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Towards an understanding of the loosening

characteristics of prevailing torque nuts

Article in ARCHIVE Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Part C Journal of Mechanical
Engineering Science 1989-1996 (vols 203-210) February 2010
DOI: 10.1243/09544062JMES1493


9 90

3 authors, including:

Bill Eccles Ian Sherrington

University of Central Lancashire University of Central Lancashire


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Towards an understanding of the loosening

characteristics of prevailing torque nuts
W Eccles , I Sherrington, and R D Arnell
Jost Institute for Tribotechnology, School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Central
Lancashire, Lancashire, UK

The manuscript was received on 20 December 2008 and was accepted after revision for publication on 4 August 2009.
DOI: 10.1243/09544062JMES1493

Abstract: Prevailing torque nuts are an extremely popular method of providing resistance to
vibration-induced self-loosening of fasteners. Such nuts have a self-contained prevailing torque
feature that provides a degree of resistance to rotation. Although such nuts are frequently used,
it is not widely realized that they can occasionally come completely detached from bolts. The
mechanism by which this can occur has hitherto been unidentified since it has not been possible
to replicate detachment under laboratory testing. This article identifies a general condition that
can result in the complete loosening and detachment of prevailing torque type nuts. This mecha-
nism involves the application of an axial load when transverse joint slip is occurring. This article
describes a modified Junker test machine that allows the application of axial loading to a joint
while experiencing transverse displacement. Tests have been completed using an intermittent
as well as a constant axial load. Loading in both modes has been demonstrated to result in the
complete detachment of this nut type. Based on this investigation, if the magnitude of the axial
loading exceeds the residual preload in the bolt retained from sustaining transverse movement
alone, the all-metal type of prevailing torque nut can completely detach. Applications that involve
shear and axial loading being simultaneously applied to a joint are numerous in engineering.

Keywords: prevailing torque type nut, self-loosening, Junker test, vibration, fastener, nut

1 INTRODUCTION nut is in extensive use across most industries and is

probably the most common type of locking device for
Prevailing torque type nuts are commonly used to threaded fasteners.
try to prevent self-loosening and/or detachment of There are many varieties of such nuts, but in general
threaded fasteners. Prevailing torque nuts were devel- they can all be classified into one of two categories,
oped over 100 years ago [1] and have the essential those with a non-metallic insert or those which are
characteristic that a torque is needed to rotate the nut all-metal. Non-metallic insert nuts typically generate a
down the thread of an untightened bolt. One advan- prevailing torque by incorporating a polymer insert in
tage of this type of nut is that the locking feature can be the top of the nut that is deformed by the bolt thread. (A
verified at the time of assembly by measuring the pre- nut of this type is illustrated in Fig. 1(a)). The all-metal
vailing torque. A problem with re-use of nylon insert variety achieves the prevailing torque by either distort-
nuts is that the prevailing torque can decrease as a ing the top nut threads by introducing slots (Fig. 1(b)),
result of wear [2]. Modern standards for all-metal pre- making the top threads elliptical shaped (Fig. 1(c)), or
vailing torque nuts, however, stipulate that a minimum introducing spring steel inserts (Fig. 1(d)).
level of prevailing torque, for a given thread size, must There have been instances when new prevailing
be maintained for up to five re-uses [3]. This type of torque nuts that still retain a prevailing torque have
become detached from assemblies. The causes of such
failures have not been understood since the standard
Corresponding author: Department of Technology, University of method of test, the Junker (Deutsches Institut fr Nor-
Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire PR1 2HE, UK. mung (DIN) 65151) test, has been unable to reproduce
email: such loosening. One such failure is shown in Fig. 2;

JMES1493 Proc. IMechE Vol. 223 Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science

