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How to Keep Bolted Joints Safe With Washers

When used correctly, bolts can provide strong joints. However, bolted joints can come loose due to vibration, excessive torque, thermal expansion, or a sudden impact.
One way to improve the integrity of bolted joints is to use a washer. Washers may seem simple, but improper use can damage the object you are bolting and diminish the effectiveness of the joint. Read on to learn more about washers and the benefits of using these fasteners.
Washer Basics
A washer is a small, flat disc placed underneath the head of a bolt. Most washers are metallic but some are made of plastic or rubber.
Washers distribute the bolt's pressure over the surface of an object without damaging the surface or the bolt. The washer also ensures that the bolt adheres tightly to the surface to prevent the bolt from loosening over time.
Washer Types
Washers are available in many different types but most fall under one of three categories. These include plain washers, locking washers, and spring washers.
Plain Washers
Plain washers have a smooth edge. These distribute the load of the fastener and protect the object that is being secured from damage. Common types of plain washers include torque washers, fender washers, and wall washers just to mention a few.
Locking Washers
Many lock washers have serrated edges on the inside or outside of the disc's diameter. The protrusions bite into the bolt to prevent the bolt from coming loose due to factors such as vibration or shock.
The serrated edges make locking washers particularly powerful. These types of washers are popular in challenging applications such as in the aerospace and automotive industries.

Spring Washers 

Spring washers typically have an irregular shape that makes them distinct from other types of washers. When the bolt is tightened, a spring washer applies an opposite force against the bolt. This dynamic causes the washer to straighten out, improving the integrity of the bolted joint.
Spring washers can help to minimize joint rattling, enhance joint tightness, and absorb shock waves to prevent bolts from coming loose. Examples of spring washers include finger, dome, Belleville, crescent, and wave washers.
Plain, locking, and spring washers are suitable for different applications. Be sure to select the appropriate washers for optimal safety and joint strength.
Washer Uses
Not all bolted joints require the use of washers. Washers are suitable when the bolted joint is not tight enough, no matter how much force you apply to secure the joint. In this case, a washer can help to increase the distance between the bolt and the object, giving you more space to tighten the bolt and to secure the joint.
Washers can also mitigate leakages in applications that involve gas or liquids. Be sure to source for good quality washers from a reputable vendor.
Washers are only as effective as how you use them. Here are a few tips:
  • Use the right size washers: Washers that are too large or too small can increase the risk of the bolt coming loose and can damage the object you are assembling.
  • Consider lubrication: For ease of use and corrosion mitigation, apply some lubrication on your washers.
  • Select the correct washer: Washers are not all equal. Consider the specific needs of your application to determine the appropriate type of washer to use.
A loose joint is more than a mere annoyance. If the loose join is not addressed quickly, such a joint can result in a potentially fatal accident and damage equipment. If you are unsure about the type of washer to use to reduce loose joints, ask for recommendations from a trustable vendor.
At Ascension Fasteners, we can make washers in any material or size you want. Call us today to discuss your needs.