Compression springs are common in a range of systems - from everyday pens to complex vehicle suspension systems. Their failure can disrupt operation or cause complete system breakdowns. This article will look at the reasons and ways these springs might fail, highlighting factors like the effects of repeated over-compression in vehicle suspension springs. We will also discuss how to balance durability with performance in spring design. The aim is to provide knowledge on these potential failures, assisting you in making more informed decisions when selecting and designing springs for your engineering projects.

Plastic Deformation

Plastic deformation is a type of failure in compression springs. It is a condition where a spring is subjected to loads exceeding its elastic limit, causing irreversible deformation. The deformation affects the spring, making it unable to revert to its original state and perform its role effectively. Mostly, this condition is encountered when the springs are overloaded or when subjected to large impact loading conditions. A case in point is an industrial machine consistently involved in high-intensity, heavy-load operations. In such a case, the spring is likely reaching the limit of its stress tolerance, making it susceptible to plastic deformation.

The prevention of this failure mode is tied to proper spring specifications. The choice of spring material and the heat treatment it is exposed to are critical factors. These two aspects contribute to establishing the yield strength of the material. Yield strength denotes the limit beyond which a material will undergo plastic deformation. For an industrial machine designed for heavy-duty operations, as indicated in the example above, it might be essential to choose a material with a high yield strength to resist plastic deformation. Moreover, the designed stress level should stay significantly below the yield limit, maintaining the spring in functional condition without any risk of plastic deformation.

However, enhancing a spring's resistance to plastic deformation might necessitate certain trade-offs. Although increasing yield strength enhances a spring's resilience to overloading, it may at the same time reduce its toughness. Consequently, the spring could become brittle and more susceptible to fractures. Therefore, designing an effective spring is a matter of balance - it should withstand its operational load, without compromising its durability and toughness.

Initiating fitting protection measures such as elastic limit buffers, resilient material coatings, or impact-absorbing casings can minimize plastic deformation. These measures improve the durability and promote the longevity of compression springs, particularly in situations of high stress.


Fracturing, also called spring breakage, frequently occurs in compression springs, especially those derived from brittle materials like high-carbon steel. This failure can occur due to a severe impact like a machine component striking the spring, or fatigue caused by continuous loading and unloading of the spring over time.

As an example, a fracture may occur in an automotive suspension spring that is routinely loaded and unloaded due to the vehicle's movement on non-uniform terrains. This scenario underscores the importance of aligning the spring's material characteristics and its heat treatment to the stress cycles and operating conditions of its intended application.

Preventing fracture primarily involves the selection of quality materials and appropriate heat treatment during the fabrication process. The choice of materials' mechanical characteristics and the heat treatment method relies on the application's requirements. While high-carbon steel may prove appropriate for less demanding applications, unique situations of high stress may benefit from a chromium alloy steel subjected to specific heat treatment to enhance its strength and resilience.

Additional considerations for preventing spring failure include stress concentration, loading cycles, spring design, and operating environment. Adjustments in spring design, such as reducing sharp corners or notches, can help in mitigating the risk of fatigue or fracture in the spring.

It is incumbent upon engineers to understand the environment of the application, and apply this information in the selection of appropriate spring materials, outline the fabrication process, and the design of the spring.

Solid Height

Solid height is defined as the total length of a compression spring when entirely compressed. This condition signifies the maximum deformation a spring can undergo, leading to potential changes in material shape or even breakage, subsequently causing spring failure.

The spring's free length, the length when uninfluenced by a load, and the number of active coils, contributing to the spring's movement, directly influence the likelihood of achieving solid height during operation. Altering these characteristics can create extra clearance, lower the risk of reaching solid height. For instance, enlarging the spring's free length or the number of active coils can minimize the chance of solid height during regular operation.

However, these modifications must comply with the machinery's operational requirements. Achieving this equilibrium between spring design and machine needs necessitates a thorough analysis of operating conditions and load parameters. As an example, a spring with less active coils or reduced free length might be needed for a high-speed punching machine to preserve operation speed, even with the heightened chance of reaching solid height. In contrast, a heavy load brake assembly might need a spring with an expanded free length and increased active coils to reduce the risk of solid height, therefore guaranteeing improved functionality and durability.

Beyond solid height, additional factors like material type, spring structure, and temperature conditions also contribute to spring failure. All these factors, along with various specific operating contexts, should be taken into account during the design and selection of compression springs.


Buckling is a prevalent failure type in compression springs, especially in slender designs subjected to substantial loads. For example, a compression spring in a vehicle's suspension mechanism, possessing an elevated slenderness ratio, could buckle when subjected to significant weight loads.

The slenderness ratio of a spring, found by dividing the spring's free length by its mean coil diameter, directly influences the likelihood of buckling. Generally, a larger ratio escalates the potential for buckling. For example, a spring with a slenderness ratio of 10 has a higher likelihood of buckling than a spring with a ratio of 4.

In design processes for springs, choosing a greater slenderness ratio may be required to achieve a smaller design. This might be necessary for applications where space is restricted. However, it must be noted that choosing a larger ratio increases the potential for buckling.

To mitigate buckling, even with a high slenderness ratio, support components like guide rods or tubes can be applied. This technique helps to ensure the stable operation of the spring in applications where smaller designs are needed.


Corrosion damages the performance of compression springs. It may occur more often in environments containing corrosive elements or if there is high humidity. Deterioration begins at a molecular level, where corrosive materials disrupt the orderly pattern of the metal. This disruption can result in the spring losing crucial mechanical properties such as strength and elasticity.

For instance, a compression spring used in a marine setting is exposed to salty air. This exposure may speed up corrosion, impairing the spring's elasticity and ability to bear load. As a result, the spring may undergo stress corrosion cracking, which is a type of premature failure.

It should be noted that the material used for the spring greatly affects its vulnerability to corrosion. To illustrate, stainless steel springs are resistant to corrosion, but they may not bear load as well as springs made of high-carbon steel.

To combat corrosion, engineers may use corrosion-resistant materials or add protective coatings. One approach is to apply coatings such as Zinc or Nickel-Chrome. These contribute to building a protective barrier that limits corrosion. Routine maintenance, which includes checking for signs like changing color or the appearance of rust spots, helps detect on-going corrosion. By carrying out these measures, the lifespan of the spring could be prolonged, and unexpected failure might be avoidable.


We have discussed the different ways compression springs can fail, including overload, fatigue, and buckling, among others. Each type of failure impacts the functioning of mechanical systems in its own way. Good design involves understanding these potential problems and making choices based on that understanding. The continued function of your equipment depends on the spring you choose and how it is utilized. Therefore, it's crucial to plan for these failure modes during the design process to improve your system's performance and lifespan.