2 W Eccles, I Sherrington, and R D Arnell

[6] reported on work he completed in the 1960s in

which he found that transverse vibration could com-
pletely loosen fasteners. The test machine originally
developed by Junker had the capability to allow a com-
bination of cyclic axial and transverse vibration to be
applied to a joint. He reported only on the effect of
transverse vibration since he found that this mode
of loading had a greater effect on self-loosening than
other loading directions. Koga [7] reported on the
effects of axial impacts on the loosening of fasteners.
Subsequent papers in the literature largely focused on
the effect of pure transverse vibration on the locking
characteristics of fasteners.
Riches [8] was the first to investigate the loosening
characteristics of commercially available prevailing
torque nuts under transverse vibration. His work was
part of a government contract and was not in the pub-
lic domain at the time. His work showed that prevailing
torque nuts do not fully loosen under transverse
Fig. 1 The principal types of prevailing torque nuts: vibration. He also found that there was some corre-
(a) non-metallic insert prevailing torque nut, (b) lation between the magnitude of the prevailing torque
all-metal prevailing torque nut with slots used and the locking efficiency. Essentially, the higher the
to distort the thread, (c) all-metal prevailing prevailing torque, the higher was the retained preload.
torque nut with the top of the thread elliptical Finkelston [9] was the first to publish, in the public
shaped, and (d) all-metal prevailing torque nut domain, the role that a prevailing torque plays in main-
with spring steel inserts taining preload when a joint is subjected to transverse
vibration. He found that a prevailing torque reduces
the rate of preload loss and will also stop the loos-
ening process when the prevailing torque counteracts
the loosening torque. For the prevailing torque nuts,
he tested (3/8 16 tpi having a prevailing torque
of 60 in-lb, which is 6.8 Nm), the loosening stopped
with approximately 10 per cent of the initial preload
remaining. In the 1970s and early 1980s large scale
studies (reported in references [8], [10], and [11]) were
completed by commercial organizations to assess the
loosening resistance of a large number of proprietary
Fig. 2 Failed bolt illustrating the loosening of the locking devices. These tests included a large range of
non-metallic insert nut prevailing torque nuts. All these tests were completed
under purely transverse vibration and, in general, it
it is an M24 bolt from a bus engine mounting. A non- was found that prevailing torque fasteners retained a
metallic insert nut was used to resist any self-loosening steady-state preload, but at levels well below the initial
tendency. However, it was found that this came loose preload.
and in at least one instance completely detached from In 1994 the German standards authority DIN pub-
the bolt. A split pin was introduced in an attempt to lished the DIN 65151 standard [12] that assessed the
prevent this, but this was unsuccessful. Figure 2 shows loosening characteristics of fasteners based purely
the pin being sheared, the bolt failing by fatigue before on transverse vibration. This standard became widely
this was achieved. The reason why the non-metallic accepted by industry as the basis of assessing a
insert nut was ineffective in preventing complete loos- fasteners locking/loosening characteristics.
ening and detachment was never established at the In 1996, Sase et al. [2] completed tests on a range
time of investigation into this failure. of M8 locking nuts including nylon insert and all-
Goodier and Sweeney [4] in 1945 tested axially metal prevailing torque nuts. They evaluated a range
loaded bolted joints dynamically and failed to com- of test approaches to loosen fasteners including axial
pletely loosen them. They also offered details of a vibration, transverse vibration, and impact loadings.
possible mechanism for partial self-loosening. Sauer They concluded that transverse vibration results in the
et al. [5] built upon their work by applying the axial greatest loosening tendency. They developed two loos-
loading rapidly by using a fatigue testing machine, ening devices, one which applied low-frequency vibra-
but still failed to achieve complete loosening. Junker tion and another that used a shaker table to impart

Proc. IMechE Vol. 223 Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science JMES1493

Towards an understanding of the loosening characteristics of prevailing torque nuts 3

