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The Impact of Corrosion on Bolts: Prevention and Solutions

Blake Marciszewski

Blake Marciszewski

Metric Bolt is a family run company with an inventory of military fasteners.

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Corrosion is an invisible yet formidable enemy to a lot of materials, including bolts. 

As the workhorses that hold together many structures, from your everyday household items to colossal bridges, bolts can see their effectiveness and longevity drastically reduced when corrosion occurs. 

But fear not! With the right knowledge, corrosion’s nasty grip can be loosened. So, let’s delve into the world of bolts, the issues corrosion can cause, and how to combat this problem.

The Problem with Corroded Bolts

Corroded bolts are not just an eyesore; they bring with them a set of challenges that can prove catastrophic if ignored:

  • Reduced strength – As corrosion eats away at the material, the bolt’s strength and structural integrity are compromised.
  • Difficult removal – Everyone who has had the misfortune of dealing with a rusted bolt knows how tough they can be to remove. The rust acts like glue, making the bolts stubborn to unbolt.
  • Shortened lifespan – Even if a corroded bolt manages to hold its place, its lifespan is considerably shortened. This means more frequent replacements and higher costs in the long run.

Why Do Bolts Corrode?

Understanding the enemy is half the battle won. At the heart of it, corrosion is a natural process where metal reacts with its environment, often leading to the formation of oxides. 

Factors that contribute to bolt corrosion include:

  • The presence of moisture – This is the main culprit! Water is the primary catalyst for the corrosion process.
  • Environmental salts – Bolts can corrode faster when near the sea or in areas with heavy road salt usage during winters.
  • Chemical exposure – In industrial settings, bolts can be exposed to chemicals that speed up the corrosion process.
  • Poor material choice – Not all bolts are created equal. Some metals are more resistant to corrosion than others.

Recognizing the Red Flags

Spotting the signs early can save you plenty of trouble down the line. 

Here are some red flags to look out for:

Visual inspection

The most obvious sign is visible rust or pitting on the bolt’s surface. If a bolt has a considerable amount of rust or shows deep pits, it’s a clear sign that it’s been compromised.

Functional challenges 

If you find it difficult to tighten or loosen a bolt, it could be corroded from within, affecting its threads.

Material degradation 

Look for signs of material flaking off or reduced bolt diameter. This indicates that corrosion has eaten into the bolt.

Surrounding damage

Sometimes, the area around the bolt can give you clues. If you notice rust stains or corroded materials adjacent to the bolt, it may be time for a closer look.

Prevention is Better than Cure!

Taking steps to prevent corrosion can save you a lot of money and hassle in the long run. Here are five steps we recommend following;

  1. Opt for corrosion-resistant materials such as stainless steel or galvanized steel for bolts, especially in high-risk environments.
  2. Apply coatings like zinc or chromium as a barrier, shielding the bolt from harmful elements.
  3. Regularly inspect your bolts. If you spot the early signs of rust, take action immediately.
  4. If possible, control the environment around the bolt. This might include reducing moisture levels or using sealants to keep out harmful chemicals.
  5. Ensure bolts are installed correctly without causing any damage. A damaged bolt is more susceptible to corrosion.

Got Corroded Bolts? Here’s How to Deal With Them

If prevention falls short, all’s not lost. 

Here’s a quick step-by-step to tackle those stubborn rusted bolts:

  1. Apply penetrating oil – Let it soak for several hours or overnight. This helps in loosening the rust.
  2. Gentle tapping – A soft tap with a hammer can help break the rust, making the bolt easier to turn.
  3. Heat application – A controlled amount of heat can expand the metal and break the rust bond. But remember, safety first!
  4. Clean and replace – Once removed, clean the area thoroughly and replace the corroded bolt with a new one. It’s also a good idea to apply an anti-seize compound to prevent future corrosion.

Why Swift Replacement is Crucial

Replacing corroded bolts might seem like a mundane task. However, we’ll make it easier at Metric Bolt. Let’s see why a replacement should be high on your priority list:

Safety first

As bolts corrode, their load-bearing capacity diminishes. This can lead to structural failures, which can be dangerous in applications like bridges, buildings, or heavy machinery.

Economic savings

Addressing the problem early on can save significant replacement costs in the future. Think about it: replacing a single bolt now versus dealing with the aftermath of a collapsed structure.

Ease of replacement

As we mentioned earlier, the longer a corroded bolt sits, the more challenging it becomes to remove. Acting promptly makes the replacement process smoother.

Maintaining structural integrity

Bolts play a pivotal role in holding components together. If one bolt is compromised due to corrosion, it puts additional stress on other bolts and parts, leading to potential cascading failures.

Wrapping Up – The Impact of Corrosion on Bolts

Corrosion might be a persistent adversary, but with the right prevention techniques and solutions, you can ensure your bolts stay strong and rust-free for years. Regular maintenance, material choice, and swift action at the first sign of rust are the keys to a corrosion-free future.

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