A finite element method was developed using linear triangular elements to solve the two-dimensional Reynolds equation in the polar coordinate system including the rotational lubricant inertia term. The validity of the method was verified by comparison with the finite difference solution for parallel and non-parallel operation of the hydrostatic thrust bearing. The method was applied to the study of plane and conical hydrostatic thrust bearings with circular recesses. Experiments were conducted to estimate the load-carrying capacities for a typical case and the test results were compared with the finite element solution. © 1984.