Brake Malfunctions and Damage

in Aircraft Landing Gear Systems

Aircraft brakes operate under extreme stress and varied conditions. They are susceptible to malfunction and damage. A few common brake problems are discussed in this section.


While aircraft brakes slow the aircraft by changing kinetic energy into heat energy, overheating of the brakes is not desirable. Excessive heat can damage and distort brake parts weakening them to the point of failure. Protocol for brake usage is designed to prevent overheating. When a brake shows signs of overheating, it must be removed from the aircraft and inspected for damage. When an aircraft is involved in an aborted takeoff, the brakes must be removed and inspected to ensure they withstood this high level of use.

The typical post-overheat brake inspection involves removal of the brake from the aircraft and disassembly of the brakes. All of the seals must be replaced. The brake housing must be checked for cracks, warping, and hardness per the maintenance manual. Any weakness or loss of heat treatment could cause the brake to fail under high-pressure braking. The brake discs must also be inspected. They must not be warped, and the surface treatment must not be damaged or transferred to an adjacent disc. Once reassembled, the brake should be bench tested for leaks and pressure tested for operation before being installed on the aircraft.


Brake drag is a condition caused by the linings not retracting from the brake disc when the brakes are no longer being applied. It can be caused by several different factors. Brakes that drag are essentially partially on at all times. This can cause excessive lining wear and overheating leading to damage to the disc(s).

A brake may drag when the return mechanism is not functioning properly. This could be due to a weak return spring, the return pin slipping in the auto adjuster pin grip, or similar malfunction. Inspect the auto adjuster(s) and return units on the brake when dragging is reported. An overheated brake that has warped the disc also causes brake drag. Remove the brake and perform a complete inspection as discussed in the previous section. Air in the brake fluid line can also cause brake drag. Heat causes the air to expand, which pushes the brake linings against the disc prematurely. If no damage has been caused when reported, bleed the brakes to remove the air from the system to eliminate the drag.

At all times, the technician should perform inspections to ensure the proper parts are used in the brake assembly. Improper parts, especially in the retraction/adjuster assemblies, can cause the brakes to drag.

Chattering or Squealing

Brakes may chatter or squeal when the linings do not ride smoothly and evenly along the disc. A warped disc(s) in a multiple brake disc stack produces a condition wherein the brake is actually applied and removed many times per minute. This causes chattering and, at high frequency, it causes squealing. Any misalignment of the disc stack out of parallel causes the same phenomenon. Discs that have been overheated may have damage to the surface layer of the disc. Some of this mix may be transferred to the adjacent disc resulting in uneven disc surfaces that also leads to chatter or squeal. In addition to the noise produced by brake chattering and squealing, vibration is caused that may lead to further damage of the brake and the landing gear system. The technician must investigate all reports of brake chattering and squealing.