The Different Types of Carbon Steel and Their Properties

types of carbon steel

Carbon steel is a steel type containing various amounts of carbon as the main alloying element. It is one of the most common types of steel used in manufacturing and construction due to its high strength and durability. Carbon steel is classified into three categories. The level of carbon in the steel determines its properties, making carbon steel versatile and widely used in a variety of applications.

Carbon steel is widely used because of its high strength, low cost, and versatility. However, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution, as different grades of carbon steel have varying properties that make them suitable for specific applications. By thoroughly understanding these different types of carbon steel, industries can select the right material for their particular needs, ensuring enhanced performance, cost-effectiveness, and durability of their products and structures.

low carbon steel

Low Carbon Steel

Properties of Low-Carbon Steel

It is also known as mild steel. Typically, low-carbon steel contains less than 0.3% carbon content. The main characteristic of low-carbon steel is its relatively low strength and hardness compared to other types of steel. Low-carbon steel can be easily formed, welded, and fabricated, making it a popular choice for construction, automotive, and manufacturing industries.

Common Applications of Low-Carbon Steel

One common application of low-carbon steel is in the construction industry, where it is used to manufacture beams, columns, and structural components. Another common use is manufacturing automotive parts, such as chassis, body panels, and engine components. Low-carbon steel is also widely used in household appliance production, including refrigerators, ovens, and washing machines. This type of steel finds its way into producing pipes, tubing, and wire in plumbing, electrical, and telecommunications industries.

 Advantages and Disadvantages of Low-Carbon Steel

The advantages of low-carbon steel are excellent formability. It makes it easy to shape and manipulate into different geometries. It is highly weldable and offers good machinability, allowing for easy fabrication and joining processes. Another advantage of low-carbon steel is its high flexibility, meaning it can withstand high levels of deformation without breaking. However, it has lower strength than other types of steel, which limits its suitability for applications requiring high load-bearing capacity.

Medium Carbon Steel

Medium Carbon Steel

Properties of Medium Carbon Steel

It is steel with carbon content ranging from 0.30% to 0.60%. The moderate amount of carbon in medium carbon steel provides a balance of strength and flexibility, making it suitable for various applications. It is commonly used in manufacturing machinery parts, automotive components, and construction materials. Medium carbon steel can be heat treated to enhance its properties and improve its mechanical performance.

Common Applications of Medium Carbon Steel

One common application is automotive parts, such as axles, crankshafts, and gears. These components require toughness and wear resistance, which medium carbon steel provides. Another common use is in construction, where medium carbon steel is used for beams, bridges, and pipelines. Medium carbon steel is also often used in machinery and equipment manufacturing, such as in producing industrial cutting tools and press dies.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Medium Carbon Steel

Medium carbon steel has a carbon content ranging from 0.3% to 0.6%. This makes medium carbon steel suitable for applications that require a higher level of toughness. Medium carbon steel can be easily machined and welded. The higher carbon content makes it more susceptible to corrosion, requiring proper maintenance to prevent rusting.

High Carbon Steel

High Carbon Steel

Properties of High Carbon Steel

The carbon content in high-carbon steel is typically between 0.6% and 1.5%, significantly increasing its hardness and strength. High-carbon steel is also more brittle and less ductile than other types of steel, making it prone to cracking under high stress. This requires careful handling and special heat treatment processes to prevent failures and achieve the desired properties for specific applications. 

Common Applications of High Carbon Steel

One common application of high-carbon steel is manufacturing cutting tools. The high carbon content enhances the sharpness and durability of these tools, making them suitable for cutting through tough materials. High-carbon steel is also used to produce springs, as it can withstand significant pressure without deforming. It is utilized in the construction of railways.

Advantages and Disadvantages of High Carbon Steel

It provides high strength and durability, making it ideal for applications that require heavy-duty materials. This type of steel is also known for its excellent hardness, which allows it to resist wear and tear, making it suitable for cutting tools and blades. The high carbon content makes this steel more brittle and less ductile, increasing its susceptibility to cracking and breaking. It is also more difficult to weld and shape than lower-carbon steel.

Alloyed Carbon Steel

Properties of Alloyed Carbon Steel

Alloyed carbon steel is a blend of iron and carbon combined with other elements such as manganese, nickel, or chromium. Alloyed carbon steel can have a higher tensile strength and better hardness than regular carbon steel. It also has improved heat resistance, making it suitable for high-temperature applications. It exhibits higher toughness and impact resistance, making it ideal for structural applications in various industries.

Common Alloying Elements and Their Effects

Chromium is used in stainless steel alloys to enhance their corrosion resistance. Nickel is another element commonly added to steel to improve strength and toughness. Copper is often alloyed with other metals to improve their electrical conductivity. Aluminum is added to various alloys to enhance their strength, corrosion, and heat resistance. Titanium is alloyed with other metals to enhance its resistance to corrosion and high temperatures.

Common Applications of Alloyed Carbon Steel

In the automotive industry, alloyed carbon steel is used to manufacture vehicle components such as engine parts, chassis, and suspension systems. The aerospace industry relies heavily on alloyed carbon steel to produce aircraft structural components due to its excellent mechanical properties and lightweight nature. In construction, people commonly use alloyed carbon steel for structural support beams, reinforcing bars, and various building components. People widely use alloyed carbon steel in the energy industry to produce pipelines, storage tanks, and pressure vessels because of its resistance to high temperatures and extreme environments.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Alloyed Carbon Steel

It is durable and resistant. Moreover, alloying carbon steel enhances its strength and hardness, making it ideal for high-stress environments. Alloyed carbon steel exhibits excellent corrosion resistance. Its higher cost compared to non-alloyed carbon steel is the main disadvantage. The alloying process increases manufacturing expenses, making it less cost-effective for certain applications.

Caring for Carbon steel products

Maintaining and Caring for Carbon Steel Products

Proper maintenance and care for carbon steel products is best to ensure their longevity and optimal performance. Carbon steel is a popular choice for various applications such as construction and manufacturing. Moreover, regular cleaning and drying after use and applying a protective coating to prevent moisture exposure are essential to prevent rusting and deterioration. Finally, periodic inspection and maintenance can help identify any signs of wear and tear, allowing for timely repairs or replacements.


Our Locations


17671 Bear Valley Road
Hesperia, CA 92345
(760) 244-5456

View Location


72470 Varner Road
Thousand Palms, CA 92276
(760) 343-3100

View Location


1470 E. Torrance Road
Ft Mohave, AZ 86430
(928) 754-7000

View Location

Get a Quote Now