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Keeping It All Together, Part 1

Keeping It All Together
How A Bolt Works
By Joseph C. Dille
BMWMOA #24754

Part 1 of 3

Except for a few taper and press fits, our BMW motorcycles are held together with threaded fasteners. Improperly
installed fasteners can fail by loosening or through outright breaking, causing a dangerous situation. In this
installment, I will describe the basics of how fasteners work and how they should be installed. I will also point out
a few simple things to look for when installing fasteners.

A screw thread is an extension of one of the basic machines, the inclined plane that, has been wrapped around a
shaft. When the thread is turned, it moves the mating part or nut up the inclined plane. When more turning force,
or torque is applied to the shaft, the more force is exerted on the nut. This force creates a tension in the bolt,
which clamps the mating parts together. Preload is the technical term for the tension caused by tightening the
fastener that holds the assembled parts together. Generating sufficient preload force is the key to strong and
reliable bolted joints that will not loosen or break under load. Figure 1a shows the forces that act on a bolted
joint.

Figure 1a, Force Diagram For Typical Bolted Joint

It is often helpful to think of the fastener as a spring (see Figure 2a). It may seem odd to think of your bike as
being held together by a bunch of springs, but this analogy works to show what happens when a bolt is
tightened. Rotating the bolt, which in turn stretches the spring, generates the preload force. The more the bolt is

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Part 1 rotated.com/~joe/KIAT/kiat_1. the more it stretches and generates more preload or tension.jtan. Figure 2a http://home. Keeping It All Together.htm (2 of 6) [7/27/2007 10:03:16 AM] .

the greater the friction. As a practical matter. not the fastener. even if they expand a little or the mating parts shrink. Joints with soft gaskets such as the oil pan or valve covers are an exception to the More-Preload-is Better rule. flywheel bolts. but a much stiffer spring. joint failure occurs well before the fasteners actually break because the parts that are being held together will loosen and not function properly. Examples of this include connecting rod bolts. It is important that the preload force be maintained in the fastener during operation. because it will prevent the assembled parts from moving and the joint from loosening. This translates mathematically to: Fc=Fp-Ft. the joint will separate. there is no clamping force. Engine-mounting studs on an airhead boxer are close to the ideal because the engine case and frame are much stiffer than the studs. The friction between the parts carries the load. The mating parts also act like a spring. With a properly designed and tightened joint. the mating parts are much. it will continue to take increased tensile loads until the ultimate tensile strength of the fastener(s) is reached and the fasteners break. tension force or a combination of both. Joints are stronger and more fatigue resistant with greater preload force. If the tension load is increased beyond the initial preload force. A highly preloaded joint is also more resistant to cycling loads since less of the cyclic portion of the load is experienced by the fastener. Part 1 The clamping force Fc is the difference between the preload force and the tension force Ft on the joint. However. It is important to note that for a joint with stiff mating parts the load on the bolt remains constant (at Fp) until the tensile load is greater than the preload force. This allows them to maintain their preload. Keeping It All Together. Joints are loaded with shear force. which causes leaks. The other type of joint is loaded by shear force (Fs). airhead cylinder studs. In the ideal case. the greater the clamping force. High loads can deform the gasket or mating surface. When there are no tension loads applied to the joint. and the stronger the joint. and they need to be stretched a relatively large amount to generate the preload force. The clamping force is what holds the parts together. the bolt will not experience a direct shear load. the friction between the parts keep them from moving when subject to a shear force. much stiffer than the fastener. Proper preload is the key to reliable bolted joints (see figure 3a).com/~joe/KIAT/kiat_1. Highly loaded or critical fasteners tend to be long. An example of this type of joint would be a shock absorber mount or the driveshaft flange on an airhead. the clamping force equals the preload force. http://home. If the tension load is equal to the preload. In a joint loaded in tension the joint separating forces are opposed by the preload force on the bolt.htm (3 of 6) [7/27/2007 10:03:16 AM] . The greater the preload force. A simplistic view is that the ultimate strength of the joint is limited by the strength of the bolt. the higher the preload force the better the joint. In a joint loaded in shear. A good example of this is a cylinder head. K-bike rear wheel bolts and. Even after the joint separates. In general.jtan. the preload force determines the strength of the joint.

Table 1 gives the Industrial Fastener Institute’s estimate of the effectiveness of various preloading methods.com/~joe/KIAT/kiat_1. Aerospace Fasteners Group) If preload is so important. Keeping It All Together.35% variation listed for "feel" is conservative because it is developed in a production environment in which the same wrench is used every time. Part 1 Figure 3a (Courtesy of SPS Technologies. The ideal way is to measure it directly with strain gauges or some other force-indicating instrument. the preload force can be ascertained by measuring the elongation of the fastener. the torque is used to establish the preload.htm (4 of 6) [7/27/2007 10:03:16 AM] .jtan.5% Strain Gauges +/. The fastener is then tightened a specified amount of rotation with the help of an angle indication tool. how is it set? This is the 102. Since the fastener is essentially a spring. Tightening the fastener creates the preload.1% Table 1 I suspect the +/.000dm question. Angle torquing is a more accurate method in which the joint is tightened to a low torque to take up slack in the joint. the preload is related to the applied torque by the torque-tension relationship: Fp = T/(D *K) Fp = the preload T = the torque where: D = the thread diameter K = a "tightening factor" or "K-value" specific for the assembly conditions For many industrial and automotive applications. Ideally. Preload Measuring Method Error +/- Operator "Feel" 35% +/- Torque Wrench 25% +/- Angle Torquing 15% +/- Load Indicating Washer 10% Fastener Elongation +/. Special washers are also available that produce an indication when the desired preload is achieved. This is impractical and unnecessary for all but the most critical applications such as aircraft turbine engines. The most direct method is to mount a strain gage on the fastener or mating part to indicate the preload force while tightening. Wrench type and handle length and shape change the http://home. Angle torquing is sometimes called the "Turn of Nut" method in industrial publications.

