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Loose Fasteners: Causes and Solutions

A common headache for engineers and consumers alike is fasteners coming loose and causing problems. So, what are some of the causes of loosening?

Under tightening, which results in low clamp load, is one main cause of loosening fasteners. If a joint does not have enough clamp load to keep the joined parts from slipping against one another, rotational loosening or fatigue failure may occur. It’s important to follow manufacturer’s recommendations for proper tightening.

Using fasteners with a small bearing surface area to join softer materials can lead to embedment of the head into the material. Over time this can cause a loss in clamp load resulting in loose joints. It’s important to understand surface pressure limits of screws and mating materials, and match them accordingly to avoid embedment. Flanged head fasteners or hardened washers are a good way to spread the load out and avoid this problem. It should be noted that many flat washers are not hard enough to support high-strength fastener loads, so choose your washers accordingly!

Vibration is another cause of loose fasteners. In a nut and bolt joint, a good design will actually stretch the bolt slightly to create a rubber band-like effect, which helps to keep the fastener tight. A good rule of thumb for design engineers is to use a clamping length of 5 times the bolt’s diameter to ensure good stretch when torqued properly. For joints subjected to vibration which cannot use this rule, then serrations, locking patches, or specialty lock washers may be needed.

For more information on how to keep fasteners tight, contact us at ProvenProductivity@bossard.com.

Doug Jones
Applications Engineer
djones@bossard.com

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June 23, 2017
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