The nonlinear deformation behavior of clamped bolted joints under a separating service load is investigated using finite element and experimental techniques. Although the materials for the bolted joint remain in the linear elastic range, the interface contact area between the clamped plates is sensitive to both the magnitude and the location of the separating force. This often causes nonlinear deformation behavior of the bolted joint. This finite element analysis study investigates the variation in the tension of a tightened bolt and the corresponding change in the joint clamp load due to a separating service load that is placed at various distances from the bolt center. The separating force is symmetrically placed at locations (from the bolt center) that are equal to 3–5 times the nominal diameter of the bolt. Experimental verification of the finite element results is provided.

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