What you see is what you get


Counterfeit Bolts

The Counterfeit Bolt problem has been around for many years. It's been a while since I've read any updates about it, so perhaps it is under control now, but I would be surprised if it really was.

Regular bolts made of ordinary steel have unmarked heads. High-strength bolts made of specially formulated and tempered steel have three raised lines on their heads. The only really easy way to tell the difference between a regular bolt and a high-strength bolt is to look for those raised lines.

Unfortunately, some unethical bolt manufacturers got the idea that they could earn some extra coin by marking regular, non-high-strength bolts with those raised lines. These bolts are quite a lot cheaper to manufacture than high strength bolts, but can be sold at a premium.

I first learned about the Counterfeit Bolt problem in a magazine article, which told of a construction worker who tried to torque such a counterfeit bolt while building what was to be a Saturn automobile plant. The bolt's head sheared off, the poor fucker lost his balance and fell to his death.

They also quoted a US Army general who said that when his tank battalions went out on maneuveur in the desert, the tanks would leave a trail of broken-off bolts wherever they went.

There is a way to test bolts to see whether they really are high strength, but at least at the time I read that magazine article, to perform the test cost hundreds of dollars per bolt tested. Basically one puts it in a machine that pulls and twists on the bolt with prodigious force, to determine just how much force is required to make it break.

The relevance to this here article is that when one manufactures a car, one really can't be sure that the parts suppliers have lived up to their contract specifications. Simply to assume that all the parts are within spec is likely to lead to deaths on the highways, because the suppliers are under tremendous pressure to cut costs, pressure which is readily relieved by cutting corners.

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