Brake Inspection and Service (Part One)

in Aircraft Landing Gear Systems

Brake Inspection and Service

Brake inspection and service is important to keep these critical aircraft components fully functional at all times. There are many different brake systems on aircraft. Brake system maintenance is performed both while the brakes are installed on the aircraft and when the brakes are removed. The manufacturer’s instructions must always be followed to ensure proper maintenance.


On Aircraft Servicing

Inspection and servicing of aircraft brakes while installed on the aircraft is required. The entire brake system must be inspected in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Some common inspection items include: brake lining wear, air in the brake system, fluid quantity level, leaks, and proper bolt torque.

Lining Wear

Brake lining material is made to wear as it causes friction during application of the brakes. This wear must be monitored to ensure it is not worn beyond limits and sufficient lining is available for effective braking. The aircraft manufacturer gives specifications for lining wear in its maintenance information. The amount of wear can be checked while the brakes are installed on the aircraft.

Many brake assemblies contain a built-in wear indicator pin. Typically, the exposed pin length decreases as the linings wear, and a minimum length is used to indicate the linings must be replaced. Caution must be used as different assemblies may vary in how the pin measured. On the Goodyear brake described above, the wear pin is measured where it protrudes through the nut of the automatic adjuster on the back side of the piston cylinder. [Figure 13-113]

Figure 13-113. Brake lining wear on a Goodyear brake is ascertained by measuring the wear pin of the automatic adjuster.

Figure 13-113. Brake lining wear on a Goodyear brake is ascertained by measuring the wear pin of the automatic adjuster.

The Boeing brake illustrated in Figure 13-88 measures the length of the pin from the back of the pressure plate when the brakes are applied (dimension L). The manufacturer’s maintenance information must be consulted to ensure brake wear pin indicators on different aircraft are read correctly.

Figure 13-88. The multiple-disk brake assembly and details from a Boeing 737.

Figure 13-88. The multiple-disk brake assembly and details from a Boeing 737. [click image to enlarge]

On many other brake assemblies, lining wear is not measured via a wear pin. The distance between the disc and a portion of the brake housing when the brakes are applied is sometimes used. As the linings wear, this distance increases. The manufacturer specified at what distance the linings should be changed. [Figure 13-114]
Figure 13-114. The distance between the brake disc and the brake housing measured with the brakes applied is a means for determining brake lining wear on some brakes.

Figure 13-114. The distance between the brake disc and the brake housing measured with the brakes applied is a means for determining brake lining wear on some brakes.

On Cleveland brakes, lining wear can be measured directly, since part of the lining is usually exposed. The diameter of a number 40 twist drill is approximately equal to the minimum lining thickness allowed. [Figure 13-115]

Figure 13-115. A #40 twist drill laid next to the brake lining indicates when the lining needs to be changed on a Cleveland brake.

Figure 13-115. A #40 twist drill laid next to the brake lining indicates when the lining needs to be changed on a Cleveland brake.

Multiple disc brakes typically are checked for lining wear by applying the brakes and measuring the distance between the back of the pressure plate and the brake housing. [Figure 13-116] Regardless of the method particular to each brake, regular monitoring and measurement of brake wear ensures linings are replaced as they become unserviceable. Linings worn beyond limits usually require the brake assembly to be removed for replacement.

Figure 13-116. The distance between the brake housing and the pressure plate indicates lining wear on some multiple disc brakes.

Figure 13-116. The distance between the brake housing and the pressure plate indicates lining wear on some multiple disc brakes.

Air in the Brake System

The presence of air in the brake system fluid causes the brake pedal to feel spongy. The air can be removed by bleeding to restore firm brake pedal feel. Brake systems must be bled according to manufacturers’ instructions. The method used is matched to the type of brake system. Brakes are bled by one of two methods: top down, gravity bleeding or bottom up pressure bleeding. Brakes are bled when the pedals feel spongy or whenever the brake system has been opened.

Bleeding Master Cylinder Brake Systems

Brake systems with master cylinders may be bled by gravity or pressure bleeding methods. Follow the instructions in the aircraft maintenance manual. To pressure bleed a brake system from the bottom up, a pressure pot is used. [Figure 13-117] This is a portable tank that contains a supply of brake fluid under pressure. When dispersing fluid from the tank, pure air-free fluid is forced from near the bottom of the tank by the air pressure above it. The outlet hose that attaches the bleed port on the brake assembly contains a shut-off valve. Note that a similar source of pure, pressurized fluid can be substituted for a pressure tank, such as a hand-pump type unit found in some hangars.

Figure 13-117. A typical brake bleeder pot or tank contains pure brake fluid under pressure. It pushes the fluid through the brake system to displace any air that may be present.

Figure 13-117. A typical brake bleeder pot or tank contains pure brake fluid under pressure. It pushes the fluid through the brake system to displace any air that may be present.

The typical pressure bleed is accomplished as illustrated in Figure 13-118. The hose from the pressure tank is attached to the bleed port on the brake assembly. A clear hose is attached to the vent port on the aircraft brake fluid reservoir or on the master cylinder if it incorporates the reservoir. The other end of this hose is placed in a collection container with a supply of clean brake fluid covering the end of the hose. The brake assembly bleed port is opened. The valve on the pressure tank hose is then opened allowing pure, air-free fluid to enter the brake system. Fluid containing trapped air is expelled through the hose attached to the vent port of the reservoir. The clear hose is monitored for air bubbles. When they cease to exist, the bleed port and pressure tank shutoff are closed and the pressure tank hose is removed. The hose at the reservoir is also removed. Fluid quantity may need to be adjusted to assure the reservoir is not over filled. Note that it is absolutely necessary that the proper fluid be used to service any brake system including when bleeding air from the brake lines.

Figure 13-118. Arrangement for bottom-up pressure bleeding of aircraft brakes. Fluid is pushed through the system until no air bubbles are visible in the hose at the top.

Figure 13-118. Arrangement for bottom-up pressure bleeding of aircraft brakes. Fluid is pushed through the system until no air bubbles are visible in the hose at the top.

Brakes with master cylinders may also be gravity bled from the top down. This is a process similar to that used on automobiles. [Figure 13-119] Additional fluid is supplied to the aircraft brake reservoir so that the quantity does not exhaust while bleeding, which would cause the reintroduction of more air into the system. A clear hose is connected to the bleed port on the brake assembly. The other end is submersed in clean fluid in a container large enough to capture fluid expelled during the bleeding process. Depress the brake pedal and open the brake assembly bleed port. The piston in the master cylinder travels all the way to the end of the cylinder forcing air fluid mixture out of the bleed hose and into the container. With the pedal still depressed, close the bleed port. Pump the brake pedal to introduce more fluid from the reservoir ahead of the piston in the master cylinder. Hold the pedal down, and open the bleed port on the brake assembly. More fluid and air is expelled through the hose into the container. Repeat this process until the fluid exiting the brake through the hose no longer contains any air. Tighten the bleed port fitting and ensure the reservoir is filled to the proper level.

Figure 13-119. Arrangement for top down or gravity bleeding of aircraft brakes.

Figure 13-119. Arrangement for top down or gravity bleeding of aircraft brakes.

Whenever bleeding the brakes, ensure that reservoirs and bleed tanks remain full during the process. Use only clean, specified fluid. Always check the brakes for proper operation, any leaks when bleeding is complete, and assure that the fluid quantity level is correct.