high-frequency transverse vibration into a joint. The transverse vibration will lead to loosening of prevailing
nylon insert nuts they tested displayed some resis- torque nuts but a residual preload will be retained
tance to loosening after their preload had reduced to in the bolt and detachment will not occur. What has
about 25 per cent of the starting value. On the nuts not been demonstrated to date are the precise con-
they tested, the loosening resistance was lost when the ditions that can lead to the detachment of prevailing
nut was used repeatedly. On the third use, the nylon torque nuts when they have been tightened to preloads
insert nuts had lost their efficiency and acted as plain commonly used in practice.
nuts. (It should be noted that the relevant performance Based on the study of problematic joints in ser-
standard [3] requires that such nuts retain a minimum vice, the authors have speculated that axial loading
specified level of prevailing torque for five re-uses.) On combined with transverse movement may induce
the high-frequency test they completed, they found complete self-loosening and subsequent detachment
that nylon and metal-insert nuts did not significantly of prevailing torque nuts. The present standard test
perform any better than conventional nuts. method (DIN 65151 [12]) based on purely transverse
In 2004, DIN published [13] a document that cat- vibration is not able to replicate some service experi-
egorized prevailing torque nuts as loss prevention ence for prevailing torque nuts. Combined axial and
devices. The basis of the DIN document was again shear loads on joints are common in many applica-
that the joints would be tested under purely trans- tions. This includes the engine mounting joint bolt
verse vibration. They stated that the jamming effect on shown in Fig. 2 and wheel to hub joints on a car. (Shear
the threads generated by the prevailing torque feature loads can be imposed onto the joint by braking and
of the nuts cannot prevent the initial loosening of a axial loads from cornering.)
bolted connection. However, such loosening would be This article presents results from an experimental
halted as soon as the loosening torque was equal to the investigation of loosening of prevailing torque nuts.
prevailing torque. Thus a certain amount of preload All-metal prevailing torque nuts have been tested on
should be retained to prevent the bolted connection a modified Junker-type test machine that allows axial
from falling apart. as well as dynamic transverse loads to be imposed on
In 2006, Sawa et al. [14], and later in 2008, Bhat- the fasteners. The effect on the loosening characteris-
tacharya et al. [15] reported on transverse vibration tics was investigated for both static and dynamic axial
tests completed on a range of locking mechanisms loading. The objective was to establish under what
which included nylon insert nuts. In agreement with conditions complete loosening of the fasteners would
previous researchers, they found that with this type of occur. The experiments described in this article have
nut a steady-state preload was achieved after 1000 demonstrated that the combination of axial and trans-
test cycles. The transverse displacement that was used verse load has a profound effect on the loosening of
in the Bhattacharya et al. tests was relatively small prevailing torque nuts and conditions that lead to nut
(0.175 mm) for the sizes of fasteners that they tested removal can be unambiguously defined. This is novel
(M10 and M16). Cheatham et al. [16] in 2008 reported work and explains why instances of complete detach-
on the loosening of threaded inserts under trans- ment of prevailing torque nuts can occur in practice
verse vibration. They found that locking Heli-Coil with sometimes-catastrophic consequences.
inserts (which have a prevailing torque) also retained a
steady-state preload, but at levels well below the initial
Junker [6] showed that the rate of loosening was 2 LOOSENING TESTS USING A MODIFIED
independent of the frequency of the transverse vibra- JUNKERS MACHINE
tion. Other workers, such as Finkelston [9], showed
that increasing the amplitude of vibration increases Junker showed that transverse joint movement can
the loosening rate (the decrease in the preload per cause complete self-loosening of plain nuts. Based on
vibration cycle), but the characteristic shape of the this, he developed a test that is the present-day stan-
loosening curves remains the same. Additionally, dard method of assessing the locking performance of
increasing the frequency or amplitude of transverse fasteners. This test was formalized as the DIN 65151
vibration does not lead to the detachment of prevail- test [12]. The test involves inducing transverse move-
ing torque nuts. Tests in which bolted joints have been ment into a joint while simultaneously measuring the
excited by purely axial harmonic vibration have been fastener preload. A typical preload decay graph from
conducted by Hess and Davis [1721]. They found such a test for a prevailing torque nut is shown in Fig. 3.
that plain non-locking fasteners could be moved in After an initial stage of self-loosening, nut rotation
the tightening or loosening direction dependent on stops leaving a residual preload in the fastener. The
the frequency of the exciting vibration. The preload magnitude of the residual preload retained by a pre-
range that they investigated was, however, extremely vailing torque nut depends on the value of the prevail-
low (from 0 to 100 N) and well below the range nor- ing torque, the friction conditions, and the amplitude
mally used in practice. It can be readily shown that of the transverse movement. The residual preload can

JMES1493 Proc. IMechE Vol. 223 Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science

4 W Eccles, I Sherrington, and R D Arnell

subjected to transverse movement. The moving and

fixed base plates are separated by needle roller bear-
ings. The purpose of these bearings is to minimize
any friction between the joint surfaces that would
resist transverse movement. An eccentric cam con-
nected to an electric motor generates the transverse
movement. Unlike a standard Junker test machine, the
machine had a modification made to allow axial load-
ing to be imparted into the fastener independent of
the transverse movement. This was achieved by using
miniature hydraulic jacks to impart the axial load into
the joint with the oil pressure being used to regu-
Fig. 3 Preload decay curve for a typical M8 all-metal late the magnitude of the loading. The bolt tension
prevailing torque nut in a Junkers test (preload) can be recorded continuously with the aid of
a data-collection equipment.

