grades of inch-sized bolts

SAE grades

The best-known grades for inch-sized steel bolts are those defined by the SAE, a sequence of grades from 0 to 8, on the basis of the metal from which the bolt is made and the manner of manufacture. Available grades run from 2 to 8, with 8 the strongest. Higher grade numbers almost always mean increased strength (an exception is that some grade 6 bolts are stronger than grade 7). 

Grade What kind of bolts Proof


Yield strength,
1 low- or medium-carbon steel. In practice this grade is obsolete, grade 2 being supplied in its place.     36   drawing of grade 1 head
2 low- or medium-carbon steel.     ¼″–¾″: 57
>¾″–1½″: 36
  drawing of grade 2 head
3 Obsolete.       drawing of grade 3 head
4 Medium-carbon cold drawn steel. Used for studs.    100    
5 Medium-carbon steel, quenched and tempered.   ¼″-1″: 92
>1″- 1½″: 81
  drawing of grade 5 head
5.1 Low- or medium-carbon steel, quenched and tempered.       drawing of grade 5.1 head
5.2 Low-carbon martensitic steel, fully killed, fine grain, quenched and tempered.    92   drawing of grade 5.2 head
6 Obsolete       drawing of grade 6 head
7 Medium-carbon alloy steel, quenched and tempered.    115   drawing of grade 7 head
8 Medium-carbon alloy steel, quenched and tempered.    130   drawing of grade 8 head
8.1 Drawn steel for elevated-temperature service. Medium-carbon steel or 1541 steel.    130    drawing of grade 8.1 head
8.2       130   drawing of grade 8.2 head

SAE J429

ASTM International grades

Specification   Mark
A307 grade A  drawing of A307 head
grade B  
A449    drawing of A449 head
A325 type 1 drawing of head of ASTM 325 type 1 bolt
type 2  drawing of A325 type 2 head
type 3 drawing of A325 type 3 head
A354 grade BB drawing of A354 grade BB head
grade BC drawing of A354 grade BC head
A490 type 1 A490
type 2 A490
type 3 A490

Is a higher grade always better?

Replacing a bolt with a stronger one can be a bad idea, cost aside.

Some bolts were deliberately chosen so that they are weak enough to fail before the stress or strain damages some more expensive or critical part of the equipment. For the same reason, in making furniture cabinetmakers use glues that are weaker than wood. That way, if the furniture is overloaded, the joints break. It is much easier to reglue a broken joint than to replace a piece of broken wood.

Perhaps a more important reason is that the same processes that make a fastener harder and stronger make it more liable to fatigue and corrosion. To quote Alexander Blake, “The impression that we get a better product for the money because of the increased strength can eventually hurt us since higher strength means greater susceptibility to stress corrosion and fatigue failure.”

In the 1980s, large numbers of counterfeit bolts appeared in the United States, almost all imports. For this reason, the SAE grade markings can no longer be trusted unless one knows exactly who made and graded the bolt. Aerospace-grade bolts are also being counterfeited (even NASA has been duped, to the tune of one million dollars to disassemble the Astro 1 space lab to remove counterfeit and defective fasteners).

Alexander Blake.
What Every Engineer Should Know about Threaded Fasteners.
New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1986.

Page 189.

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