Inspection Process (Part One)

in Engine Maintenance and Operation

The inspection of engine parts during overhaul is divided into three categories:

  1. Visual
  2. Structural NDT
  3. Dimensional

Many defects on the engine components can be detected visually, and a determination of airworthiness can be made at this time. If, by visual inspection, the component is determined to be unairworthy, the part is rejected and no further inspection or repair is required. Structural failures can be determined by several different methods. Magnetic parts can readily be examined by the magnetic particle method. Other methods, such as dye penetrate, eddy current, ultra sound, and X-ray, can also be used. The first two methods are aimed at determining structural failures in the parts, while the last method deals with the size and shape of each part. By using very accurate measuring equipment, each engine component can be dimensionally evaluated and compared to service limits and standards (tolerances) set by the manufacturer.


Visual Inspection

Visual inspection should precede all other inspection procedures. Parts should not be cleaned before a preliminary visual inspection, since indications of a failure may often be detected from the residual deposits of metallic particles in some recesses in the engine.

Several terms are used to describe defects detected in engine parts during inspection. Some of the more common terms and definitions are:

  1. Abrasion—an area of roughened scratches or marks usually caused by foreign matter between moving parts or surfaces.
  2. Brinelling—one or more indentations on bearing races, usually caused by high static loads or application of force during installation or removal. Indentations are rounded or spherical due to the impression left by the contacting balls or rollers of the bearing.
  3. Burning—surface damage due to excessive heat. It is usually caused by improper fit, defective lubrication, or over-temperature operation.
  4. Burnishing—polishing of one surface by sliding contact with a smooth, harder surface. Usually no displacement nor removal of metal.
  5. Burr—a sharp or roughened projection of metal usually resulting from machine processing.
  6. Chafing—a condition caused by a rubbing action between two parts under light pressure that results in wear.
  7. Chipping—breaking away of pieces of material, that is usually caused by excessive stress concentration or careless handling.
  8. Corrosion—loss of metal by a chemical or electrochemical action. The corrosion products are easily removed by mechanical means. Iron rust is an example of corrosion.
  9. Crack—a partial separation of material usually caused by vibration, overloading, internal stresses, defective assembly, or fatigue. Depth may be a few thousandths, to the full thickness of the piece.
  10. Cut—loss of metal, usually to an appreciable depth over a relatively long and narrow area, by mechanical means, as would occur with the use of a saw blade, chisel, or sharp-edged stone striking a glancing blow.
  11. Dent—a small, rounded depression in a surface usually caused by the part being struck with a rounded object.
  12. Erosion—loss of metal from the surface by mechanical action of foreign objects, such as grit or fine sand. The eroded area is rough and may be lined in the direction that the foreign material moved relative to the surface.
  13. Flaking—the breaking loose of small pieces of metal or coated surfaces, that is usually caused by defective plating or excessive loading.
  14. Fretting—a condition of surface erosion caused by minute movement between two parts usually clamped together with considerable unit pressure.
  15. Galling—a severe condition of chafing or fretting in which a transfer of metal from one part to another occurs. It is usually caused by a slight movement of mated parts having limited relative motion and under high loads.
  16. Gouging—a furrowing condition in which a displacement of metal has occurred (a torn effect). It is usually caused by a piece of metal, or foreign material, between close moving parts.
  17. Grooving—a recess, or channel, with rounded and smooth edges usually caused by faulty alignment of parts.
  18. Inclusion—presence of foreign or extraneous material entirely within a portion of metal. Such material is introduced during the manufacture of rod, bar, or tubing by rolling or forging.
  19. Nick—a sharp-sided gouge or depression with a V-shaped bottom, that is generally the result of careless handling of tools and parts.
  20. Peening—a series of blunt depressions in a surface.
  21. Pick up or scuffing—a buildup or rolling of metal from one area to another, that is usually caused by insufficient lubrication, clearances, or foreign matter.
  22. Pitting—small hollows of irregular shape in the surface, usually caused by corrosion or minute mechanical chipping of surfaces.
  23. Scoring—a series of deep scratches caused by foreign particles between moving parts or careless assembly or disassembly techniques.
  24. Scratches—shallow, thin lines or marks, varying in degree of depth and width, caused by presence of fine foreign particles during operation or contact with other parts during handling.
  25. Stain—a change in color, locally, causing a noticeably different appearance from the surrounding area.
  26. Upsetting—a displacement of material beyond the normal contour or surface (a local bulge or bump). Usually indicates no metal loss.

Examine all gears for evidence of pitting or excessive wear. These conditions are of particular importance when they occur on the teeth; deep pit marks in this area are sufficient cause to reject the gear. Bearing surfaces of all gears should be free from deep scratches. However, minor abrasions usually can be dressed out with a fine abrasive cloth.

All bearing surfaces should be examined for scores, galling, and wear. Considerable scratching and light scoring of aluminum bearing surfaces in the engine do no harm and should not be considered a reason for rejecting the part, provided it falls within the clearances set forth in the table of limits in the engine manufacturer’s overhaul manual. Even though the part comes within the specific clearance limits, it is not satisfactory for re-assembly in the engine unless inspection shows the part to be free from other serious defects.

Ball bearings should be inspected visually and by feel for roughness, flat spots on balls, flaking or pitting of races, or scoring on the outside of races. All journals should be checked for galling, scores, misalignment, or out-of-round condition. Shafts, pins, etc., should be checked for straightness. This may be done, in most cases, by using V-blocks and a dial indicator.

Pitted surfaces in highly stressed areas, resulting from corrosion, can cause ultimate failure of the part. The following areas should be examined carefully for evidence of such corrosion:

  1. Interior surfaces of piston pins
  2. The fillets at the edges of crankshaft main and crankpin journal surfaces
  3. Thrust bearing races

If pitting exists on any of the surfaces mentioned, to the extent that it cannot be removed by polishing with crocus cloth or other mild abrasive, the part usually must be rejected.

Parts, such as threaded fasteners or plugs, should be inspected to determine the condition of the threads. Badly worn or mutilated threads cannot be tolerated; the parts should be rejected. However, small defects, such as slight nicks or burrs, may be dressed out with a small file, fine abrasive cloth, or stone. If the part appears to be distorted, badly galled, mutilated by overtightening, or from the use of improper tools, replace it with a new one.