The Experts: Matching washers and bolts of different materials

Q: Can I use Nord-Lock stainless steel washers with steel bolts?

A: You can, as there is no difference in thread pitch between steel and stainless steel bolts. However, it is always best to use the same material for all parts of the joint. If you use a stainless steel washer together with high-strength fasteners of grade 10.9 or 12.9, you might deform the washers. These are only surface-hardened, and with a very high pre-load, the softer inside might incur “plastic deformation”. Steel bolts of grade 8.8 or lower might work in many applications, since the mechanical strength of grade 8.8 is similar to the one for stainless steel washers.

Another important aspect to consider when designing a bolted joint, including stainless steel washers and steel bolts, is corrosion, especially so-called galvanic corrosion, which may reduce the product life dramatically. Galvanic corrosion damage is induced when two dissimilar materials are coupled in an electrolyte. When a galvanic couple forms, one of the metals becomes the anode and corrodes faster than it would by itself. The other material becomes the cathode and corrodes slower than it would alone. Nord-Lock steel washers with Delta Protekt coating use the principle of controlled galvanic corrosion. Zinc material in this coating protects the cathode (the washer steel material).

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