Aircraft Wheels – Wheel Inspection (Part Two)

in Aircraft Landing Gear Systems

Wheel Bearing Inspection

Once cleaned, the wheel bearing is inspected. There are many unacceptable conditions of the bearing and bearing cup, which are grounds for rejection. In fact, nearly any flaw detected in a bearing assembly is likely to be grounds for replacement.


Common conditions of a bearing that are cause for rejection are as follows:

Galling—caused by rubbing of mating surfaces. The metal gets so hot it welds, and the surface metal is destroyed as the motion continues and pulls the metal apart in the direction of motion. [Figure 13-64]

Figure 13-64. Galling is caused by rubbing of mating surfaces. The metal gets so hot it welds, and the surface metal is destroyed as the motion continues and pulls the metal apart in the direction of motion.

Figure 13-64. Galling is caused by rubbing of mating surfaces. The
metal gets so hot it welds, and the surface metal is destroyed as the
motion continues and pulls the metal apart in the direction of motion.

Spalling—a chipped away portion of the hardened surface of a bearing roller or race. [Figure 13-65]

Figure 13-65. Spalling is a chipped away portion of the hardened surface of a bearing roller or race.

Figure 13-65. Spalling is a chipped away portion of the hardened surface of a bearing roller or race.

Overheating—caused by lack of sufficient lubrication results in a bluish tint to the metal surface. The ends of the rollers shown were overheated causing the metal to flow and deform, as well as discolor. The bearing cup raceway is usually discolored as well. [Figure 13-66]

Figure 13-66. Overheating caused by lack of sufficient lubrication results in a bluish tint to the metal surface. The ends of the rollers shown were overheated causing the metal to flow and deform, as well as discolor. The bearing cup raceway is usually discolored as well.

Figure 13-66. Overheating caused by lack of sufficient lubrication results in a bluish tint to the metal surface. The ends of the rollers shown were overheated causing the metal to flow and deform, as well as discolor. The bearing cup raceway is usually discolored as well.

Brinelling—caused by excessive impact. It appears as indentations in the bearing cup raceways. Any static overload or severe impact can cause true brinelling that leads to vibration and premature bearing failure. [Figure 13-67]

Figure 13-67. Brinelling is caused by excessive impact. It appears as indentations in the bearing cup raceways. Any static overload or severe impact can cause true brinelling, which leads to vibration and premature bearing failure.

Figure 13-67. Brinelling is caused by excessive impact. It appears as indentations in the bearing cup raceways. Any static overload or severe impact can cause true brinelling, which leads to vibration and premature bearing failure.

False Brinelling—caused by vibration of the bearing while in a static state. Even with a static overload, lubricant can be forced from between the rollers and the raceway. Submicroscopic particles removed at the points of metal-tometal contact oxidize. They work to remove more particles spreading the damage. This is also known as frictional corrosion. It can be identified by a rusty coloring of the lubricant. [Figure 13-68]

Figure 13-68. False brinelling is caused by vibration of the bearing while in a static state. Even with a static overload, it can force the lubricant from between the rollers and the raceway. Submicroscopic particles removed at the points of metal-to-metal contact oxidize. They work to remove more particles spreading the damage. This is also known as frictional corrosion. It can be identified by a rusty coloring of the lubricant.

Figure 13-68. False brinelling is caused by vibration of the bearing while in a static state. Even with a static overload, it can force the lubricant from between the rollers and the raceway. Submicroscopic particles removed at the points of metal-to-metal contact oxidize. They work to remove more particles spreading the damage. This is also known as frictional corrosion. It can be identified by a rusty coloring of the lubricant.

Staining and surface marks—located on the bearing cup as grayish black streaks with the same spacing as the rollers and caused by water that has gotten into the bearing. It is the first stage of deeper corrosion that follows. [Figure 13-69]

Figure 13-69. Staining and surface marks on the bearing cup that are grayish black streaks with the same spacing as the rollers are caused by water that has gotten into the bearing. It is the first stage of deeper corrosion that will follow.

Figure 13-69. Staining and surface marks on the bearing cup that are grayish black streaks with the same spacing as the rollers are caused by water that has gotten into the bearing. It is the first stage of deeper corrosion that will follow.

Etching and corrosion—caused when water and the damage caused by water penetrates the surface treatment of the bearing element. It appears as a reddish/brown discoloration. [Figure 13-70]

Figure 13-70. Etching and corrosion is caused when water, and the damage caused by water, penetrates the surface treatment of the bearing element. It appears as a reddish/brown discoloration.

Figure 13-70. Etching and corrosion is caused when water, and the damage caused by water, penetrates the surface treatment of the bearing element. It appears as a reddish/brown discoloration.

Bruising—caused by fine particle contamination possibly from a bad seal or improper maintenance of bearing cleanliness. It leaves a less than smooth surface on the bearing cup. [Figure 13-71]

Figure 13-71. Bruising is caused by fine particle contamination possibly from a bad seal or improper maintenance of bearing cleanliness. It leaves a less than smooth surface on the bearing cup.

Figure 13-71. Bruising is caused by fine particle contamination
possibly from a bad seal or improper maintenance of bearing
cleanliness. It leaves a less than smooth surface on the bearing cup.

The bearing cup does not require removal for inspection; however, it must be firmly seated in the wheel half boss. There should be no evidence that a cup is loose or able to spin. [Figure 13-72] The cup is usually removed by heating the wheel in a controlled oven and pressing it out or tapping it out with a non-metallic drift. The installation procedure is similar. The wheel is heated and the cup is cooled with dry ice before it is tapped into place with a non-metallic hammer or drift. The outside of the race is often sprayed with primer before insertion. Consult the wheel manufacturer’s maintenance manual for specific instructions.

