Stainless Fasteners 101

Stainless steel fasteners are commonly used for many applications across a diverse range of industries. While there may not be any immediate benefits to choosing the appropriate fastener, selecting the wrong one can be disastrous. This article will define what a fastener is, the benefits that it provides and look at two of the most practical grades available.

What's a fastener?

Stainless fasteners are often bolts or screws. They consist of a shaft, a head and a threaded end. There's a great variety of lengths and diameters to help you find those options that suit almost all applications. In the majority of cases, heads are either socket-shaped, hex-shaped or screw-topped with a driving recess.

Studs, however, don't have heads, instead using a smooth or threaded shaft that can interface with other components at each end. When combined with parts like wing nuts, lock washers, flat washers and domed nuts, fasteners like studs, screws and bolts can hold components in place, accomplishing numerous placement and connection functions.

Why opt for stainless steel fasteners?

The corrosion resistance and excellent strength make stainless fasteners a great option for applications where materials such as carbon steel might degrade or fail quickly. While plating or treatments can improve the corrosion resistance of other metals, stainless fasteners and components enable you to avoid the associated durability concerns or additional costs.

Stainless is also self-healing with limited requirements, as long as there's readily available oxygen in the use environment. The minimal upkeep and long service life justify the additional costs that come with stainless steel for many use cases.

Which grade of stainless steel should you choose?

While any stainless steel bolt, cap, stud, screw, bolt and other fasteners will provide a degree of corrosion resistance, selecting the appropriate grade is necessary for optimising cost and service life. A 304 stainless fastener is the most commonly produced by far and is used for fasteners over a range of different industries.

If you need a higher level of corrosion resistance, a grade 316 stainless steel fastener and components will give you options for such saltwater applications as gas and oil processing — or processing that involves regular exposure to such caustic chemicals as chlorides. A 316 stainless fastener comes at a higher cost, however.

Each grade is austenitic stainless, which means that, as opposed to being heat treatable, the hardware will be magnetic, making it acceptable for cold forming.

For more information on stainless fasteners, contact a company near you.