Torsion springs, integral to many mechanical systems like garage door mechanisms, can fail in three fundamental ways - fatigue stress, permanent deformation, and corrosion. Fatigue stress is the result of repeated loading, permanent deformation occurs when stress exceeds the spring material's yield strength and corrosion becomes visible with rust. In this article, we'll explore these failure modes in detail, offering you practical strategies for their prevention. Understanding these issues helps in enhancing system function and longevity.

Fatigue stress

Fatigue stress often causes torsion spring failure. This stress originates from structural damage when repeated loads surpass the spring's elastic limit. With each deformation cycle instigated by these loads, the spring momentarily alters shape but resumes its initial form. This ongoing change eventually weakens the spring's material, leading to atomic-level alterations referred to as fatigue stress.

The rate at which fatigue stress commences can vary due to multiple factors. For instance, in the aerospace industry, torsion springs can encounter different stress levels. This discrepancy is chiefly due to the aircraft's mass and the occurrence of its takeoffs and landings. These elements affect the quantity and category of loads the springs undergo.

Fatigue stress subsequently leads to fractures that commence as small surface cracks and gradually penetrate the material, resulting in total failure. However, this is not a given. Springs employed in low-load applications can operate for long durations without substantial failure, as the stress imposed remains within the elastic limit, inhibiting the creation of plastic deformation and microscopic cracks.

Controlling load conditions could reduce fatigue stress and extend the spring's lifespan. Nevertheless, considering the load demands of each application during the design and selection process is necessary, because minimizing loads may limit the functionality of the spring. Therefore, careful load calculation and application consideration are crucial elements in torsion spring design to uphold performance and lifespan.

Permanent deformation

When a torsion spring is subject to forces that surpass its predetermined elastic limit, it can lead to what is known as permanent deformation. The term refers to the irreversible distortion of the spring's shape, which subsequently deteriorates its ability to perform as expected. A simple illustration of this is a torsion spring designed to operate within a defined torque limit. Should a force greatly exceeding this limit be applied, the spring changes shape and is unable to revert back once the force is removed.

The direct consequence of this kind of deformation is not restricted to alterations of the spring's physical attributes. It substantially reduces the usable life of the spring, and in extreme instances, can render it entirely unfit for its intended purpose. Therefore, it is vital to control the amount of force exerted on torsion springs.

Nonetheless, keeping the applied force in check is a complex task, as it is influenced by various variables. These may include the spring material, the environment it operates in, and the demands of its specific application. An instance to illustrate this could be a torsion spring utilized in a harsh industrial setting; it may have a smaller tolerance for excessive force compared to a similar spring used in a controlled lab environment. Therefore, an engineer needs to consider these fluctuating elements in order to minimize permanent deformation and resultant spring failure.


Torsion springs can fail due to corrosion, a process that causes deterioration of the spring's material when exposed to corrosive substances such as airborne salt or industrial byproducts. The corrosion mainly begins at the spring's surface and can progress internally, which affects the spring's structural integrity.

Corrosion damage can be uneven, leading to localized weakening that forms stress concentration points. These areas may develop into fractures with time and repeated load application, causing earlier than expected failure. Engineers should take into account the operating environment during the design phase and apply preventive measures such as selection of corrosion-resistant materials, applications of coatings, lubricants, and platings.

An instance of this practice is the usage of stainless steel for torsion springs intended for marine environments, where the airborne salt makes the environment highly corrosive. Stainless steel, specifically grade 316, shows strong resistance to this type of corrosion. However, it should be noted that in high-temperature corrosive environments, stainless steel may lose its mechanical strength at a quicker rate due to a process known as "sensitization". Therefore, during spring design, the selection of material, protective techniques, and lubrication should all be combined to guard against corrosion-related failures.


Torsion springs operate many systems in a variety of industries. However, issues such as fatigue stress, permanent deformation, and corrosion can impact their function. Recognizing and understanding these potential problems helps in creating successful preventative measures. It's important to properly select and design torsion springs. This approach leads to longer lasting springs and less failures, providing more stable operation in the systems they're a part of.