In the extreme case the bolts stretch when tightened to the recommended torque. Manufacturers are aware of this and use a safety factor when designing assemblies to account for the inconsistency in the K-value. Fasteners have a good margin to allow for this variation. The threaded fasteners in our motorcycles work by stretching when tightened to produce a tension that clamps parts together." However. and lubrication. I have experience that shows this to be true. Keeping It All Together. Test the bolt with the nut or threaded hole to make sure it turns freely. Part 1 amount of torque applied. They can be cleaned with spray cleaner and compressed air. this produces a preload force with a potential for a +/-25% error. BMW uses the angle torquing method for highly stressed fasteners such as K-bike connecting rods and R11/12 cylinder heads. Tightening to a specified torque is the most common way of tightening/preloading fasteners. Heavily damaged fasteners should be replaced.htm (5 of 6) [7/27/2007 10:03:16 AM] . However. I have a 10mm sockets in 1/4.9%. The bolts should be assembled dry. The tightening torque specification is developed using a "K" value for dry threads. Attention to detail when reassembling improves the consistency of the K-value and improves the consistency of the preload generated by tightening. It is important to heed the manufacturer’s specification for thread lubrication if provided. However. For the test. Lubricating with a high-pressure lubricant like anti-seize reduces the friction. Glossary: http://home. Dirt and debris in the threads can also cause them to bind. hardness. At work.) Light damage can be cleaned up with the appropriate tap or die. I am sure I apply more torque when using the 1/2" drive than the 1/4" drive. the same torque wrench. The fastener is tightened to a seating torque to take up the slack and then tightened by turning it a specified number of degrees regardless of torque using a tool to measure the amount of rotation. and the same technique. BMW also publishes the DIN/ISO standard for all fasteners not specifically called out in the assembly instructions. I assumed that the preload required to yield all screws was the same because they were from the same production lot from a reputable manufacturer. This method is only used for certain highly loaded critical fasteners where the application warrants the extra time and expense such as with automotive head bolts sometimes use this technique.com/~joe/KIAT/kiat_1. One critical area where this is spelled out is in BMW’s documentation for the K-bike rear wheel bolts. 3/8" and 1/2" drive sizes. (Bumps on our inclined planes reduce their efficiency. the tightening torque should be recalculated to account for the lower thread friction. It may be tempting to add an anti-seize paste to prevent rust and make them easier to remove later. Heavily encrusted threads may have to be cleaned first with a tap. material. For those readers who may doubt that there can be a +/-25% variation in preload when using a torque wrench. The good news is that there is a conservative amount of safety factored into the joint design. I used the same parts. Torque is a relatively poor way of generating preload because the value for K can be greatly influenced by the friction of the threads of the screw or nut on the parts and the friction of the bearing surface of the head. Threaded connections should turn freely with no binding when assembling.7%. My results gave a perfectly normal distribution of torques with a standard deviation of 7. It is interesting to note that using a torque wrench gives a relatively small improvement over operator "feel. Friction changes with surface finish. I did an experiment where I torqued 36 screws to the point where they yielded (stretched). BMW and other manufacturers specify the torque of critical fasteners. the same lubrication. resulting in a much greater preload than the nominal design value. or bolt with a flat filed about 1/3 of the way across on one side. using a torque wrench to set preload is still better than feel. For example. This statistic indicates that 99% of the screws would yield at the mean torque value +/-23.jtan. If it does not. If anti-seize is used. inspect the threads for damage. Angle torquing is a more accurate way of preloading fasteners. which is darn close to +/-25%.

(Our spring has stretched. See figure 1a Torque- The twisting force applied to a fastener usually expressed an Newton-meters (N-m) or foot-pounds (ft-lb). Bolt- Threaded fastener tightened by applying torque to a nut. Keeping It All Together.jtan. Part 1 DIN - Deutsche Industrial Norms ISO- International Standards Organization Preload- The tensile (pulling) force generated by tightening the fastener. "The Nuts and Bolts of Bolting" Dille's Home Joe's Publications Page Page Visits http://home. Torque Wrench- Special Wrench used to tighten a fastener to a specified torque. Yield- The condition where sufficient tensile force has been applied to cause the fastener to permanently deform. Screw- Threaded fastener tightened by applying torque on the head.com/~joe/KIAT/kiat_1.) Continue to Part 2.htm (6 of 6) [7/27/2007 10:03:16 AM] .