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To samples of helical compression springs were returned to the manufacturer after failing in service well short of the component design life. Spring design specifications required conformance to SAE J157, “Oil Tempered Chromium Silicon Alloy Steel Wire and Springs.” Each spring was installed in a separate heavy truck engine in an application in which spring failure can cause total engine destruction. The springs were composed of chromium-silicon steel, with a hardness ranging from 50 to 54 HRC. Chemical composition and hardness were substantially within specification. Failure initiated from the spring inside coil surface. Examination of the fracture surface using scanning electron microscopy showed no evidence of fatigue. Final fracture occurred in torsion. X-ray diffraction analysis revealed high inner-diameter residual stresses, indicating inadequate stress relief from spring winding. It was concluded that failure initiation was caused by residual stress-driven stress-corrosion cracking, and it was recommended that the vendor provide more effective stress relief.

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