Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Fender Washers--Basically Useless?

Drew has been at it again...  Here he is testing fender washers as might be used instead of proper backing plates for items thru-bolted on deck.  Drew made two posts; I have included both of them here. 
In the process or researching an article on backing plates, it seemed worthwhile to actually test some washers. After all, it was the failure of fender washers that led to cracking of my deck and the need to remount the winches.

Not really very flat anymore.... The deck paid the price.

I used a 3/4" pine board as a surrogate for a cored deck and tightened a collection of 1/4" washers untill the first damage to the wood, and until failure. To no surprise, common washers, fender washers, and HDPE were glaring failures, and FRP and thicker metal washers were fine.

This looked fine to start, but within hours it started to bend and within 24 hours is was bent worse than the SS fender washer. This could lead to a hidden failure if not monitored (1/2" HDPE)

(click to enlarge table)

And then there is always the matter of what happens in wet places. Though I like aluminum for ease of fabrication, I also know its limitations.

This bow cleat is a little shaky.

As ramp-up for some Practical Sailor testing, I thought I would share a preview.

First, unable to secure scraps of deck material for which I could be sure of the pedigree, I laid up some of my own. The testing will based upon 1/2-inch balsa core with (1) 6-ounce cloth and (1) 17-ounce biaxial layers on the deck side and (1) 17-ounce biaxial layers on the under side.

I drill a 1/4-inch hole (no epoxy plug, block of wood on the back side) and tightened down a fender washer against it. At 10 in-pounds (about 675# load) the washer had distorted and the laminate was failing. for comparison, the bolt working load of a Lewmar 40 winch (1/4-inch bolts) with a strong grinder is about 500 pounds each. In other words, without an epoxy plug the bolt will fail under working load and standard ASME bolting load, with no safety factor for aging and fatigue. It is about 5x weaker than good design suggests. It also explains why I had a PO installed winch rip out.

By 18-in-pounds the fender washer was buckled and the nut was well into the core. For comparison, this is about 50% better than a plain pine board in each case.

I repeated the test with only lock washer. The same result! The fender washer resulted in no increase in strength. The point being, that the bolting washer provided better support in close, the end result being the same.

Testing for the actual project will involve proper epoxy plugs. However, since under the load the bolt will NOT be supported on the other side (the winch or cleat will be lifting) in the real world, the top side support will be supplied by a 4-inch diameter ring spacer, allowing the washer to pull through, if that is what it wants to do. I've tested this without the epoxy plug; not surprisingly, it lowers the failure load and creates top side damage much like I saw on my failed winches.

We'll see. But for now, the moral of the story is that fender washers are basically useless; they fail as soon as they are actually needed.

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