Hydrogen Embrittlement Failure of Cap Screws
Socket head cap screws used in a naval application were failing in service due to delayed fracture. The standard ASTM A 574 screws were zinc plated and dichromate coated. Investigation (visual inspection, 1187 SEM images, chemical analysis, and tension testing) of both the failed screws and two unused, exemplar fasteners from the same lot supported the conclusion that the cap screws appear to have failed due to hydrogen embrittlement, as revealed by delayed cracking and intergranular fracture morphology. Static brittle overload fracture occurred due to the tension preload, and prior hydrogen charging that occurred during manufacturing. The probable source of charging was the electroplating, although postplating baking was reportedly performed as well. Recommendations included examining the manufacturing process in detail.