Standing in the hardware store, it’s easy to find the rows and rows of different washers confusing, especially if you’re a layman. They all start looking the same and appear to be the same size.

However, there are different types of washers. Each has its own function. And yes, size does count! Using the wrong sized washer can be disastrous.

Different Types Of Washers

When most people think of washers, they think of flat metal discs with a hole in the middle. You’d be right in thinking that this is a washer. You’d be wrong in thinking it’s the only type of washer there is.

Washers are categorized according to the function they must perform. A plain washer spreads the load ensuring there is no damage to the surface you’re attaching something against. A spring washer has axial flexibility.

Spring washers are used as part of fastener assemblies to prevent loosening as a result of vibration. Locking washers can also be used to prevent a screw or bolt assembly from turning freely or loosening.

The round flat washer falls into the plain washer category. Flat washers can be made from metal or non-metallic materials such as nylon.

When Would A Standard Flat Washer Be Necessary?

If you’re planning to fasten something to a surface using a threaded fastener, it’s a good idea to use a washer. A flat washer is ideal for use with nuts or bolts. The washer’s job is to distribute the weight so that the fastener does not bear the entire load directly.

Main Types Of Flat Washers 

  • Fender washers are used when the load of the item being attached or fastened is light to medium. Their uses include auto body, electrical, or plumbing work. Other uses include hanging drywall or the installation of wooden wall paneling.
  • Type-A washers are made of steel and used for basic fastening.
  • Type-B washers have more specific applications than Type-A washers.
  • Nylon washers are excellent to use in the presence of certain chemicals which may degrade metal. The fact that they are also insulators makes nylon washers safer to use in electrical work.

Flat washers come in different thicknesses and diameters. The size of a washer is measured by the diameter of the inner opening. You can determine the size of the washer needed by using the diameter of the head of the fastening device which is the bolt or nut.

If you’re unsure of the diameter of the head of your fastening device, use calipers to get an exact measurement. To avoid this step, keep your bolts and washers in bottles stored by size and clearly labeled. Putting them all in one container means spending hours sorting through your collection to find what you need.

Washers come sized in metric and imperial measurements. Conversion charts can be downloaded from the internet to compare these specifics, should you find yourself with instructions that refer to metric measurements while your supply is sorted by imperial measurements.

How To Purchase Washers

Once you know what type of flat washer you need, it’s time to find the right place to buy it.

If you’re running a business where you need hundreds or thousands of washers, the best thing to do is look for an industrial fastener manufacturer. Their catalog will provide you with a range of washers of different diameters and thicknesses. Buying in bulk is a lot cheaper, and the manufacturer will generally deliver to your location.

For part-time DIY lovers, the best place to start is at your local hardware store. Employees can offer you advice to make sure you leave with the right washer for the job at hand.

Written by
melani