also change with re-use since the prevailing torque can

decrease when the nut is re-used. 3 EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS
For the work described in this article a Junker
machine was modified to allow an axial load to be The tests involved tightening M8 electro-zinc-plated
imparted into a bolted joint while simultaneously bolts to a nominal preload of 15 kN prior to the start of
applying cyclic transverse displacement. The arrange- transverse motion. An axial load was then applied to
ment is illustrated in Figs 4 and 5. A load cell within the joint, the axial load being smaller in magnitude
the joint allows continuous monitoring of the bolt than the preload. Because of the mechanics of the
tension as transverse motion is applied to the bolted way the applied axial load is sustained by the joint,
joint. On the test machine used in this series of tests, this caused the bolt preload to be only marginally
the transverse displacement was 0.65 mm at a fre- increased. It was found that when transverse move-
quency of 12.5 Hz. The test bolt passes through a bush ment commenced, appropriate loading conditions led
that clamps the load cell to a fixed base plate. The to prevailing torque nuts initially suffering a rapid loss
nut is attached to the bolt through a plate that is of preload until the load in the bolt approached the
axial load being applied by the hydraulic system. Nut
rotation continues under the axial loading from the
jacks. At the completion of the test, the hydraulic pres-
sure is released reducing the load in the bolt to zero.
This process is illustrated in Fig. 6.
Several types of all-metal prevailing torque nuts
have been tested (but not reported here) and have
been found to have similar loosening characteristics

Fig. 4 Overall view of the test machine

Fig. 6 Preload decay graph with transverse joint dis-

Fig. 5 Section through the test machine placement and axial loading applied to the joint

Proc. IMechE Vol. 223 Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science JMES1493

Towards an understanding of the loosening characteristics of prevailing torque nuts 5

under a standard DIN 65151 test. Figure 3 illustrates level as if no axial loading has been applied. However,
a typical preload decay curve for this type of nut in Fig. 7(d) shows the decay curve when an axial load
that they all initially self-loosen but retain a residual of 3.1 kN is applied. In this case the nut continued to
preload. A major factor in determining the value of the rotate, the axial load was maintained and compen-
retained residual preload is the level of the prevailing sated for the load loss that occurred from nut rotation.
torque of the nut. In general, the higher the prevailing At the end of the test when the axial load was removed
torque, the higher will be the retained residual preload. by releasing the pressure from the hydraulic cylinders,
(Higher also will be the torsional stress induced into the residual preload was observed to be zero.
the fastener for a given level of preload.) In total over 50 In many applications, the axial loading is intermit-
nuts were tested, and, in general, the prevailing torque tent rather than having a constant magnitude. Figure 8
of better quality nuts remained reasonably constant illustrates results from a number of tests examining
when they were re-used up to five times. In the series the effect that an intermittent axial loading had on the
of tests reported here, tests were conducted to estab- self-loosening of M8 prevailing torque nuts. Figure 8(a)
lish the value of axial loading, which would result in shows the results of a test on a M8 all-metal prevail-
continued self-loosening of M8 prevailing torque nuts. ing torque nut with zero axial loading. The retained
The conditions for these tests are presented in Table 1 preload for this particular nut was 0.3 kN without
along with a summary of some of the results. axial loading. Figure 8(b) illustrates the effect of an
The procedure for testing first involved determining intermittent axial load of 0.7 kN being applied to the
the residual preload retained by the prevailing torque same nut. At each instance of loading, further rotation
nut with zero axial loading applied to the joint using of the nut occurred, which incrementally reduced the
a conventional Junker test. The results from one such preload. Figure 8(c) shows the results of another M8
test are shown in the graphs in Fig. 7(a). The residual all-metal prevailing torque nut with zero axial load. For
preload retained by the bolt in this case is 3.1 kN. Fig- this nut, the retained preload was 2.4 kN. Figure 8(d)
ures 7(b) and (c) show decay curves when axial loading illustrates the effect of an intermittent axial load of
of 1.1 and 2.7 kN was applied. In both situations the 3.5 kN. Again, further rotation of the nut occurred
bolt preload was retained at approximately the same that reduced the bolt preload to zero. Even after the
preload had been reduced to zero, nut rotation could
be observed when the axial load was applied while
Table 1 Results from Junker tests with and without axial transverse joint movement was occurring.
loading being present

