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Small Parts, Big Difference: Applying Correct Torque to Bolts

Bayou City Bolt

Bolts and screws are so ubiquitous that it’s impossible to fully articulate their
importance or applications. These fasteners literally hold the world around us together. From
the rigors of industry, to the rumble of cars, trains and planes, to the furniture that adorns our
homes and offices, bolts play an integral role in assembling the materials that structure our
Perhaps it’s their ubiquity that makes bolts so underappreciated as a mechanical
component. Too often bolt selection is made in haste. The purchaser believes he or she has
their assembly challenge met after considering just a few parameters. What shank diameter
and length do I need? Metric or imperial? Thread pitch?
When a bolt-fastened joint fails, not only have the workpieces been ruined, but the
purchaser is none the wiser as to why that joint failed. Worse yet, a dissatisfied customer often
shifts blame to faulty hardware or a mediocre supplier.
But a supplier with superior product knowledge and exceptional customer service can
make an enormous impact on your company’s bottom line. Bayou City Bolt has more than 50
years of experience with helping customers find the right hardware for any application.
Fastener orders from Bayou City Bolt are on time; bolts are always to specification; and they are
affordable for any organization.

Why Torque Matters

Why did that joint fail? More than likely, it was an issue of inadequate torqueing. Proper
torqueing is vital to the function of the bolt and is determined by several, often conflicting
A properly tightened bolt has its material stretched slightly, but not beyond its elastic
limit. The bolt material, most commonly steel, resists this natural stretching and creates a
clamping force upon the assembled substrates. Similarly, the substrate materials resist
compression to balance the clamping pressure; this is known as the joint preload. A correctly-
tightened bolt shares the preload with workpieces.
An over-torqued bolt that is stretched beyond its elastic limit is severely weakened,
diminishing its effective load capacity. An under-torqued bolt or screw will allow negligible
separation between the workpieces, which seems trivial at first, but after consistent dynamic
loading or other operating stresses, the gap between workpieces will grow. A gap in the joint
represents no joint preload. Without the return force of the compressed substrates, the bolt is
solely relied upon for joint assembly—a condition that inevitably leads to joint failure.
Determining Proper Torque
Even experienced tradesmen over- or under-torque bolts. Truthfully, product
information rarely supplies torque values. Common bolt torque values can be looked up, but
finding an accurate reference isn’t always easy. Bolt torque can be checked with a tool such as
a torque wrench, but without a value as a guideline, a torque wrench offers no advantage. To
arrive at the correct torque value, several other values must be found first.
Two principles influence the correct clamping pressure for each bolt, known as clamp
load. The first is bolt diameter. The second is the class of the bolt, defined by the bolt’s tensile
strength, which in turn is determined by the material of construction. Thankfully, standards
organizations have assembled the standard tensile strengths for common bolts into easy-to-use
standards. SAE J429 governs imperial sizes, while ISO 898 governs metric-size bolts.

SAE J429
Bolt grade Bolt material Bolt diameter Minimum tensile strength
Grade 2 Low- to medium-grade carbon ¼ to ¾ in. 74,000 psi
steels > ¾ to 1½ in. 60,000 psi

Grade 5 medium carbon steels that have ½ to 1 in. 120,000 psi

been quenched and tempered > 1 to 1½ in. 105,000 psi

Grade 8 medium alloy steels that have ¼ to 1½ in. 150,000 psi

been quenched and tempered

Grade 18-8 stainless steel ¼ to 1½ in. 65,000 psi

ISO 898
Bolt class Bolt material Bolt Diameter Minimum tensile strength
Class 8.8 medium carbon steels that have been <16 mm 800 MPa
quenched and tempered 16 to 72 mm 830 MPa

Class 10.9 alloy steels that have been quenched 5 to 100 mm 1040 MPa
and tempered

Class 12.9 alloy steels that have been quenched 1.6 to 100 mm 1220 MPa
and tempered

Class A-2 stainless steel All thru 20 mm 500 MPa

For imperial bolts, grades 5 and 8 are most common. SAE J429 conforming bolts will
have radial markings machined on the head of the bolt that indicate bolt grade. A grade 2 bolt
has no markings, a grade 5 bolt will have three markings, while a grade 8 bolt will have six lines.
Metric bolts are more simply identified: the class is explicitly stamped on the bolt head.
Other standards regulate specific types or applications for bolts and they should be
consulted as needed. Examples include, but are not limited to those in the accompanying table.

Standard Bolt specifications Bolt diameter Minimum tensile strength

ASTM A325 Standard specification for structural ½ to 1 in. 120,000 psi
bolts, steel, heat-treated >1 to 1½ in. 105,000 psi

ASTM A490 Standard specification for structural ½ to 1½ in. 150,000 psi

bolts, alloy steel, heat-treated
ASTM A193 B7 Standard specification for alloy- Up to 2½ in. 125,000 psi
steel and stainless steel bolting for
high temperature or high pressure >2½ to 4 in. 115,000 psi
service and other special purpose

Utilizing bolt class information, the clamp load of the bolt can be determined with the following
𝑃 = 𝑆𝑡 × 𝐴𝑠
𝑃: clamp load
𝑆𝑡: bolt tensile strength
𝐴𝑠: tensile stress area

The value for tensile stress area can be determined from:

𝐴𝑠 = × (𝐷 − (.938194 × 𝑝))2
𝐷: bolt diameter
𝑝: 1/threads per inch (TPI)

Clamp load is typically around 75% of a bolt’s proof load; that is, the highest stress the
bolt can accommodate before experiencing plastic deformation. The proof load itself is usually
85% to 95% of a bolt’s yield strength, but the clamp load is significant because it is what
ultimately provides the clamping pressure. Once the clamp load is determined, finding the
correct torque value for a bolt is one simple calculation away.
𝑇 =𝐾 ×𝐷 ×𝑃
𝐾: coefficient of friction (as determined by bolt surface treatments)

Common coefficient of friction values:

Bolt surface 𝐾
Nonplated, black finish 0.3
Zinc plated 0.2
Lubricated 0.18
Cadmium plated 0.16

As an example, we can utilize the equation to find the correct torque value for a zinc-
plated, heavy structural bolt, in this instance belonging to ASTM A325 with a ¾ inch diameter
and 10 TPI.
𝜋 . 938194 2
𝐴𝑠 = × (¾ 𝑖𝑛. − ( ))
4 10

𝐴𝑠 = .3382 𝑖𝑛.2

Using this value, the clamp force can now be identified.

𝑃 = 120,000 × .3382
𝑃 = 40,684 𝑙𝑏.

And finally, the torque value for this bolt can be

𝑇 = .2 × ¾ × 40,684
𝑇 = 6,087.6 𝑖𝑛. ‐ 𝑙𝑏.

In many ways Bayou City Bolt is like the bolts we sell: built with integrity, completely
reliable, and a fundamental part of operational stability. On top of an unrivaled catalogue of
hard-to-find fasteners with the lowest minimums, Bayou City Bolt is the premier hardware
supplier in the southern United States. See for yourself what our customers already know: that
the smallest components can make the biggest difference in every industry. Visit or talk to a representative at 866-670-4008.