Compression springs, used in various engineering designs from simple door locks to advanced sports car suspension systems, store and release potential energy. Despite their small size, designing and selecting these springs is not a straightforward process. The complexity of the process can be seen when considering possible failure modes. This article will delve into three types of compression spring failures: Buckling, Permanent Deformation and Bottoming Out at Solid Height. For example, in high-stress vehicle applications, understanding how the spring behaves under extreme loads is crucial in designing the spring. This knowledge helps in correctly determining coil dimensions during design, enhancing the overall reliability. However, it is important to note that not all failure modes will occur in all scenarios. For instance, 'Bottoming Out' is typically associated with heavy load designs. Each project will have unique requirements and considerations, making it important to know and understand these failure modes.


Buckling is a mode of failure in compression springs. This failure mode commonly results from too much load being applied to the spring, which causes it to deflect to the side. This sideways deflection distorts the structure of the spring. Any structural changes alter the relationship between force and displacement, which can have an impact on the spring's function. Compression springs that are slender are more prone to buckling. This type of failure appears as the spring moving to the side when a heavy load is applied and could cause damage to machinery that uses the springs.

Take, for instance, compression springs used in a conveyor system in an industrial setting. In this system, slender springs designed to handle high loads keep the conveyor belt taut. If these springs were to buckle, it could cause the conveyor belt to lose its necessary tension. This loss of tension could interrupt the conveyor system's operation and could lead to the system failing. So, a small side movement in a spring from buckling can have a notable impact on larger systems.

To prevent buckling, a correct estimation of the load the spring will carry and an appropriate spring design are needed. Factors in the spring's design such as the ratio of the spring's diameter to its length are significant. However, having a good spring design does not completely prevent buckling. The way a spring is installed and its operating conditions can also lead to buckling. Therefore, the installation of the spring and considerations for the environment it will operate in are also necessary to keep buckling from happening.

In cases where a spring is designed to handle high loads, guides and supports could be used to keep the spring from distorting. However, the use of such guides and supports takes up more space and could make the machinery where the spring is installed more complex. Therefore, whether or not to use such measures is dependent on the load considerations, available space, and how complex the machinery can be.

Permanent Deformation

Permanent deformation is a type of failure in compression springs that occurs when the springs are compressed beyond their elastic limit. This effect is permanent since the spring cannot return to its initial form once the load is removed. This type of deformation takes place when the yield strength of the spring's material is surpassed, leading to a state referred to as "spring set". The force that the spring can exert may decrease due to this deformation, which can influence the performance of the spring-dependent assembly.

For instance, consider a scenario in which a spring in a valve of an industrial machine is designed to withstand continuous heavy loads. If the material and design of the spring are not suitable for these loads, the spring might deform permanently, impacting the valve's operation.

To prevent permanent deformation, it is recommended to choose a spring material with a significant yield strength and to correctly assess the load capacity of the spring. Materials that are relatively soft, like copper, might be subject to deformation under high stress, regardless of their ease of integration in spring manufacture. Therefore, materials such as steel or titanium alloys, due to their substantial yield strength, could be used instead. However, understanding the load capacity is crucial, as even a spring composed of a strong material may undergo permanent deformation if it's persistently subjected to loads beyond its capacity.

Bottoming Out at the Solid Height

The event termed as Bottoming Out at the Solid Height is triggered by overloading a compression spring beyond its assigned limit, resulting in complete compression. In this condition, the spring coils come into contact with each other, culminating in a state known as "solid height". In this state, the spring ceases to provide compression or cushioning, transferring the entire burden to assembly. This excessive burden could likely exceed the assembly's endurance threshold, instigating material impairment or malfunctioning.

One can look into an automotive suspension system for a suitable example. If overburdening propels the springs to touch solid height, the suspension components could experience impairment. The absence of shock absorption will pave way for a rough travel experience, producing harmful vibrations which may deteriorate other vehicle parts.

Engineers adhere to a safety cushion in spring design to control this issue, confirming that under usual operational conditions, the compression spring does not touch solid height. This can be achieved by opting for a spring characterized by a lengthier free length or a lower spring rate. For instance, springs in heavy-duty trucks are fashioned with an extended free length and a reduced spring rate to bear heavy loads without touching solid height.

The risk of bottoming out can be circumvented by spring design only through correct selection. Selecting a smaller wire diameter rate may reduce the solid height and thus the risk of bottoming out, but this comes with the consequence of diminishing the spring's burden bearing ability, which reverses some if not all of the benefits. The equilibrium between spring rate, free length, and load capacity is governed by distinct application requirements.


Compression springs may not function effectively due to issues such as buckling, enduring permanent deformation, or exceeding their solid height. Each of these failure methods can be prevented through meticulous design and suitable selection of springs. It's crucial for engineers to consider each type of failure during the design and selection process. Proper management of these concerns can result in a higher rate of serviceability and functionality in both the spring itself and the larger assembly it's a part of.