Extension springs, known for their ability to store energy and resist force, are key elements in a range of mechanical operations. Identifying potential failure modes of these springs can aid in ensuring system stability and safety, as seen in applications such as garage door systems where a malfunctioning spring can lead to safety issues. Knowledge of failure modes is not just about improving the system - it is vital for safety and reliability. Understanding these modes is essential for the selection and design of springs, customizing them according to the unique factors and conditions of each application. As an illustration, the spring needed for a garage door is different from that required for an automotive suspension, suggesting the need for a thorough understanding of failure modes to make the most suitable decisions.

Plastic Deformation

Plastic deformation describes a failure mode in extension springs. It happens when the spring extends past its elastic limit, triggering a permanent change in form. The shape alteration occurs when the spring experiences a load or stress exceeding its yield strength.

Imagine conducting a tensile test on an extension spring. As the load is applied, the spring deforms elastically and reverts to its original shape once the load is removed. Yet, if the load surpasses the spring's yield strength, the spring will lengthen permanently, similar to a malfunctioning extension spring under high-stress conditions.

For some applications, slight plastic deformation in extension springs could be acceptable, especially when the resulting elongation is advantageous, and it is not necessary for the spring to revert to its starting length. However, for applications where the spring must return to its original length after stretching, knowing the yield strength of the material and staying within that limit is crucial to avoid this type of failure.

It is essential to take into account plastic deformation during the design process of a spring. Understanding the yield strength of the selected spring material provides valuable guidance for sizing and load calculations, resulting in a functional, dependable, and durable extension spring.


Fracturing is a known failure mode of extension springs. It is recognizable by the presence of cracks or breaks in the springs, which occur when subjected to excessive load. This condition is often tied to fatigue, considered as a consequence of repeated stress cycles.

In certain applications, for example, vibration screening equipment, extension springs may endure numerous cycles of loading and unloading. Over time, these cycles can cause small cracks which may expand and eventually cause a fracture. Thus, cyclical loading patterns unique to the application need to be taken into account during the design of extension springs.

The principles of fatigue and fracture are not specific to one kind of material but rather apply to a large variety. To clarify, comparing springs to paper being folded and torn does not accurately represent the intricacies involved in understanding stress distribution, material properties, and stress intensity in springs.

Materials such as high carbon steel, oil tempered steel, or cold-drawn alloy steel possess significant fatigue resistance and are suitable for springs that will be subjected to repeated cycles of stress.

Well-considered design adjustments can reduce the likelihood of stress concentration, providing a preventative measure against fractures. Techniques such as shot peening or setting the spring can boost its fatigue resistance. Being aware of the propensity for fracturing in springs equips engineers to make informed decisions regarding design and material selection for extension springs, which can extend their durability.


Corrosion constitutes a mode of failure in extension springs. This process affects the material of the spring over time through oxidation or other chemical reactions.

Corrosion exhibits an increased rate in environments with high humidity, salt, or acidic conditions. These factors accelerate the degradation process, which affects the longevity and action of the extension springs.

To counter corrosion, materials resistant to corrosion or protective coatings can be implemented in the spring design. For example, in a marine environment with elevated salt levels, the spring could be made from a stainless steel alloy or receive a coating of zinc-plated material. This not only prolongs the operational lifespan of the spring but also conserves its functionality.

When designing extension springs, the working environment and possibility of exposure to corrosive elements should be factored in. Overlooking this consideration could induce an expedited corrosion process, subsequently undermining the spring's function.

Side Loading Deformation

Extension springs are designed to bear tensile forces along their axis. Yet, when non-axial forces, like side-loading forces, act upon these springs, they can deform. This deformation can happen when a force is applied perpendicular to an extended spring.

The design and material properties of an extension spring are factors that affect its resistance to side loading deformation. Knowing the effects of non-axial forces is useful for designing springs.

If an extension spring is subjected to side loads, its design should include elements that allow it to withstand these forces. The resistance of the spring to side loading can be influenced by its cross-sectional shape, the wire type and diameter, and its dimensions.

For example, large extension springs with thick gauges, used in industrial equipment, can bear heavy tensile forces along their axis. However, these springs can deform under side loading. Deformation can be reduced by using stronger materials, increasing the wire diameter, or having a more rigid cross-sectional shape. These modifications can enhance the spring's deformation resistance due to side loading, therefore reducing chances of failure.


Understanding the various failure modes of extension springs is important in the design process. The main failure modes to consider are plastic deformation, fractures, corrosion, and side loading deformation. Knowledge of these modes informs the choice of material and preventive measures, leading to more reliable mechanical systems.

An example of this is addressing corrosion. Using a corrosion-resistant material like stainless steel can prolong the lifespan of a spring in a harsh environment. Likewise, understanding side loading deformation may lead to the consideration of appropriate space for spring expansion, reducing excessive pressure on the spring.

With this information, the risk of failure can be lowered, and there is an opportunity for innovative spring designs that withstand a variety of conditions and environments.