A garter spring is a coiled steel spring that is connected at each end to create a circular shape, and is used in oil seals, shaft seals, belt-driven motors, and electrical connectors. Compression garter springs exert outward radial forces, while extension garter springs exert inward radial forces. The manufacturing process is not much different from the creation of regular coiled springs, with the addition of joining the ends together. Like most other springs, garter springs are typically manufactured with either carbon steel or stainless steel wire.
Compression garter springs are a type of coiled spring that exerts outward radial forces away from the center. They are typically made up of a thick steel wire with large coils; compression springs need to be able to handle very large loads while being able to return to their natural extended position. Compression springs store potential energy when they are compressed (length of spring decreases), and exert kinetic energy when released. Compression garter springs use this principle to withstand forces acting on it from outside. They may be placed inside a circular object to maintain the object’s circular shape. This is similar to squeezing a rubber ball; the ball will contract when squeezed but will return to its natural state once the external pressure is released.
Extension garter springs are on the opposite side of the spring spectrum. Although they are also a type of coiled spring, extension garter springs exert inward radial forces that move toward the center. Extension springs store potential energy in their extended form and want to contract. Thinner wire and a greater number of coils allow extension springs to be able to contract quickly, which is essential when dealing with pressurized fluids and gases. Extension garter springs act against forces from the center, so they may be placed on the outside of a circular object to maintain the object’s circular shape. They act similar to a bracelet, which is extended to fit around the hand and then snaps back into shape on the wrist. Extension garter springs are more common than compression garter springs because they use less material (smaller circumference and thinner wire) and they respond to changes quicker and more efficiently.