How Can You Tell When A Fastener Should Be Updated?

When correctly paired with an application, bolts, screws, and flat washers will perform reliably for years and seldom need to be updated. This is why manufacturers will buy flat washers for use on standard applications or why fastener distributors will stock SAE flat washers or USS flat washers for conventional purposes. But even when used for the most predictable of connections and subject to common wear-and-tear, fasteners and similar components will need to be replaced as part of regular maintenance. Knowing the optimal time to make these updates will benefit your equipment and save money in the long run.

Signs Of Oxidation Or Corrosion

Oxidation is a common reaction that occurs due when metal is in regular contact with a nonmetal compound. Depending on the material, oxidation can take on many forms, including tarnish, rust, pitting, and various types of corrosion. Some forms of oxidation may not have a significant impact beyond the fastener’s surface and may only appear as staining, but this can sometimes impact performance. Light tarnishing can indicate a loss of protective coating or the beginnings of a more severe reaction between incompatible materials. Although not a perfect way of determining whether a fastener needs to be updated, light oxidation or tarnishing should not be disregarded as just a cosmetic problem. Make sure to keep an eye on the assembly to ensure that the issue does not worsen.

More severe oxidation, such as rust, pitting, cracking, and corrosion that goes beyond the surface is a more urgent concern. In addition to updating the affected fastener, it’s advisable to reevaluate any factors that might have contributed to the deterioration. In the case of rust or similar corrosion, the problem can be as simple as choosing zinc flat washers or HDG flat washers to update those made from plain uncoated steel.

 

Abrasion, Warping, Or Distortion

Any signs of warping, severe abrasion, denting, or other types of distortion, could indicate that a fastener needs to be replaced with a stronger, more resistant version. It could also indicate that the dimensions of the fastener assembly are mismatched with the equipment or structure. In other cases, excessive scratching, bending, or compression of outer diameters or threads, or worn ends could be a result of ordinary wear, but also a sign that it’s time to update the fastener or overall assembly. This type of regular maintenance is essential to ensuring the integrity and improving the longevity of any structural connection or joint.

 

Excess Noise Or Instability

If a fastener assembly is part of mechanical equipment or a structure with moving parts, it’s not uncommon for fastener assemblies to need occasional tightening or adjustment. If, however, there is excessive ratting, vibration, instability, or other problems, it means that a fastener assembly may be due for an update. This is especially true if the issue is persistent and the parts need to be re-tightened regularly.

To prevent problems of instability or loss of tension over time, it’s beneficial to reevaluate the needs of the assembly. Devices like spring washers or broad-headed screws and bolts can be effective at preserving tension that keeps an assembly stable. For moving parts, shock absorption or vibration damping materials can also prevent loss of stability or excess rattling.

 

Leaks

Any sort of leak in equipment can indicate a loose or worn gasket or a fastener assembly that needs a new washer or a realignment. Even if the leak is occurring along a seam or other area part from a fastener assembly, loss of tension or loosening of a connection can contribute to leaks or gaps in hardware. Updating fasteners can sometimes solve the problem.