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Differentiation between bolt and screw

Differentiation between bolt and screw

A carriage bolt with a square nut

A structural bolt with a hex nut and washer There is no universally accepted distinction between a screw and a bolt. A simple distinction that is often true, although not always, is that a bolt passes through a substrate and takes a nut on the other side, whereas a screw takes no nut because it threads directly into the substrate (a screw screws into something, a bolt bolts several things together). So, as a general rule, when buying a packet of “screws” nuts would not be expected to be included, but bolts are often sold with matching nuts. Part of the confusion over this is likely due to regional or dialectical differences. Machinery’s Handbook describes the distinction as follows:

A bolt is an externally threaded fastener designed for insertion through holes in assembled parts, and is normally intended to be tightened or released by torquing a nut. A screw is an externally threaded fastener capable of being inserted into holes in assembled parts, of mating with a preformed internal thread or forming its own thread, and of being tightened or released by torquing the head. An externally threaded fastener which is prevented from being turned during assembly and which can be tightened or released only by torquing a nut is a bolt. (Example: round head bolts, track bolts, plow bolts.) An externally threaded fastener that has thread form which prohibits assembly with a nut having a straight thread of multiple pitch length is a screw. (Example: wood screws, tapping screws.)

This distinction is consistent with ASME B18.2.1 and some dictionary definitions for screw and bolt.

The issue of what is a screw and what is a bolt is not completely resolved with Machinery’s Handbook distinction, however, because of confounding terms, the ambiguous nature of some parts of the distinction, and usage variations.[8][not in citation given] Some of these issues are discussed below:

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