HomeReviewsMediaBooksCarroll Smith's Nuts, Bolts, Fasteners and Plumbing Handbook

Classics and Performance Logo

Carroll Smith's Nuts, Bolts, Fasteners and Plumbing Handbook

Book Review

by Ryan King

U.S. Military Name Tapes Link

This book should be required reading for anyone who repairs, restores, modifies, builds, or engineers cars.

There are a number of pitfalls that await the mechanic and engineer, whether amateur or professional. This book will not only be enlightening and helpful, but could — and probably will — stop a reader from making an honest blunder — or poor decision — to go ahead and use or reuse that less-than-adequate fastener if they thoroughly read and understand its content.

While the fastener may not seem like a very important part of a car, the author begs to differ, and my experience has done nothing to make me think he's in any way wrong.

Carroll Smith (who sadly passed away in 2003 from pancreatic cancer) had an amazing mind and it is easy to see it work in this book.

The organization of information and the sharp observations regarding fastener and plumbing design, use, and their subsequent successes or failures is really impressive.

The how and why of fastener and plumbing design and application are plainly described with the safety of the vehicle and its occupant as the prime objective.

Although undoubtedly a book written by an engineer about engineering, the reading and understanding of the information within its pages should be a prerequisite to EVER picking up a wrench...or a drafting pen for that matter.

With over 30 years of experience in the top levels of racing (from crew chief of the 1-2-3 finishing Carroll Shelby GT-40 team in the '60s to modern Formula One) he brings to the reader not only the information and theories behind fastener and plumbing design, but practical experience in their uses...and some very interesting anecdotes that keep the reader interested throughout.

His scope is so comprehensive that he leaves little to be desired. Even if he skips over a subject or an aspect, he makes note of it and explains that it is either outside the scope of the book or that it is of little use to the automotive enthusiast/professional. If you can't find what you need covered in here you may, very well, be a NASA engineer.

The Book

Chapter 1: Characteristics of Metal

Starting in Chapter 1, the author focuses on the somewhat boring, tedious, and even overwhelming subject of metallurgy. Don't let that deter you because he quickly shows how and why this subject is vitally important to understanding bolt designs, their uses, and the applications they are used in.

Chapter 2: Stress, Strain, Load, and Fatigue

In this chapter you begin to understand the limitations of bolts and nuts, and you get a real appreciation for how and why a bolt fails — and why a bolt should never, ever be used outside of its capacities.

Chapter 3: Thread Physics

This chapter gets into the nitty gritty of how the threaded fastener works. It goes into the history of the threaded fastener — which while it might sound boring, is only so if you don't work with them — as well as the many aspects of the threaded fastener industry. It also clearly explains how threaded fasteners are manufactured and what really makes a threaded fastener function or fail by design and use.

Chapter 4: Bolts and Bolted Joints

If you don't already know the information in this chapter, it will jar your ideas about the bolts you use and how they are installed. It imparts a very practical, down to earth feeling of what makes a bolt effective — or not — in an automobile. More than likely, it will change your very concept of every bolt you've ever used — and will explain why bolts are designed differently for different applications. It's a real eye opening experience to think about moving down the road with anything less than the exact bolt that was intended to be used in every application, especially when you've decided to put a generic whatever-bolt to misuse in a critical assembly.

Chapter 5: Bolt Specifics

Chapter 5 will show you the practical use of threaded fasteners and the different designs utilized for various applications. Carroll Smith imparts lessons learned from his decades of experience building race cars — this chapter is probably the most enlightening of all...however, you will need the previous four chapters to really understand and appreciate it.

Chapter 6: Female Threads

The female thread is physically weaker than the male thread, but because of the way it is designed and utilized it is every bit the match for its counterpart. This chapter goes into the myriad female thread applications and their theories as well as practical approaches for using them — everything from threads cut from the parent material to the many types of nuts and threaded inserts.

Chapter 7: Locking Devices

This chapter begins with a simple and true statement "the most effective and reliable method of preventing any nut or bolt from loosening is to tighten the thing properly to start with." The author then spends the rest of the chapter covering every form of threaded fastener locking device and chemical I've ever heard of and more. Not only does he go into the important details, but he explains the strengths and weaknesses of each and every approach. He obviously is not only drawing on theory, but again pulling information and anecdotes from his vast personal experience.

Chapter 8: Washers and Miscellaneous Fasteners

There are a lot of washers used in automotive applications. Chapter 8 covers so many different designs that there is little chance you will run into something you won't recognize after reading this chapter — really.

Chapter 9: Rivets and Riveting

Do you know how a rivet works? Do you know that there are well more than 20 different types of rivets out there? That there are a number of different manufacturers? That there is really only one kind of application for rivets, but that there are many aspects and specific applications that a rivet is the best choice for? I didn't know that before I read this, but I do now and I have since thrown myself headlong into riveting. After all, there are lots used on my cars, I just never messed with them because I didn't know how they worked.

Chapter 10: High Performance Plumbing

What does automotive plumbing have to do with fastening? Well, in the world outside of mass produced automobiles, quite a bit. AN plumbing, like that made by Aeroquip and Earl's, is not only entirely threaded, but much more effective than hose and worm clamp assemblies. In this chapter, the author shows you how it works and explains when it is best to use it — and when you really don't need to.

Chapter 11: Future Trends in Fastening

The final chapter takes a look into what was cutting edge in fastener design at the time of its writing (1990), including fastener designs that had yet to see any or widespread automotive applications — but that were on their way in as effective fastening methods that dealt with many of the shortcomings fasteners had been subjected to in the past. As Carroll Smith mentions, by that time almost all advances in fastener strength were peaking to a point that bolts and such didn't need to be stronger, just better designed to take full advantage of the strength they already had. Fastener manufacturers are doing this in some surprising ways, and once you have read the entire book I think you will find this chapter most interesting and enjoyable.


By the end of this book, you will feel like Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of his time with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. And, like Ebenezer Scrooge when he wakes up from the experience safe in his own bed, you will feel better about life because you have a clear and definite idea about what you should and shouldn't do whenever you pick up a wrench, and go to work on your — or someone else's — car.

•   •   •

For more information contact Carroll Smith's company on the web at www.carrollsmith.com or by email at purchasing@carrollsmith.com, or contact Motorbooks on the web at www.motorbooks.com, by phone 1.800.826.6600, or by email at customerservice@motorbooks.com.

U.S. Military Name Tapes Link