Tightening stainless steel fasteners 28 April 2021

Here, Bill Eccles – from Bolt Science – answers a common question regarding stainless steel fasteners – ‘why do some stainless steel fasteners seize during tightening, as well as when they are attempted to be untightened?’

Stainless steel and high alloy fasteners can unpredictably sustain galling (cold welding). Stainless steel self generates an oxide surface film for corrosion protection.

During fastener tightening, as pressure builds between the contacting and sliding, thread surfaces, protective oxides are broken, possibly wiped off, and interface metal high points shear or lock together.

This cumulative clogging shearing locking action causes increasing adhesion. In the extreme, galling leads to seizing – the actual freezing together of the threads. If tightening is continued, the fastener can be twisted off or its threads ripped out.

The torque will not be converted into bolt preload if galling is occurring because of high friction. This may be the cause of the problems. The change may be due to the surface roughness changing on the threads or other similar minor changes.

If galling is found to be a problem, suggestions include slowing down the installation RPM speed, which may possibly solve or reduce the frequency of the problem. As the installation RPM increases, the heat generated during tightening increases. As the heat increases, so does the tendency for the occurrence of thread galling.

Lubricating the internal and/or external threads frequently can eliminate thread galling. The lubricants usually contain substantial amounts of molybdenum disulphide (moly). Some extreme pressure waxes can also be effective.

Be careful however, if using stainless steel fasteners in food related applications some lubricants may be unacceptable. Lubricants can be applied at the point of assembly or pre-applied as a batch process similar to plating.

A finish applied to a stainless steel fastener can separate the surfaces and prevent galling allowing the full tightening torque to be applied. A PTFE coating is sometimes used for this purpose.

Different combinations of nut and bolt materials can assist in reducing or even eliminating galling. Some organisations specify a different material, such as aluminium bronze nuts. However, this can introduce a corrosion problem since aluminium bronze is anodic to stainless steel. 



Deputy Editor

Claire Aldridge Deputy Editor t: +44 (0) 1727 743 889


Having joined the magazine in 2012, Claire developed her knowledge of the industry through the numerous company visits, exhibitions and conferences she attended both in the UK and abroad.

Claire prides herself on keeping readers well informed and up to date with the latest industry news.