What Are Lock Washers, and When Should They Be Used?

Posted on November 27, 2023 David Atkinson Aircraft Fasteners

In the world of fasteners, lock washers are a noteworthy variety. These small parts play a pivotal role in ensuring the stability and longevity of various structures and components by preventing the loosening of metallic fasteners, such as bolts and nuts. In this exploration, we will be taking a look at lock washers, helping you to understand their types, applications, and the scenarios where their inclusion is indispensable.

Lock Washers in Aerospace

A lock washer is a specialized type of washer designed to enhance the integrity of threaded fasteners. The primary purpose of a lock washer is to prevent self-loosening caused by vibration, thermal expansion and contraction, or other external forces that may compromise the integrity of a fastened joint. Lock washers can be defined by two common types: split washers and helical washers.

Aerospace Applications

The split washer is characterized by its unique helical shape that resembles a coiled spring. The design of the split washer creates a spring force between a nut and the surface it is being fastened to, increasing the friction between the two. As the fastened components are subjected to external forces, the split washer exerts pressure, resisting any tendency of the nut to rotate and maintaining the tightness of the connection.

The frictional resistance split washers provide is invaluable in applications where maintaining torque and tension is crucial for the structural stability and safety of an assembly. Their helical design is particularly effective in scenarios where there are extreme temperature fluctuations or dynamic loads. These conditions can lead to the gradual loosening of threaded fasteners, and split washers act as a reliable barrier against such undesirable occurrences.

Automotive Applications

In contrast, helical washers feature a continuous helix design without a gap. This design facilitates a more uniform distribution of the spring force along the length of the washer, offering enhanced stability in specific applications. The helical washer is particularly favored in situations where a smooth and continuous tension is preferable over the intermittent pressure exerted by the split washer.

Lock washers find widespread use in various industries, including automotive, construction, manufacturing, and of course, aerospace. In the aerospace sector, where safety and reliability are non-negotiable, the meticulous selection of fastening components, including lock washers, is a standard practice. The aerospace industry often utilizes lock washers in conjunction with other fastening methods to create redundant systems, further enhancing the overall safety of the aircraft. Similarly, in automotive applications, vehicles are subjected to constant vibrations and mechanical stresses, making the inclusion of lock washers imperative to uphold the structural integrity of critical structures.

Considerations for Deployment

When contemplating whether or not to use lock washers, it is essential to consider the specific requirements of the application. While lock washers are invaluable in preventing certain structures from self-loosening, they may not be the optimal choice in all situations, especially ones where precision and reliability are a top priority. Understanding the characteristics of each lock washer and its suitability for different environments in comparison to other fasteners is crucial in ensuring the overall effectiveness of your choice in fastener.


In conclusion, the prudent use of lock washers is crucial in any application where threaded fasteners are employed. Whether one requires the split washer's intermittent pressure or the helical washer's continuous tension, these small yet indispensable pieces play a vital role in maintaining the stability and reliability of diverse structures. As you navigate the deployment of lock washers, understanding the nuances of their use ensures that your connections remain secure, robust, and resilient against forces that seek to compromise their integrity.

About ASAP Parts 360

ASAP Parts 360 is a primary distributor of lock washers, fasteners, and other aviation components. Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we provide a vast online inventory of new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find industry products. You can browse easily using our various catalogs and search filters, keeping in mind that every single item you come across is of the highest caliber and can be verifiably traced back to manufacturers that we have thoroughly vetted. Our RFQ forms are available throughout our website, allowing you to inquire about any product of interest and receive a competitive quote within 15 minutes; our experts are available around the clock to find sourcing solutions that consider every requirement and limitation. Start the process today, and see why so many customers rely on us for aviation part procurement.

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