Retained bolt
preload at the
Test Axial loading end of the test (kN) Details
In order to be able to build an analytical model of
1 None 0.8
2 5 kN Intermittent 0 Same nut as test 1
the loosening process, forces resisting loosening and
3 None 3.2 those promoting loosening need to be established. The
4 1.1 kN Constant 3.4 Same nut as test 3 relationship between the torque applied to a nut and
5 2.7 kN Constant 2.7 Same nut as test 3
6 3.1 kN Constant 0 Same nut as test 3
the preload generated by the bolt involves the thread
7 4.1 kN Constant 0 Same nut as test 3 and nut dimensions and the coefficient of friction in
8 None 0.8 the threads and under the nut face. There are various
9 1.1 kN Constant 0 Same nut as test 8
10 5.3 kN Constant 0 Same nut as test 8
forms of the torque-tension equation for threaded fas-
11 5 kN Intermittent 0 Same nut as test 8 teners. One form presented here is commonly used
12 None 0.4 for free spinning (plain) nuts, the tightening torque T
13 0.4 kN Constant 0.4 Same nut as test 12 being given [22]
14 1 kN Constant 0 Same nut as test 12
15 0.6 kN Constant 0 Same nut as test 12  
16 None 0.7 F p t d2
17 0.8 kN Constant 0 Same nut as test 16 T = + + D e n (1)
18 5 kN Intermittent 0 Same nut as test 16 2 cos
19 5 kN Intermittent 0 Same nut as test 16
20 5 kN Constant 0 Same nut as test 16 where De is the effective bearing diameter of the nut, F
21 5 kN Intermittent 0 Same nut as test 16
22 None 0.3
is the bolt preload, T is the tightening torque applied
23 0.7 kN Constant 0 Same nut as test 22 to the fastener, d2 is the basic pitch diameter of the
24 0.1 Constant 0.1 Same nut as test 22 thread, di is the inner bearing diameter of the nut
25 0.7 kN Intermittent 0 Same nut as test 22
26 None 0.7
face, do is the outer bearing diameter of the nut, p
27 0.5 kN Constant 2.4 Same nut as test 26 is the pitch of the thread, is the half included flank
28 2.2 kN Constant 0 Same nut as test 26 angle for the threads, n is the coefficient of friction for
29 3.5 kN Intermittent 0 Same nut as test 26
the nut face or bolt head (whichever is rotated during
The initial preload in all the tests was 15 kN. The test duration was tightening), and t is the coefficient of friction for the
typically 2 min (1500 transverse movement cycles). threads.

JMES1493 Proc. IMechE Vol. 223 Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science

6 W Eccles, I Sherrington, and R D Arnell

The value of De is taken as the mean of the outer and rotation is significantly reduced. The prevailing torque
inner bearing diameter of the nut [23] present from the nut resists loosening rotation but in
addition to the bolt stretch torque acting in the loos-
do + di ening direction, a further torque acts when slippage
De = (2)
2 occurs on the threads. As shown by Sakai [24] this
torque is due to differences in the resistance offered
The first term in the brackets in equation (1) is the between the ascending and descending sides of the
torque to stretch the bolt, this torque always acts in nut thread while it is sliding on the bolt thread. This
the loosening direction and its magnitude is indepen- is illustrated in Fig. 9. The thread surface is helical
dent of friction. The second and third terms in the and is inclined relative to the slip direction by the
brackets of equation (1) represent the torque needed lead angle . The inclined surfaces, when a transla-
to overcome thread friction and the torque needed tional movement occurs, have an ascending side and
to overcome nut face friction. When transverse slip a descending side which leads to a difference in the
of the joint occurs, the nut slides over the joint and forces between the two sides which in turn generates a
simultaneous slip occurs between the nut and the loosening torque. From Sakais work [24], Fig. 10 shows Q1
bolt threads. Under such conditions the resistance to linear slip occurring on a square thread. Friction acts

