Helical Gear or “dry fixed” gears offer a refinement over spur gears. The leading edges of the teeth are not parallel to the axis of rotation, but are set at an angle. Since the gear is curved, this angling makes the tooth shape a segment of a helix. Helical gears can be meshed in parallel or crossed orientations. The former refers to when the shafts are parallel to each other; this is the most common orientation.

In the latter, the shafts are non-parallel, and in this configuration the gears are sometimes known as “skew gears”.

The angled teeth engage more gradually than do spur gear teeth, causing them to run more smoothly and quietly.With parallel helical gears, each pair of teeth first make contact at a single point at one side of the gear wheel; a moving curve of contact then grows gradually across the tooth face to a maximum then recedes until the teeth break contact at a single point on the opposite side. In skew gears, teeth suddenly meet at a line contact across their entire width causing stress and noise. Spur gears make a characteristic whine at high speeds. Whereas spur gears are used for low speed applications and those situations where noise control is not a problem, the use of helical gears is indicated when the application involves high speeds, large power transmission, or where noise abatement is important.The speed is considered high when the pitch line velocity exceeds 25 m/s.

A disadvantage of helical gears is a resultant thrust along the axis of the gear, which must be accommodated by appropriate thrust bearings, and a greater degree of sliding friction between the meshing teeth—often addressed with additives in the lubricant.

Double helical gears and herringbone gears are similar but the difference is that herringbone gears don’t have a groove in the middle like double helical gears do. Double helical gears overcome the problem of axial thrust presented by “single” helical gears, by having two sets of teeth that are set in a V shape. A double helical gear can be thought of as two mirrored helical gears joined together. This arrangement cancels out the net axial thrust, since each half of the gear thrusts in the opposite direction resulting in a net axial force of zero. This arrangement can remove the need for thrust bearings. However, double helical gears are more difficult to manufacture due to their more complicated shape.

For both possible rotational directions, there exist two possible arrangements for the oppositely-oriented helical gears or gear faces. One arrangement is stable, and the other is unstable. In a stable orientation, the helical gear faces are oriented so that each axial force is directed toward the center of the gear. In an unstable orientation, both axial forces are directed away from the center of the gear. In both arrangements, the total axial force on each gear is zero when the gears are aligned correctly. If the gears become misaligned in the axial direction, the unstable arrangement generates a net force that may lead to disassembly of the gear train, while the stable arrangement generates a net corrective force. If the direction of rotation is reversed, the direction of the axial thrusts is also reversed, so a stable configuration becomes unstable, and vice versa.

Stable double helical gears can be directly interchanged with spur gears without any need for different bearings.