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Comparing the 3 Main Types of Washers

Washers play an important role in the manufacturing industry, with manufacturing companies using them to evenly distribute the weight or load of a fastener like a screw. Of course, washers have other applications as well as, including the ability to create space between the head of a fastener and the object to which it’s secured; reduce vibrations and to lock a fastener in place. Not all washers are the same, however, and it’s important for manufacturing companies to choose the right type. While there are hundreds of different types of washers, most fall under one of three categories.

#1) Plain Washers

The most common type, plain washers are designed to spread and distribute the load of a fastener and protect the object to which it’s secured from damage. The fastener is pushed through the plain washer until the washer reaches the head, after which the fastener is driven or otherwise secured to the object. Examples of plain washers include flat washers, fender washers, repair washers, wall washers and torque washers.

#2) Locking Washers

Locking washers live up to their namesake by featuring a unique design that prevents them from unfastening. They typically featured a rigid or pronged design that “locks” the washer in place. Vibrations can cause plain washers to unfasten over time, but locking washers don’t suffer from this problem. Once installed, they remain securely in place with little or no movement. This makes them particularly useful in applications such as automotive and aerospace.

#3) Spring Washers

Finally, spring washers are characterized by axial flexibility that, like locking washers, prevents them from unfastening. They work in a similar manner as locking washers, with the only real difference being greater axial flexibility.

Construction of Washers

Most washers can be categorized as either plain, locking or spring. Regardless of type, though, you can find washers available in a variety of materials. Carbon steel is a popular choice of materials for washers because of its high strength. When carbon is added to steel, it creates a stronger metal. The downside is that carbon steel lacks the rust- and corrosion-resistant properties of stainless steel, which is another common material in which washers are made.

You’ll also find washers available in alternative metals like copper, aluminum, brass, bronze and titanium. Plastics like polyethylene and PTFE are also used to make washers. It’s important for companies and consumers alike to choose washers made of the right materials for their respective application. If moisture is a concern, for example, stainless steel washers are probably the best choice.