Fig. 7 Preload decay graph with transverse joint displacement and axial loading applied to the
joint: (a) no axial loading applied, (b) 1.1 kN axial loading applied, (c) 2.7 kN axial loading
applied, and (d) 3.1 kN axial loading applied

Proc. IMechE Vol. 223 Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science JMES1493

Towards an understanding of the loosening characteristics of prevailing torque nuts 7

Fig. 7 (continued)

on the area dAs of the thread surface and the differ- screw contact surface Aslip is given by
ence in forces resulting when slip occurs results in a
loosening torque Tss that (from reference [24]) can be (r22 r12 )
Aslip = (4)
expressed as cos
 r=r2  =
F From Fig. 10, tan  = tan sin and since the lead
Tss = dAslip (t cos + sin  )
r=r1 =0 Aslip angle is small (3 for the M8 threads used in this
cos  r sin study) we have  = sin and cos  = 1 In this case,
 r=r2  = Tss will assume the following approximate equation
dAslip (t cos sin  )  r=r2  =
r=r1 =0 A slip 2F

Tss = r 2 sin d dr (5)
cos r sin (3) Aslip r=r1 =0

where r1 and r2 are the inside and outside diame- Integration of equation (5) leads to
ters, respectively, of the screw contact surface. The first
term represents the ascent torque and the second term F 3 F (r22 + r2 r1 + r12 )
Tss = (r2 r13 ) = (6)
the descent torque acting on the bolt. The area of the 3Aslip 3(r2 + r1 )

JMES1493 Proc. IMechE Vol. 223 Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science

8 W Eccles, I Sherrington, and R D Arnell

The basic pitch diameter of the thread is denoted by circumference around the thread at the pitch diameter
d2 . In this case, it can be taken as r1 + r2 , also from this
r1 = d2 r2 . 

Substituting these values into equation (6) gives = Tan (8)
= Fd2 (7) Since the angle is small, equation (8) can be approx-
imated as
If p is the pitch of the thread and d2 is the basic pitch
diameter, the lead angle is the transverse movement of P
= (9)
the screw completed in one revolution divided by the d2

Fig. 8 Effect of transverse joint displacement and an intermittent axial loading on the loosening
characteristics of M8 all metal prevailing torque nuts: (a) no axial loading 0.3 kN bolt
preload retained, (b) nut as in test (a) with 0.7 kN intermittent axial loading, (c) no axial
loading 2.4 kN bolt preload retained, and (d) nut as in test (c) with 3.5 kN intermittent
axial loading

Proc. IMechE Vol. 223 Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science JMES1493

Towards an understanding of the loosening characteristics of prevailing torque nuts 9

Fig. 8 (continued)

Substituting this value into equation (7) gives

Tss = (10)
From equation (1), the first term in the equation
represents the torque needed to stretch the fastener
that always acts in the loosening direction. The sec-
ond term represents the torque needed to overcome
friction in the threads and the third term is the
torque needed to overcome friction under the nut
face. Friction resists nut rotation in both the loosening
and tightening directions. Considering the loosening
Fig. 9 Loosening torque generated by movement of the direction and adding the prevailing torque which also
nut thread on the bolt thread resists nut movement in any rotation direction gives

JMES1493 Proc. IMechE Vol. 223 Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science

10 W Eccles, I Sherrington, and R D Arnell

the torque TL needed to loosen a nut as Tloosen must be greater than the torque TR resisting
  loosening, hence for loosening to occur
P t d2 De
TL = F + + n + TP (11) 3FP

