What Are Split Washers?

Split washer by Monroe Engineering

Washers are commonly used with bolts and nuts. Consisting of a disk-shaped piece of metal, they are designed to distribute the load of a bolt. You can place a washer around a bolt, after which you can drive the bolt into an object, followed by securing the end with a nut. While most washers consist of a solid and flat piece of metal, split washers feature a different design.

Overview of Split Washers

Also known as spring lock washers, split washers are characterized by a break point. Unlike flat washers, they don’t consist of a solid and flat piece of metal. Rather, split washers are broken or “split.” This unique design means that one side of a split washer is higher than the other side. Split washers are made by “splitting” a ring of metal, followed by twisting the metal.

How Split Washers Work

You can use split washers in the same way as most other washers, including flat washers. Split washers are designed for use with bolts and nuts. You can run a bolt through a split washer, and you can then drive the bolt into an object. The split washer will help to distribute the load of the bolt more evenly.

Split washers, however, offer a higher level of protection against vibrations than traditional flat washers. As shown in the photo above, split washers aren’t flat. They are designed with a break point that makes one side higher than the other side. When you drive a bolt with a split washer into an object, the split washer will compress. It will essentially act as a spring. The split washer will compress while simultaneously pushing back against the mating surface.

When to Use Split Washers

Not all applications require the use of split washers. For many fastening applications, traditional flat washers will suffice. You should consider using split washers, however, if vibrations are a concern. Machines and equipment often produce vibrations. Over time, the vibrations produced by machines or equipment may cause some of their bolts to loosen. And if the bolts aren’t tightened, they may come out completely.

Split washers can prevent bolts from loosening due to vibrations. As a machine or piece of equipment vibrates, the split washer will push back into it. Split washers are ideal for applications involving vibrations because they prevent the bolts with which they are used from loosening.