Compression springs, present everywhere from car suspensions to door locks, can fail just like any other mechanical component. The cause of failure varies depending on the application of the spring. For example, an automotive engineer may use a specific spring alloy to resist fatigue in high-stress environments such as a car's suspension system. Understanding these failure patterns enables efficient design and selection of springs that can withstand these particular stresses. This article will explain the four primary failure modes of compression springs: achieving the solid height too early, corrosion, binding, and fatigue. Take note, these failure modes are not isolated; they can intermingle with the unique factors pertaining to a spring's specific application and usage conditions.

Solid Height

The 'solid height' defines the length of a compression spring where it can no longer compress further, ie its coils are all touching each other. Note that in some cases, even before the solid height is reached, the spring can suffer plastic deformation where the spring permanently changes shape. Such failures are typically due to misuse or incorrect installation, such as overloading the spring beyond its design capacity.

The solid height should align with the demands of its application. This means springs must support their expected load without reaching the point of total compression. An everyday example of this is in vehicle shock absorbers which use compression springs. The springs are selected with a solid height capable of withstanding the loads of various driving conditions.

To select a spring that won't fail prematurely, consider factors such as the spring's material, wire diameter, the number of active coils, and the expected maximum load in its intended application. All these factors contribute to the spring's overall performance and, in turn, its lifespan.


Corrosion is a common cause of compression spring failure. Springs under corrosive conditions may suffer some damage, leading to a decline in function. Corrosion, while harmful, can be mitigated.

Materials used in spring construction play a role in deterrence of corrosion. For example, a spring made of 316 stainless steel, with good anti-corrosion properties, tends to work well in environments such as marine or chemical industries. On the other hand, carbon steel springs, although affordable, are prone to rusting and might not perform reliably in corrosive conditions.

Along with careful material selection, anti-corrosion coatings offer another layer of protection. Adding a zinc-plated coating to the spring can provide galvanic protection, wherein the coating undergoes corrosion instead of the spring. Combining suitable material choice with protective coatings can provide a reliable approach to manage and prevent corrosion in compression springs.


Fatigue is a common failure mechanism in compression springs, often occurring in high-stress circumstances with a high degree of load variation. A constant cycle of loading and unloading can create cracks in the material, ultimately leading to spring failure.

Let's consider the life expectancy of a compression spring in vehicle suspension. It differs greatly from the fatigue life of a spring in a small electronic device due to variations in operational conditions. Factors such as type of material, surface quality, operating temperature, and overall stress also play a key role in fatigue life.

Consider a high-stress steel spring. Minor surface imperfections can initiate the formation of cracks. With the addition of excessive temperatures, these cracks can grow until the spring fails. Conversely, a similar steel spring with a smooth surface, working under room temperature, may exhibit a prolonged fatigue life.

So, it's essential to comprehend these determining factors. This understanding aids in making informed predictions about a spring's fatigue life. It emphasizes the importance of selecting the appropriate material, finishing, and operational conditions. In this way, spring design ensures maintaining the intended quality of the product.


To optimally maintain compression springs, it is crucial for engineers to understand common failure modes such as solid height, corrosion, binding, and fatigue. By doing so, not only can these issues be mitigated, but the overall operational safety and lifespan of the applications can be significantly improved. Avoiding spring failure primarily involves ensuring correct selection, installation, and use of springs. This should entirely reflect the specific requirements and conditions of their intended application. Material selection plays a significant role; for instance, stainless steel springs are effective in preventing failure from corrosion. On the other hand, carbon steel springs can suffer from corrosion, which can lead to spring failure. An well-thought-out design, factoring in the predictable load and operational environment, paired with regular maintenance also contributes to extending the longevity of compression springs.