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Choosing the right material for automotive fasteners

01 April 2021

2030 is the official year in which all petrol, diesel and hybrid cars will come to an end in the UK – no new versions of these cars will be produced. There is now more pressure than ever before for car manufacturers to produce cleaner, more efficient cars, leading to industry-wide discussions on lightweighting.

(Image: Shutterstock)

Offering the ability to increase range and performance in electric vehicles, lightweighting has become the new buzz word in automotive design, pushing engineers and designers down to the very last gram. It's no surprise that fasteners are at the forefront of this phenomenon. On their own, fasteners don't account for much in terms of weight, but collectively, they make up a big proportion of a car's weight.

When thinking about how to save weight, choosing the right material for fasteners is the first step. Traditionally, fasteners in the automotive industry have been manufactured from mild and hardened steel because they are cheap to produce and offer excellent mechanical properties. But they aren't particularly lightweight.

So, with the increased focus on fasteners in recent years, more exotic metals, such as aluminium, have begun to trickle down from the aerospace industry and onto the factory floor of most car manufacturers.

There are now more than 500 different types of aluminium, offering varying characteristics, from high-strength to high heat-resistant properties. Aluminium bolts, for example, offer numerous benefits: they are lightweight, cheap, easily recyclable and strong – perfect for use in joints that are subject to varying temperatures. They also lower the risk of increased stresses in components, or dropped clamp load from different thermal expansions.

However, while aluminium fasteners have a number of benefits, there are other factors to consider, such as the environment in which they will be used and the dissimilar metals with which they will come into contact. 

Read the full article in the April issue of DPA

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