Mechanical Properties of Steel Fasteners

Mechanical Properties of Steel Fasteners

Steel fasteners come in a variety of materials, shapes, sizes and costs. Understanding their mechanical properties is useful to determine the best fastener for a specific application. We think it's an interesting topic, and we hope you do too. At Bolt-In Co on the Sunshine Coast, we have a large range of high-tensile, stainless steel and galvanised fasteners. Join us for this brief review of the the mechanical properties of fasteners, and don't hesitate to contact us if you have any related enquiries.

Tensile Strength

Tensile strength is an important property to begin with. It refers to the maximum amount of stress that can be withstood by a fastener before failure when axial tension is applied. This refers to the type of tension where the fastener is pulled in two opposite directions along its length. The tensile strength is how much tension it can take before it breaks. Tensile strength is measured in PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) or Mpa (Megapascals), depending on where you are in the world. To get an idea of the forces at work, a low strength plastic fastener may have a tensile strength of only 1,000 to 5,000 psi. A high-tensile grade 12.9 fastener (exceptionally strong) may have a tensile strength of up to 180,000 psi.

Yield Strength

Whereas tensile strength (above) refers to the maximum stress or load a material can withstand before breaking (when subjected to axial tension), yield strength measures the amount of stress that the fastener will tolerate before it permanently deforms to a specific degree. Deformation has two stages: elastic (the fastener will return to its original shape after the load is removed) or plastic (permanently changed). Yield strength indicates the load limit before plastic deformation occurs. Like tensile strength, yield strength is measured in psi or mpa. Yield strength may range from 100 psi (plastics, rubbers) to 150,000 psi for some advanced steel alloys.

Shear Strength

Shear strength is another important mechanical property of fasteners. It refers to the maximum amount of stress a fastener can withstand when subjected to oppositional parallel forces applied to the cross-sectional area of the fastener. The shear strength is calculated by dividing the force at which the fastener fails by the cross-sectional area of the fastener being tested. Shear strength may range from 100psi (plastics, rubbers) to 50,000 psi or higher for high-strength steel allows used in structural and automotive applications.


Fastener hardness is measured with a variety of different tests, such as Rockwell Hardness Testing, Brinell Hardness Testing, Vickers Hardness Testing and others. You would think hardness would always be useful, but too much hardness isn't always a good thing. Materials that are too hard may be brittle, whereas materials that are too soft may lack the required strength. Like all things with fasteners, it's about an optimal compromise between properties, applications, costs and codes. 

Fatigue Strength

Fatigue strength is used to measure the performance of fasteners under repeated loading and unloading cycles. In this case, the test is concerned with understanding how well the bolt will do in applications of variable stress. Examples include fasteners for aircraft or automobiles. In fatigue strength testing, loads are applied, removed and re-applied in a controlled manner to create a fatigue curve, expressing the applied stress and the number of cycles to communicate the fatigue strength of the fastener.


Ductility is used to describe the ability of a bolt to undergo plastic deformation without fracturing - in other words, how much a bolt can deform plastically when subjected to tensile loads. Ductility is expressed as a percentage of elongation or reduction in the area of the material being tested. This is different to yield strength (above) which measures the amount of load a fastener can take before it undergoes plastic deformation.

Corrosion Resistance

Corrosion resistance is an important consideration when assessing fasteners. We're located on the Sunshine Coast which includes marine environments where the ability of nuts and bolts to withstand corrosion is vital. Various coatings and materials can enhance a bolt's resistance to corrosion. For example, stainless steel 316 has a high degree of corrosion resistance, making it suitable for marine applications.

Modulus of Elasticity

The modulus of elasticity (Young's Modulus) measures a fastener's stiffness or ability to deform elastically in response to an applied stress.

Environmental Resistance

Some fasteners are designed to withstand extreme environmental conditions, such as high or low temperatures, exposure to chemicals, or UV radiation.

Torsional Strength

Torsional strength is the ability of a fastener to resist twisting forces without deforming or breaking. This property is essential for threaded fasteners like bolts and screws.

Vibration Resistance

Fasteners used in applications prone to vibration should have the ability to resist loosening or self-loosening over time.

Ease of Installation

Ease of installation includes properties like thread engagement and the availability of self-locking features to prevent loosening under load. 

What's the Most Important Mechanical Property if a Steel Bolt?

The mechanical properties of fasteners create a composite picture of the capabilities of a given fastener. The most important mechanical property is the one required for the application.  For example, high tensile strength may not be as relevant in carpentry as it is in aircraft or automobile manufacture.

For assistance with your nuts and bolts on the Sunshine Coast QLD, please contact our team for more information and assistance with high-tensile, stainless steel, and galvanised fasteners.