Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

Daniel P. Hess


Frequency response function measurement, Impact testing, Loose bolt detection, Modal parameters, Natural frequency


Bolted joints are integral parts of mechanical systems, and bolt preload loss is one of the major failure modes for bolted joint structures. Understanding the damping and frequency response to a varying preload in a single-bolted lap-joint structure can be very helpful in predicting and analyzing more complicated structures connected by these joints.

In this thesis, the relationship between the bolt preload and the natural frequency, and the relationship between the bolt preload and the structural damping, have both been investigated through impact hammer testing on a single-bolted lap-joint structure. The test data revealed that the bolt preload has nonlinear effects on the structural damping and on the natural frequency of the structure. The damping ratios of the test structure were determined to increase with decreasing preload. An increase in structural damping is beneficial in most engineering circumstances, for it will reduce the vibrational response and noise subjected to external excitations. It was also observed that the modal frequency increased with increasing preload, but remained approximately constant for preload larger than 30% in the bolt yield strength. One application for studying the preload effect is the detection for loose bolts in structures. The possibility of using impact testing for estimating preload loss has been confirmed, and the modal damping was determined to be a more sensitive indicator than the natural frequency in a single-bolted lap-joint structure.