevant ENs at p. 1030 state that washers [of heading 7318] are usually small, thin, discs with a hole in the centre; they are placed between the nut and one of the parts to be fixed to protect the latter. They may be plain, cut, split (e.g., Grower's spring washers), curved, cone shaped, etc. These are the same ENs you cite in concluding that the steel rings look like and can function as washers. We disagree. There is no evidence that stamped steel rings for grease seals are commonly known as washers, or are regularly bought and sold in the fastener trade as washers. These stamped steel rings do not comport with the description of the term washer in the cited ENs. Accordingly, they are not provided for in heading 7318.

The next issue is whether these stamped steel rings qualify as unfinished grease seals for ball bearings. A complete or finished grease seal is a composite good consisting of different materials or components, one encompassed by heading 4016, articles of vulcanized rubber, the other encompassed by heading 7326, articles of iron or steel. Each heading describes part - 4 -
only of the good. Under GRI 3(b), such goods are to be classified as if consisting only of that material or component that gives them their essential character. In this case we find that the essential character of complete grease seals for ball bearings is imparted by the rubber. While it is the base metal substrate that gives the seal its shape and imparts rigidity, the rubber component gives the seal its ability to adhere to the surface of the bearing assembly, thus retaining the grease and keeping foreign matter out. For this reason, grease seals for ball bearings are provided for in heading 4016, as other articles of vulcanized rubber. NY 848970, dated February 20, 1990, NY 872179, dated April 7, 1992, and NY 804823, dated December 23, 1994, support this position. It necessarily follows that articles of base metal cannot be regarded for tariff purposes as unfinished articles of heading 4016.

As to the applicability of heading 8482, goods that are identifiable as parts of machines or apparatus of chapters 84 and 85 are to be classified according to Section XVI, Note 2, HTSUS, to the extent the note applies. See HQ 952019, dated March 18, 1993, and related cases. These steel rings are not goods included in any heading of chapter 84 or chapter 85. See Note 2(a). If they are parts suitable for use solely or principally with a machine, apparatus or appliance of chapters 84 or 85, they are to be classified in the provision for the machine, apparatus or appliance and its parts. See Note 2(b). The configuration of these steel rings and the purpose they serve lead us to conclude that they are integral, constituent and component parts necessary to the completion and proper functioning of ball bearing assemblies. For this reason, the steel rings in issue qualify as parts for tariff purposes and are classifiable in subheading 8482.99.35, HTSUS. There is no issue as to their sole or principal use. This conclusion makes it unnecessary to discuss subheading 7326.90.85.


Under GRI 1, HTSUS, the steel rings stamped from zinc coated steel sheet with raised lips, as described, are provided for in heading 8482, a provision for ball or roller bearings, and parts thereof. They are classifiable in subheading 8482.99.35, HTSUS.


NY 897323, dated May 19, 1994, is affirmed.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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