A model of two-degrees-of-freedom Jeffcott rotor system with bearing clearance subjected of an out-of-balance excitation is considered. The influence of preloading and viscous damping of the snubber ring is introduced in the mathematical description. A programme of numerical simulations is conducted to show how the preloading and viscous damping change the dynamics of the rotor system. Bifurcation diagrams and Lyapunov exponents are constructed to explore stability. It is shown that dynamics of the rotor system can be effectively controlled by varying the preloading and the damping both of the rotor and the snubber ring. In the most considered cases preloading stabilises the dynamic responses. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.