Black Chromate, or "Why the special screws?"

At !!!MANIC Salamander, we're playing for keeps. We don't want to sell anything that won't look and work at least respectably after 10 years parked in the rain, washed twice a year, ridden hard, etc.

We know we can't meet this ideal on every product in every way. Sometimes it is technologically impossible. Sometimes it would cost more than anyone would pay.

But here's one thing we can give you: GREAT FASTENERS!

We use Grade 12.9 alloy Steel, Black Zinc Chromate-plated, lacquered screws EXCLUSIVELY. They aren't sold commercially in metric sizes, as far as I know, so I pay for my own batches to be done.

Why not just use 18-8 Stainless like everybody else?

It seems that all the aftermarket people are gravitating to 18-8 Stainless fasteners. There are a couple advantages:

  • They don't corrode. Even when hot. That makes them a really good choice for exhaust systems.
  • They work ok.
  • They look ok.
  • They are available off-the-shelf.

BUT, let me tell you what I have found after 9 years machine-building and engineering experience with both Alloy and Stainless fasteners.

  • Stainless fasteners get stuck and break off if anything goes wrong.

That means that if the threads of the screw are damaged or contaminated with dirt, metal chips, rust or whatever, the stainless screws have a tendency to get deformed by the mating part, then to harden, and cut into the mating part, anchoring itself so firmly, that within ¼ turn, it will freeze solid, and break off.

  • Stainless' strength to size, and strength to weight, are much worse than Alloy Steel 12.9.

Maybe you keep your bike really clean. Maybe you keep your threads really clean. Fine. Good for you.

But I do not. How can you if you insist on riding on miles and miles of whatever you find, in wet weather? Back at the conveyor belt company, it was pretty easy to fix a galled Stainless fastener. All you need to do is break it off with a wrench, grind it nearly flush with an angle grinder, weld it in with a TIG welder and some filler rod, grind it flush, redrill, and re-tap the threads. Easy as pie. But I don't carry that kind of equipment when I tour, and I want my fasteners to behave themselves anyway.

Grade 12.9 Alloy Steel is tough as nails. No, scratch that. Nails are nothing. It's dozens of times tougher than nails.

  • The threads can be abraded and damaged, but it is much harder to do. Dirty or deformed mating parts won't make your screw useless. It is still worth correcting, but if you're careful, the screw can tough it out.
  • Even if the screw threads get damaged, they stay smoother, allowing the screw to still serve its purpose in far worse condition than would be safe with Stainless. A Grade 12.9 Alloy steel screw will probably be with you at the end of a muddy round-the-world trip, unless you do VERY, VERY bad things to it.
  • The threads are much more precise and smooth, making for a real quality feel.
  • It has phenomenal tensile strength, more than I'll ever ask of it.

One problem; it rusts.

That's where the Black Zinc Chromate and lacquer come in.

I asked around, and this is about as good as it gets. My vendor tells me they coat fasteners this way for Honda. This is almost the same coating as the Green Zinc Chromate that the military has used for decades.

They have a dull grey-black speckled appearance. You may have seen some like them on your bike from the factory.

If you leave your bike in the weather, ride it in the salt, and wash it twice a year, these fasteners probably won't start to rust for 10 years. The only place I wouldn't use them on the chassis is on the exhaust pipes. It is too hot for the coating.

It's a big bother, and it costs money. But as a professional machine builder, I know they are worth it. It is one more battle won in the fight for a quality product.

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