ts d2 De

2 cos 2 >F + ns + TPs (14)
4 cos 2
The above equation applies to static situations.
Because of the negative term, the loosening torque Since the thread and head friction coefficients in the
is typically 1520 per cent lower than the tightening rotational direction when transverse slip is occurring
torque which can be readily practically demonstrated. (ts and ns ) are close to zero [24], equation (14) sim-
(This applies when the nut is untightened immedi- plifies to give the condition for self-loosening to occur
ately after being tightened. If the joint is left for a with prevailing torque nuts
period of time friction changes can occur that can 3Fp
affect the situation such that the loosening torque can > Tps (15)
be either smaller or greater than the initial tighten-
ing torque.) When transverse slip is occurring to the For the M8 nuts used in this test series, the retained
joint, the torque acting in the loosening direction will preload is typically in the range of 13 kN. This implies
be the torque given by equation (10) and the first term that Tps is in the range of 0.30.9 Nm. The relevant stan-
in equation (11). Combining these terms to establish dard [3] quotes a maximum first assembly prevailing
the total torque acting in the loosening direction Tloosen torque of 6 Nm for this size and grade of nut and a
under transverse slip conditions gives minimum fifth removal prevailing torque of 0.6 Nm.
The prevailing torque measured on the nuts used in
FP FP 3FP these tests was between 1.5 and 2.3 Nm. The frictional
Tloosen = + = (12)
4 2 4 drag generating the prevailing torque is likely to be
reduced under transverse slip conditions, which is one
Under the conditions of slip under the nut face
explanation for the difference. The prevailing torque is
and in the threads, friction has been overcome in the
generated by pressure applied by the nut to the bolt
transverse direction by external forces to the joint.
thread. Just as transverse joint movement reduces the
Under such conditions Junker [6] considered that a
rotational resistance of a plain nut, a prevailing torque
non-locking nut would be free from friction in the cir-
will probably also be reduced under such conditions
cumferential direction. Sakai has concluded [24] that
when transverse slip of the threads is occurring.
under slip conditions, the resistance of the nut to rota-
When a tensile axial load FA is applied to a joint held
tion is extremely small, he quotes friction coefficients
together by a tightened bolt, the bolt does not sus-
of between 0.00 and 0.02. Strictly what are quoted are
tain the full effect of the load, but usually only a small
not true friction coefficients since friction has already
part of it. The majority of the applied load, typically
been overcome by the external force causing trans-
90 per cent for structural joints, reduces the clamp
verse joint slip. The friction values he quotes are based
force on the joint provided by the bolt. The remain-
on the additional force/torque to rotate the nut under
ing 10 per cent of the load will increase the force in the
slip conditions. Applications that include this effect
bolt. This applies until joint separation occurs, i.e. the
include floor polishing machines, the machine being
applied force exceeds the clamp force on the joint and
easier to move when the polishing disc is rotating. Also,
a gap occurs in the joint. Under conditions of trans-
a cork is easier to remove from a bottle if the cork is
verse joint slip, once self-loosening reduces the bolt
first rotating before being pulled. Overcome friction
preload such that joint separation will occur, it is the
in one direction and the resistance to movement in
tensile axial load FA that will be the cause of further nut
another direction reduces dramatically. To differen-
rotation. The bolt would essentially act as if it had not
tiate between thread and head friction values under
been tightened, all the axial load being sustained as a
static conditions and values under the conditions of
tensile load in the bolt. Under such conditions, FA can
transverse slip, the terms ns and ts will be used for
replace F in equation (13), which can be re-arranged
the nut face and thread friction coefficients in the
to give the following condition for FA in order to ensure
rotational direction when transverse slip is occurring.
that continued rotation of the nut would not occur
Also the term TPs will be used to denote the prevailing
torque under transverse slip. The torque TR that resists 4Tps
> FA (14)
loosening under the conditions of transverse slip is 3p
then given by
If the conditions given by equation (14) were not
met, continued rotation would occur until the nut
ts d2 De
TR = F + ns + TPs (13) detaches from the bolt. For free spinning nuts under
cos 2
transverse slip conditions, Tps is zero or close to zero
For rotation of the nut in the loosening direction and subsequently detachment of the nut from the bolt
to occur, the torque acting in the loosening direction can occur with small axial loads applied to the joint.

Proc. IMechE Vol. 223 Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science JMES1493

Towards an understanding of the loosening characteristics of prevailing torque nuts 11

