Hydrogen Embrittlement Susceptibility of Case Hardened Steel Fasteners 2018-01-1240
This work establishes the relationship between core hardness, case hardness, and case depth on susceptibility to hydrogen embrittlement of case hardened steel fasteners. Such fasteners have a high surface hardness in order to create their own threads in a mating hole, and are commonly used to attach bracketry and sheet metal in automotive applications. While case hardened fasteners have been studied previously, there are currently no processing guidelines supported by quantitative data for fastener standards. Through sustained load embrittlement testing techniques, the susceptibility of case hardened steel tapping screws to internal and environmental hydrogen embrittlement is examined. Further characterization of the fastener samples through microhardness testing, microstructure review, and fracture surface examination allows the investigation of susceptibility thresholds. It is shown that core hardness is the primary consideration for susceptibility. However, the fastener surface is prone to failure before the bulk section, up to the case depth, according to the case hardness. The zinc acid electroplating process used on the fasteners in this study appeared not to induce internal hydrogen embrittlement. However, baking durations commonly used for hydrogen embrittlement relief are shown to be ineffective and possibly detrimental.