Figure 13-72. Bearing cups should be tight in the wheel boss and should never rotate. The outside of a bearing cup that was spinning while installed in the wheel is shown.

Figure 13-72. Bearing cups should be tight in the wheel boss and should never rotate. The outside of a bearing cup that was spinning while installed in the wheel is shown.

Bearing Handling and Lubrication

Handling of bearings is of the utmost importance. Contamination, moisture, and vibration, even while the bearing is in a static state, can ruin a bearing. Avoid conditions where these may affect bearings and be sure to install and torque bearings into place according manufacturer’s instructions.

Proper lubrication is a partial deterrent to negative environmental impacts on a bearing. Use the lubricant recommended by the manufacturer. Use of a pressure bearing packing tool or adapter is also recommended as the best method to remove any contaminants from inside the bearing that may have remained after cleaning. [Figure 13-73]

Figure 13-73. A pressure bearing lubricating tool.

Figure 13-73. A pressure bearing lubricating tool.

Inspection of the Wheel Halves

A thorough visual inspection of each wheel half should be conducted for discrepancies specified in the wheel manufacturer’s maintenance data. Use of a magnifying glass is recommended. Corrosion is one of the most common problems encountered while inspecting wheels. Locations where moisture is trapped should be checked closely. It is possible to dress out some corrosion according to the manufacturer’s instructions. An approved protective surface treatment and finish must be applied before returning the wheel to service. Corrosion beyond stated limits is cause for rejection of the wheel.

In addition to corrosion, cracks in certain areas of the wheel are particularly prevalent. One such area is the bead seat area. [Figure 13-74] The high stress of landing is transferred to the wheel by the tire in this contact area. Hard landings produce distortion or cracks that are very difficult to detect. This is a concern on all wheels and is most problematic in highpressure, forged wheels. Dye penetrant inspection is generally ineffective when checking for cracks in the bead area. There is a tendency for cracks to close up tightly once the tire is dismounted, and the stress is removed from the metal. Eddy current inspection of the bead seat area is required. Follow the wheel manufacturer’s instruction when performing the eddy current check.

Figure 13-74. The bead seat areas of a light aircraft wheel set. Eddy current testing for cracks in the bead seat area is common.

Figure 13-74. The bead seat areas of a light aircraft wheel set. Eddy current testing for cracks in the bead seat area is common.

The wheel brake disc drive key area is another area in which cracks are common. The forces experienced when the keys drive the disc against the stopping force of the brakes are high. Generally, a dye penetrant test is sufficient to reveal cracks in this area. All drive keys should be secure with no movement possible. No corrosion is permitted in this area. [Figure 13-75]

Figure 13-75. Inspection for cracks in the wheel disc drive key area is performed with dye penetrant on many wheels.

Figure 13-75. Inspection for cracks in the wheel disc drive key area is performed with dye penetrant on many wheels.

Wheel Tie Bolt Inspection

Wheel half tie bolts are under great stress while in service and require inspection. The tie bolts stretch and change dimension usually at the threads and under the bolt head. These are areas where cracks are most common. Magnetic particle inspection can reveal these cracks. Follow the maintenance manual procedures for inspecting tie bolts.

Key and Key Screw Inspection

On most aircraft inner wheel halves, keys are screwed or bolted to the wheel to drive the brake disc(s). The drive keys are subject to extreme forces when the brakes are applied. As mentioned, there should be no movement between the wheel and the keys. The bolts should be checked for security, and the area around the keys should be inspected for cracks. There is also a limitation on how worn the keys can be since too much wear allows excessive movement. The wheel manufacturer’s maintenance instructions should be used to perform a complete inspection of this critical area.

Fusible Plug Inspection

Fusible plugs or thermal plugs must be inspected visually. These threaded plugs have a core that melts at a lower temperature than the outer part of the plug. This is to release air from the tire should the temperature rise to a dangerous level. A close inspection should reveal whether any core has experienced deformation that might be due to high temperature. If detected, all thermal plugs in the wheel should be replaced with new plugs. [Figure 13-76]

Figure 13-76. Visually inspect the core of a thermal or fusible plug for deformation associated with heat exposure. Replace all of the plugs if any appear to have begun to deform.

Figure 13-76. Visually inspect the core of a thermal or fusible plug for deformation associated with heat exposure. Replace all of the plugs if any appear to have begun to deform.

Balance Weights

The balance of an aircraft wheel assembly is important. When manufactured, each wheel set is statically balanced. Weights are added to accomplish this if needed. They are a permanent part of the wheel assembly and must be installed to use the wheel. The balance weights are bolted to the wheel halves and can be removed when cleaning and inspecting the wheel. They must be re-fastened in their original position. When a tire is mounted to a wheel, balancing of the wheel and tire assembly may require that additional weights be added. These are usually installed around the circumference of the outside of the wheel and should not be taken as substitutes for the factory wheel set balance weights. [Figure 13-77]

Figure 13-77. Two piece aircraft wheels are statically balanced when manufactured and may include weights attached to each wheel half that must stay with the wheel during its entire serviceable life.

Figure 13-77. Two piece aircraft wheels are statically balanced when manufactured and may include weights attached to each wheel half that must stay with the wheel during its entire serviceable life.