Torsion springs are a common component in various mechanical systems such as vehicles, appliances, and industrial machinery. Familiarizing oneself with their main failure modes - plastic deformation, fracturing, corrosion, and side loading deformation - is key for engineers. Misinterpretation or disregard of these factors could result in a shorter spring lifespan and reduced performance. Insufficient consideration of environmental factors during spring design can, for instance, speed up corrosion, thereby reducing spring durability. Solid knowledge on these failure modes equips the engineers to ensure better selection and design of springs, culminating in improved performance of the systems they are part of.

Plastic Deformation

Plastic deformation refers to a permanent change in a torsion spring's structure, which occurs when the stress on the spring surpasses its elastic limit. Unlike in elastic deformation where a spring can revert to its initial shape after load removal, plastic deformation makes this reversion impossible because the deformation is irreversible.

In designing torsion springs, it's crucial that engineers ensure the springs operate within their elastic limits to avoid plastic deformation. A typical example can be seen in car suspension systems: if a torsion spring is consistently subjected to loads beyond its elastic limit, perhaps due to regular heavy haulage, it will undergo plastic deformation. Such deformation can negatively affect the suspension's performance.

Keep in mind that each spring has a specific stress threshold, upon exceeding which plastic deformation sets in. When selecting materials for springs and establishing design parameters, this stress threshold should factor into an engineer's decision-making. For example, a torsion spring made from a Nickel-based alloy might be able to withstand higher stress levels before succumbing to plastic deformation in a high-temperature environment than its steel counterpart.

By taking into account these factors during the design and material selection phases, and by ensuring that the spring operates within the stipulated load limits, the possibility of plastic deformation can be minimized. This careful consideration not only improves the torsion spring's reliability but also prolongs its service life.


Fracturing in torsion springs often results from fatigue failure. Fatigue failure typically follows the application of high torque fluctuations across numerous operational cycles. These conditions are common in automobile suspension systems. As the vehicle traverses differing terrains, uneven load distribution and road irregularities subject the torsion spring to repeated torque cycles. These cycles bring about the formation of cracks, which, in turn, could cause the spring to fail. To reduce fracturing, it's essential to control the load applied on the torsion spring.

Design characteristics of the spring could potentially reduce its inclination towards fracturing. Specifically, torsion springs with a higher fatigue limit - denoting the spring's ability to endure stress fluctuations before failure - may have less risk of fracturing. Despite their strength, these high-performance springs often involve the production and application of custom materials, leading to increased expense. In safety-critical fields like the aerospace industry, the greater expense is justified. However, where risks are more moderate, weighing cost against fatigue strength may yield a more cost-effective choice.

Carrying out routine inspections of the springs could serve as a preventative measure against fatigue failure. In a manufacturing environment that employs torsional springs, regular quality checks can reveal small cracks or deformations early, allowing for prompt rectification via spring replacement or adjustment.


Torsion springs might not function properly due to corrosion. This issue occurs due to a chemical reaction between the material of the spring and its surroundings, causing the spring material to degrade. The distilled result of this process is a reduction of the spring material's strength, which may lead to the spring's failure.

The speed at which corrosion occurs relies heavily on the spring's material and its specific environmental conditions. To illustrate, a torsion spring made from plain-carbon steel might experience more rapid erosion in a humid or saline environment compared to a dry one.

Engineers can use strategies such as choosing appropriate materials or applying protective coatings to prevent corrosion. Springs constructed using corrosion-resistant materials like stainless steel are less susceptible to corrosion, though differences in mechanical properties may affect the performance of the spring. However, it should be clear that being resistant to corrosion doesn't imply total protection from it, but it merely slows its progression.

Another strategy is the use of protective coatings, which serve as a barrier between the spring material and the environment, thus reducing the speed of corrosion. As an exemplar, zinc plating serves as a protective layer and provides cathodic protection, which extends the life of the spring, even in situations where the coating suffers from scratches or damage.

Side Loading Deformation

Side loading is a condition where a load is applied in the direction parallel to the coil axis of a torsion spring, leading to deformation. This situation might arise in a garage door system, where an inaccurate installation and alignment process can result in side loading. This, in consequence, results in the early failure of the spring.

The methods of assembly and usage significantly determine the risk of side loading failures. Achieving precise alignment during assembly reduces the possibility of side loading. Yet, it is not possible to completely eliminate side loads in all applications. In such cases, the spring's design should have the capacity to endure these side loads.

A clear comprehension of the interaction between the spring and its surrounding assemblies assists in identifying potential instances of side loading. In a retractable screen door system, for example, incorrect installation or normal wear and tear may cause side loading. Familiarity with component tolerances, clearances, and interactions, can provide insights into managing this risk.

An all-inclusive strategy pertaining to the design and usage of the torsion spring mechanism proves useful. This strategy considers conditions where side loads are inevitable and emphasizes the need for precise installation.


A torsion spring's longevity is impacted by identifying and addressing its potential failure modes. Key modes to take into account are plastic deformation, fracturing, corrosion, and side-loading deformation. By considering these failure modes during the design phase and performing consistent inspections, early spring failure can be avoided. Awareness of these modes and their countermeasures is beneficial for accurate spring design and selection, and influences the effectiveness of systems that utilize these springs.