What Are SAE And ASTM Bolts And When Should They Be Used?

Juliet D'cruz

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In the construction industry, engineers, purchasing agents, and materials procurement specialists have to buy high-strength, galvanized carriage bolts, stainless steel concrete anchors, and other fasteners that meet with precise standards. Failing to ensure these standards are met will quickly compromise the security and longevity of a structure. This is why standards like SAE, ASTM, and other criteria are so important for sourcing the right fasteners for a specific job.


Professionals in the construction and manufacturing industry rely on these specs to make quick and informed decisions when buying all types of fasteners, from stainless carriage bolts to flat washers. If you know you need something like a grade 5 bolt or a grade 9 hex cap screw but you’re not really sure what those numbers mean, or if you’re looking for a light-duty or high strength wall anchor but you don’t know which specs or grades are most applicable, the following information may be helpful.

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ASTM, SAE, And Industrial Fastener Standards

Depending on where fasteners are manufactured, sold, and used, certain organizations will denote standards that apply to material, size, strength, and other criteria. These standardizations help to ensure a fastener is compatible with other components that comprise an assembly, such as carriage bolt, bracket, and nut assembly. They also give engineers, builders, and maintenance professionals a simple and reliable method of confirming that a fastener will perform within certain parameters, such as load capacity, tensile strength, temperature range, and compatibility with other materials.

The two most common fastener standard classifications are ASTM International and SAE International. ASTM International, once known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, specifies fasteners used in structural applications. Their criteria will detail a bolt or other fastener’s material, including treatments and coatings, as well as their strength capacity, standard sizes, and the settings where they are applied. For example, HDG carriage bolts are categorized as ASTM grade 2, and zinc carriage bolts are categorized as ASTM grade 5, which are both considered low to moderate strength bolts that are resistant to corrosion and intended for use in wood-based structures.

SAE International, which was once known as the Society of Automotive Engineers, will maintain fastener criteria that pertain to automotive, aerospace, and equipment applications. SAE-specific bolts, screws, washers, and other fasteners will also be categorized based on their material and finishes, sizes and dimensions, performance limitations, and other criteria that are similar to ASTM specs. SAE grades will be somewhat more precise compared to ASTM grades.

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Identifying And Specifying Industrial-Standard Fasteners

If you are searching for a fastener based on its ASTM or SAE grade and you want to know its performance capacities, dimensions, materials, and other standards, that information is available through publications provided by the specific organization. By searching for a fastener based on its grade, it’s easy to gain many details on its features simply by consulting spec tables and charts.

If you know the parameters of the job but you’re unsure of which fastener grade you need, or if you need to confirm which grades are interchangeable or compatible, then fastener distributors and manufacturers can usually provide guidance.

When sourcing fasteners that must meet with specific industrial criteria, purchasing directly from a certified manufacturer or authorized distributor is advised. This helps to ensure that all of the different criteria for fastener grades are satisfied and that the part will perform adequately within its end placement.