What is Metal Galling? Its Causes, Mechanism, Susceptible Metals, Prevention (PDF)

Metal galling is a type of surface wear that causes metal to unintentionally engage with another metal in contact. Metal galling phenomena can result in the separation of metal pieces from the original component. The process of metal galling is quite rapid and once initiated can lead to component failure with subsequent operating cycles.

The galling mechanism in metals is quite different from other wear mechanisms due to the adhesion it creates. Contrary to other types of wear processes, metal galling causes the metal to adhere to the other material and is unique. Whereas, other wear forms involve erosion of one metal when in contact with another metal.

The effect of galling in metals can be at varying levels; Large or microscopic levels. Microscopic galling is not easily visible. Large metal galling can easily be seen on metal surfaces by the naked eye. Even though microscopic galling does not make the component completely useless, but still it can cause performance failure for components with tight tolerances.

Causes of Metal Galling

Galling in metals occur because of large frictional forces that cause adhesive wear. This usually happens when two or more metals are in contact with one another under the influence of very high loads. Ductile materials having a crystal structure that promotes cohesive attraction are ideal for metal galling. Many of industrial metals exhibit both of these characteristics and that is why galling is quite a common phenomenon among most metals. The frictional force gives the required energy for adhesion to occur. So for galling to occur all the following three factors need to be present:

  • High frictional force
  • Ductility of material (One softer than the other), and
  • Cohesive attraction
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Mechanism of Metal Galling

Upon compressing one metal surface over another, they merge at the contact zone. The contact zone is the highest force point. When these compressive forces are large enough, friction is created and the pressure in the contact zone is also increased. The energy generated by this friction and pressure, causes adhesion between the two surfaces, welding the two materials together and plastically deforming them. The protruding points if available on any one of the surfaces can easily penetrate the surface oxide layer of the opposing material, causing damage to the metal beneath.

Now, when sliding friction occurs, the strong adhesion turns into galling. In the contact zone, the amount of stress increases which enables the two surfaces to break away from each other and dissolve the contact zone. This causes one material to lose particles to the other.

Galling of Threads
Galling of Threads

Metals Susceptible to Galling

Austenitic Stainless Steel, Aluminum, and Titanium are the most prominent metals that frequently encounter galling issues. Martensitic stainless steels, tool steels, or other similar hardened materials are less likely to have metal galling occur.

When Does Galling Occur?

Applications involving two or more ductile materials imposing high frictional forces on one another are susceptible to galling. The most frequent instances of galling are found on fasteners made of Stainless steel and aluminum. While torquing, all such fasteners result in high frictional forces that are the prime component for metal galling to occur. Machinery subjected to excess friction is also at risk for galling.

How to Prevent Galling?

As metal galling can result in component failure leading to hazards, It must be prevented to occur. The factors that impact metal galling are

  • Material
  • Applied Load
  • Lubrication and Coating
  • Surface finish and Hardness
  • Contact Area and Degree of Movement
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A number of ways are prevalent in metal industries to prevent galling. Some of such methods for galling prevention are:

  • Selecting a metal not prone to galling like hardened tool steels, work-hardened austenitic stainless steels, etc.
  • Applying lubricants to reduce friction between surfaces. In recent times, anti-galling lubricants containing molybdenum compounds and anti-galling coatings are also available.
  • Selecting a coarser thread to reduce the amount of friction in threaded fasteners.
  • Reduction of thread tightening speed reduces frictional heating and the risk of galling. Manual tightening will help in such cases.
  • Keeping the metal contact surfaces clean, and free from debris.
  • Reducing the load values between contacting metallic surfaces.
  • The use of dissimilar materials with low ductility or different grades of materials can reduce the galling effect.
  • Bolts with dented or damaged threads increase the potential for galling. So, always clean and damage-free bolts need to be selected.
  • Increasing contact area to lower the stresses below the threshold galling stress
  • Increasing contact area to spread wear volume over a greater area and thus producing less depth of wear.

What is galling in metal?

Galling in metals is a problem that occurs when two contacting surfaces seize up due to cold welding.

What causes metal to gall?

The main cause of metal galling is friction force and adhesion. The sufficient friction force between contact surfaces causes adhesive wear.

What is anti-Gallant?

Anti-gallants are coatings used on metal surfaces to minimize the friction between rubbing surfaces and thus prevent the galling effect.

What is galling in stainless steel?

The seizure of stainless steel components causing severe adhesive wear is known as stainless steel galling. Because of the galling mechanism in stainless steel, components may become weak or even break.

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What are the factors that affect the galling in stainless steel?

The factors that can impact the galling mechanism in metals are:

  • Design
  • Applied load
  • Contact area and degree of movement
  • Lubrication
  • Surface finish and hardness

What is the galling resistance chart of materials?

The metal galling resistance chart is a representation that provides typical galling resistance characteristics for material combinations when used to rub against each other. A typical galling resistance chart is produced below as a sample.

galling resistance chart for materials
Galling resistance chart for materials

Anup Kumar Dey

I am a Mechanical Engineer turned into a Piping Engineer. Currently, I work in a reputed MNC as a Senior Piping Stress Engineer. I am very much passionate about blogging and always tried to do unique things. This website is my first venture into the world of blogging with the aim of connecting with other piping engineers around the world.

2 thoughts on “What is Metal Galling? Its Causes, Mechanism, Susceptible Metals, Prevention (PDF)

  1. I have a outdoor yard wind spinner that hangs with a ball bearing swivel hook. The wind spinner has stopped working because the ball bearing swivel hook galled out. We had it lubricated before we hung it up in the tree. What type of steel hook will prevent this? The wind spinner is metal and a little heavy.

  2. I’m a not a engineer and recently encountered the term galling in a conference. I found your article during follow-up research on the term. Thank you for a readable explanation of the process!

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