5 DISCUSSION near Grayrigg in Cumbria [25]. A significant factor in

the occurrence of this accident was nuts becoming
Based on the experiments completed and the mea- detached from the bolts, allowing the switch rail to
surements made, the effect of applying an axial load be struck by the inner faces of passing train wheels.
when transverse joint movement is occurring is to aid This resulted in the subsequent failures of other parts
the self-loosening tendency of prevailing torque nuts. of the switch structure and ultimately the derailment
Whether or not complete loosening will occur depends of the train.
on the magnitude of the applied axial load. Applications that involve shear and axial loading
Tests have also shown that an intermittent axial load being simultaneously applied to a joint are numerous
occurring when the joint is experiencing transverse in engineering. The reason why prevailing torque nuts
slip can also result in the complete self-loosening of have historically been frequently specified is the belief
prevailing torque nuts and their possible detachment that if they came loose, they will not become detached
from bolts. In mechanical engineering applications, from the bolt. This work has shown that the engineer
dynamic conditions often result in any axial loading may need to be more circumspect in this regard and
being applied to a joint being variable in magnitude. give some study as to the magnitude of any axial load
The results of these tests point towards an occasional that may be acting on the joint. Knowledge of the cir-
peak in axial load being especially detrimental to the cumstances under which a prevailing torque nut can
security of prevailing torque nuts if the loading is become completely detached from the bolt will enable
assumed to be purely shear in nature. more reliable and safer designs to be engineered to
The friction increasing feature that results in the prevent failures and accidents.
prevailing torque on the majority of this type of nut Based on the work of Junkers and other researchers,
is located generally on the top of the nut. Junker [6] it is known that self-loosening of threaded fasteners
speculated that some degree of resistance to loosening can be prevented if sufficient preload is generated so
will be provided by such features restricting the thread that friction grip between the joint plates prevents the
movement of the nut relative to the bolt. However, tests occurrence of transverse movement. In applications
by these authors have indicated that this effect can be in which overload conditions can occasionally cause
routinely overcome under the right conditions. transverse joint movement, prevailing torque fasten-
ers are frequently used in the belief that although
partial loosening may occur, the nut will not become
6 CONCLUSIONS detached from the bolt. In the light of the research
published here, this criterion requires to be updated to
It has been shown that under certain conditions include the simultaneous effect that axial loading can
loosening and the complete detachment of prevail- have on the loosening process. Additionally, repeated
ing torque nuts can occur. Such a loosening process re-use/tightening of prevailing torque nuts can reduce
involves the application of an axial load when joint the prevailing torque due to thread wear and hence
slip is occurring. The tests described in this article indi- their effectiveness in resisting loosening. This work has
cate that if the magnitude of the axial loading exceeds concluded that the maximum simultaneous axial load
the residual preload in the bolt retained from sustain- that can be sustained when transverse joint move-
ing transverse movement alone, all-metal prevailing ment occurs is equivalent to the preload retained by
torque nuts can completely detach from bolts. the prevailing torque nut on a normal Junkers test.
A key finding of this study is that prevailing torque
nuts cannot be defined as loss prevention devices
when axial loading as well as transverse movement
is applied to a joint. This implies are that the present 7 FURTHER WORK
standard test method (DIN 65151) should be revised to
allow a true assessment of the locking ability of certain These tests have been conducted on an all-metal vari-
categories of fasteners. ety of prevailing torque nut. Beside the non-metallic
Axial loading applied while transverse joint slip is insert nut, many other types of locking devices have
occurring also affects the loosening characteristics of a prevailing torque feature. Adhesive applied to the
standard plain nuts. On a standard Junker test, plain threads is a commonly used locking method. Using
nuts generally stop rotating when the preload reaches too high a bond strength results in the nuts having to
zero, i.e. the nut is retained on the bolt. In the pres- be cut off, so medium-strength adhesives are used so
ence of an axial load, such rotation does not stop and that removal is possible. Under a conventional Junkers
will continue until the nut detaches from the bolt. test, such medium-strength threadlockers experience
There are a number of examples of accidents result- a degree of self-loosening similar to prevailing torque
ing from nuts becoming completely detached from nuts. From a limited amount of work conducted to
bolts. One such accident occurred on Friday 23 Febru- date, it appears that the presence of axial loading while
ary 2007 when a train derailed on points at Lambrigg, transverse slip occurs also influences the loosening

JMES1493 Proc. IMechE Vol. 223 Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science

Towards an understanding of the loosening characteristics of prevailing torque nuts 13

TR the torque resisting loosening ns nut face friction coefficient in the

rotational direction when transverse slip is
the half included angle for the threads occurring
lead angle of the thread t coefficient of friction for the threads
n coefficient of friction for the nut face or ts thread friction coefficient in the rotational
bolt head (whichever is rotated during direction when transverse slip is
tightening) occurring

JMES1493 Proc. IMechE Vol. 223 Part C: J. Mechanical Engineering Science

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