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What Are Locking Washers and How Do They Work?

  • November 20, 2020
Locking washers

Washers are often used in conjunction with a bolt and nut. A washer is placed through the bolt’s threading, after which it’s secured with a nut. With a washer in place, the load of the fastened object or objects is distributed more evenly. There are different types of washers, however, including locking washers. What are locking washers exactly, and how do they work?

The Basics of Locking Washers

A locking washer is a type of washer that’s designed specifically to prevent the bolt with which it’s used from loosening. Like other washers, they’ll distribute the load of the fastened object or objects more evenly. Locking washers go one step further, though, by “locking” the bolts in place.

Bolts can loosen over time. If installed in a machine or piece of equipment, a bolt may gradually loosen. Eventually, the bolt may work its way out of the threading hole where it was originally installed. Locking washers prevent this from happening by securing the bolt in place. Even if the machine or equipment produces heavy vibrations, the bolt shouldn’t loosen if it’s secured with a locking washer.

Some of the most common types of locking washers include the following:

  • Split washers
  • Spring washers
  • Wedge washers

How Locking Washers Work

Locking washers work by exerting downward tension. When inspecting a locking washer, you may notice that it doesn’t have a complete circular shape. While most traditional washers are circular, locking washers have a slightly different shape. They consist of a semi-raised piece of circular metal. In other words, locking washers feature a coiled design, which is responsible for their locking action.

With their coiled design, locking washers work in a similar way as a spring. Springs, of course, exert tension when exposed to pressure. Locking washers share this characteristic trait by exerting tension as well. When you twist a nut onto a bolt, it will press against the locking washer. The locking washer will then generate tension that secures the bolt in place.

In Conclusion

For applications in which a bolt may loosen, locking washers are typically used. They receive their namesake from their ability to lock bolts in place. Most locking washers work by exerting downward tension that forces the bolt to stay inside the threading hole of the object or object with which it’s used. Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of locking washers and how they work.


See Monroe’s Locking Washers.


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