How To Remove A Lock Washer

Whether you’re replacing a damaged washer or disassembling an appliance, it’s important to know how to remove a lock washer properly without causing any damage.

Lock washers are needed to keep bolts and nuts securely fastened in place, especially in situations where there is continuous vibration, torque, or movement.

In this guide, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of removing a lock washer and provide you with some useful tips along the way.


What Is A Lock Washer?

How To Remove A Lock Washer
A Lock washer

A lock washer is a special kind of fastener that holds nuts and bolts tightly together when there is constant movement, shaking, or torque.

It’s like putting a thin metal plate under the fastener to keep it from turning or shaking free. Lock nuts keep the fastener in place by making friction between the bolt and the material being bolted. This makes sure that the connection is safe and stable.


How Does a Lock Washer Work?

Fasteners can loosen for two primary reasons: slackening and spontaneous self-loosening. Lock washers prevent this from happening.

When fasteners are subjected to stress from dynamic use, a phenomenon called spontaneous self-loosening (or rotational loosening) can occur.

Conversely, slackening occurs when the material under the fastener settles following its tightening. Excessive settlement can loosen fasteners, especially those made of softer materials because it releases the preload.


Do Lock Washers Go Under Bolts or Nuts?

People often wonder if lock screws should go under nuts or bolts. The answer is different depending on the lock washer type and how it is being used.

There are times when the lock washer goes under the bolt head and times when it goes under the nut. Just make sure to put the lock washer between the fastener and the thing that needs to be attached. This will create the friction that will keep the material from coming free.


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Types of Lock Washers

There are different kinds of lock washers, and each one is made for a specific job. Let’s look at some of the most popular types and what they’re used for:

Split Lock Washer

One of the most common types of lock washer is the split lock washer. It’s split, which means it has two edges that are at right angles to each other and dig slightly into each side of the joint.

The digging action makes the bolt and the bolted object rub against each other, which holds the bolt in place. People often use split lock washers when they need to drive bolts into soft materials like metal, wood, or plastic with only a little pressure.

High Collar Lock Washer

High collar lock washers are thicker and springier than split washers, but otherwise, they function similarly. When compared to the split washer, its torque load capacity is much higher.

When extra grip and fastening security are needed, including in cases where there’s a chance of strong vibrations or movement, the high-collar lock washer is the way to go.

External Serrated Washer

The external serrated washer looks like a normal washer, but it has teeth running along the edge. These teeth dig into the materials, which makes friction that keeps the fastener from coming free.

Serrated washers on the outside are often used in appliances, HVAC systems, and different electrical connections.

Internal Serrated Washer

The internal serrated washer works similarly to the external serrated washer but with the teeth on the inside. This makes it suitable for smaller head bolts or instances when the teeth should be hidden.

Internal serrated washers provide a secure grip on the fastener, preventing it from loosening in critical joints.

Belleville Washer

There are no splits or serrations on a Belleville washer, which is also called a conical spring washer. It has a cone shape. Because of its unique shape, it can work as a spring, keeping the bolt from creeping.

When the surface of the material could be hurt by the splits or serrations found in other types of lock washers, Belleville washers are the best choice.


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Tools You’ll Need

Get the following items ready before you try to remove a lock washer:

  • Ratchet
  • Penetrating oil (if necessary)
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Hammer (for split washers, if needed)

Having these things on hand will make removing a lock washer easier and faster.


How to Remove a Lock Washer

Okay, now that you know a lot about lock nuts and the different kinds they come in, let’s go over the steps to take one off:

Step 1: Loosen the screw.

Loosen the bolt with a ratchet and take it off. Putting lubricating oil on the bolt or nut and letting it soak can help loosen it up if it is tight.

Slide a small piece of metal pipe over the end of your ratchet to give it more leverage as you try to loosen the bolt.

Step 2: Remove the Lock Washer

Once the fastener is removed, the lock washer should come off easily. If it doesn’t, try using a flat-head screwdriver to pry it away. Slide the tip of the tool under the lock washer and gently pry it upward. If the washer is split, tap the screwdriver into the split with a hammer to remove it.


Common Challenges You May Face and How to Overcome Them

Even though it’s usually not hard to remove a lock washer, you can run into some typical problems. Listed below are some difficulties along with suggestions for resolving them:

  • Stuck lock washer: If the lock washer is stuck and won’t budge, spray some penetrating oil under its teeth or around its edges. This should help release it. Take a few minutes to let the oil soak in before trying to take the washer out again.
  • Damaged threads: When removing a lock washer, be careful not to damage the threads on the bolt or nut. Inspect the threads before and after removal to ensure they are intact. If you notice any damage, consider replacing the fastener or seek professional assistance.
  • Rusted lock washer: In cases where the lock washer is rusted, the penetrating oil can help loosen the rust and make removal easier. If the rust is severe, you may need to use additional tools or techniques, such as heat or specialized rust-removal products.


Safety Precautions

When removing a lock washer, it’s important to make sure that you are safe. Follow these safety precautions to avoid any injuries or damage:

  • Wear safety goggles: Protect your eyes from potential flying dirt or particles by wearing safety goggles. This is especially important when using a hammer or other tools that could create sparks or fragments.
  • Use proper tools: Ensure you have the right tools for the job and use them correctly. Using the wrong tools or applying excessive force can lead to accidents or damage to the fastener or surrounding components.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area: If you’re using penetrating oil or other chemicals, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area to prevent inhalation of fumes. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use of the chemicals.


When to Replace a Lock Washer

When taking apart things like cars, lawnmowers, HVAC units, or machines, you might want to replace the lock washers you take out. Some lock washers may be able to be used again, but others may have been broken or weakened when they were taken off.

Check each lock washer carefully to make sure there are no damage marks on them, like teeth that are flat or sides that are bent. If you’re not sure, it’s always safer to get a new lock nut to make sure the fastening is secure.


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Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Loosen a Nut with a Lock Washer?

To loosen a nut with a lock washer, use a ratchet and apply counterclockwise force to loosen the fastener. If the nut is particularly tight, the use of penetrating oil can help loosen it.

Always make sure that you’re using the correct size ratchet and socket for the nut to avoid damaging the fastener or the lock washer.

What Is the Purpose of a Lock Washer?

The purpose of a lock washer is to prevent fasteners from loosening due to vibration, torque, or movement. When you create friction between the bolt and the bolted material, lock washers will provide additional resistance, to make sure that the fastener remains securely fastened.


More on How To Remove A Lock Washer

Here’s a video that explains How To Remove A Lock Washer:



With the correct information and equipment, removing a lock washer is a straightforward task.

You may remove a lock washer efficiently and safely by following the detailed instructions and keeping in mind the safety measures described in this article.

After removing the lock washer, make sure to check it for damage and replace it if necessary. If you follow the right steps and pay close attention to detail, removing a lock washer will be a breeze.

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