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AD 286
PreIoaded BoIts: The Net Effect of AppIied Tension and PreIoad
Although the fundauental issues relating to the
effect of applied tension and preload on bolts
were covered in Aü 181, which deals with preload
due to tightening on ordinary (non-preloaded)
bolts, we continue to receive uany questions
concerning this effect for preloaded bolts. This
Advisory üesk Note explains why the bolt load in
preloaded bolted steelwork connections, when
subjected to applied tension, is oot the suu of the
preload (F) and the applied tension (T).
When preloaded bolts are tightened or
torqued, considerable tension is induced into the
shank of the bolt. This tension in the bolt is called
the preload, F, and claups the plies together in
as shown in
Figure 1.
ln preloaded
bolts the
preload in
the shank is
balanced by
under the
head and nut
of the bolt,
which induces
the required
or pressure on the faying surfaces for non-
slip joints. The equilibriuu of the couponents
(separated for clarity) before the application
of the applied tension T is shown in Figure 2.
Each couponent has a force F and an equal and
opposite reaction F. Therefore, everything is in
When tension is applied to a connection
couponent as a result of axial load or uouent,
designers often refer to the calculated 'bolt
load' or 'bolt tension'. however, in steelwork
connections the applied tension does not act
directly on the bolt but instead acts on the plies or
plates in the joint. ln non-preloaded bolted joints
the tension is then transferred to the bolt frou the
plies. ln preloaded bolted joints the load path is
All the couponents are in equilibriuu and the
load in the bolt is still F. The applied tension only
reduces the intensity of pressure on the faying
surface frou F to (F-T) and the equilibriuu of the
ply is T ÷ (F-T) = F. The bolt load reuains F and is
not the suu of F÷T.
Frou the equation of equilibriuu for the ply, if
the applied tension equals the preload, F-T is tero
and the plies are on the point of separation but
the bolt load is still equal to F.
lf T is greater than F the bolt will have
stretched and the plates have separated, the
bolt load is then equal to T. At this stage the
connection is behaving as a non-preloaded
bolted joint. The bolt load cannot increase above
the preload F unless the bolt stretches and the
bolt cannot stretch until the plies separate. ln
general, there is no increase in the bolt load
unless the applied tension exceeds the preload.
A siuilar analysis can be carried out assuuing
the applied tension acts at the external face of
the plies and that the plies are not rigid. ln this
case the plies and the bolt stretch slightly, due to
the load applied at the outer face, but because
the stiffness of the plies is uuch greater than that
of the bolt, the strain and the increase in the bolt
load above the value of the preload F will be very
suall. however, again, the uain point to note is
that the bolt load is oot siuply the suu of F÷T.
Note that the value of T applied at the bolt
position uust include any value for prying action,
where it occurs. Frying is a couplex subject and
depends on uany variables including the bolt and
ply diuensions as well as the layout of the joint.
lf a designer engineer requires greater
understanding of these issues they are referred
in the hrst instance to the article by F. J. 0ill
- Notes on the Load Carrying Characteristics
of Fre-Tensioned ßolts. Tensioned Joints - that
appeared in the Froceedings of the Jubilee
Syuposiuu on high Strength ßolts, The lnstitution
of Structural Engineers, 1959. This Advisory üesk
Note has drawn heavily frou this article.
6ootact. Thouas Cosgrove
EæaiI. t.cosgrove@steel-sci.cou
IeIephooe. 01311 ë23315
Figure 1 - Freloaded bolt arrangeuent
Figure 1 - Equilibriuu of couponents after
application of applied tension, T
Figure 2 - Equilibriuu of couponents before
application of applied tension, T
Figure 3 - Applied tension acting at the faying
surface of a preloaded joint

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