The plastic insert is placed at the end of the nut, with an inner diameter (ID) slightly smaller than the major diameter of the screw. The insert deforms elastically over the threads of the screw, without having threads in turn cut into it. The nylon insert locks the nut by friction against the screw under the applied radial compressive force. Nyloc nuts retain their locking ability up to 250 °F (121 °C).
A nylon pellet nut is very similar to a nyloc nut except that it uses one or more smaller nylon inserts instead of a ring of nylon. They do not lock as strongly as nyloc nuts.
Authorities disagree on whether nyloc nuts should be reused. For example, Carroll Smith (Carroll Smith's Nuts, Bolts, Fasteners, and Plumbing Handbook) notes that the nylon insert is not damaged by installation and therefore they can be reused many times, and a Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular allows nuts to be reused if the prevailing torque is within specification. However, an Air Force Technical Order requires replacement of self-locking nuts in critical areas. Various specifications for aerospace-grade self-locking nuts require that the running torque be maintained after a number of cycles of assembly, but without preloading the fastener.
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- Smith, Carroll (1990), Carroll Smith's Nuts, Bolts, Fasteners, and Plumbing Handbook, MotorBooks/MBI Publishing Company, p. 104, ISBN 0-87938-406-9.
- Glossary of Terminology Related to Nuts and Bolts, retrieved 2008-11-25.
- FAA AC43.13-1B.
- Air Force T.O. 1-1A-8.
- NASM 25027, SPECIFICATION, NUT, SELF-LOCKING, 250 °F, 450 °F, AND 800 °F.