Structural Fasteners – Solid Shank Rivets – Installation of Rivets

in Aircraft Metal Structural Repair

Installation of Rivets
Repair Layout

Repair layout involves determining the number of rivets required, the proper size and style of rivets to be used, their material, temper condition and strength, the size of the holes, the distances between the holes, and the distance between the holes and the edges of the patch. Distances are measured in terms of rivet diameter.


Rivet Length

To determine the total length of a rivet to be installed, the combined thickness of the materials to be joined must first be known. This measurement is known as the grip length. The total length of the rivet equals the grip length plus the amount of rivet shank needed to form a proper shop head. The latter equals one and a half times the diameter of the rivet shank. Where A is total rivet length, B is grip length, and C is the length of the material needed to form a shop head, this formula can be represented as A = B + C. [Figure 4-76]

Figure 4-76. Rivet formed head dimensions.

Figure 4-76. Rivet formed head dimensions.

Rivet Strength

For structural applications, the strength of the replacement rivets is of primary importance. [Figure 4-77] Rivets made of material that is lower in strength should not be used as replacements unless the shortfall is made up by using a larger rivet. For example, a rivet of 2024-T4 aluminum alloy should not be replaced with one of 2117-T4 or 2017-T4 aluminum alloy unless the next larger size is used.

Figure 4-77. Rivet allow strength.

Figure 4-77. Rivet allow strength.

The 2117-T rivet is used for general repair work, since it requires no heat treatment, is fairly soft and strong, and is highly corrosion resistant when used with most types of alloys. Always consult the maintenance manual for correct rivet type and material. The type of rivet head to select for a particular repair job can be determined by referring to the type used within the surrounding area by the manufacturer. A general rule to follow on a flush-riveted aircraft is to apply flush rivets on the upper surface of the wing and stabilizers, on the lower leading edge back to the spar, and on the fuselage back to the high point of the wing. Use universal head rivets in all other surface areas. Whenever possible, select rivets of the same alloy number as the material being riveted.

Stresses Applied to Rivets

Shear is one of the two stresses applied to rivets. The shear strength is the amount of force required to cut a rivet that holds two or more sheets of material together. If the rivet holds two parts, it is under single shear; if it holds three sheets or parts, it is under double shear. To determine the shear strength, the diameter of the rivet to be used must be found by multiplying the thickness of the skin material by 3. For example, a material thickness of 0.040 inch multiplied by 3 equals 0.120 inch. In this case, the rivet diameter selected would be 1⁄8 (0.125) inch.

Tension is the other stress applied to rivets. The resistance to tension is called bearing strength and is the amount of tension required to pull a rivet through the edge of two sheets riveted together or to elongate the hole.

Rivet Spacing

Rivet spacing is measured between the centerlines of rivets in the same row. The minimum spacing between protruding head rivets shall not be less than 31⁄2 times the rivet diameter. The minimum spacing between flush head rivets shall not be less than 4 times the diameter of the rivet. These dimensions may be used as the minimum spacing except when specified differently in a specific repair procedure or when replacing existing rivets.

On most repairs, the general practice is to use the same rivet spacing and edge distance (distance from the center of the hole to the edge of the material) that the manufacturer used in the area surrounding the damage. The SRM for the particular aircraft may also be consulted. Aside from this fundamental rule, there is no specific set of rules that governs spacing of rivets in all cases. However, there are certain minimum requirements that must be observed.

  • When possible, rivet edge distance, rivet spacing, and distance between rows should be the same as that of the original installation.
  • When new sections are to be added, the edge distance measured from the center of the rivet should never be less than 2 times the diameter of the shank; the distance between rivets or pitch should be at least 3 times the diameter; and the distance between rivet rows should never be less than 21⁄2 times the diameter.

Figure 4-78 illustrates acceptable ways of laying out a rivet pattern for a repair.

Figure 4-78. Acceptable rivet patterns.

Figure 4-78. Acceptable rivet patterns.

Edge Distance

Edge distance, also called edge margin by some manufacturers, is the distance from the center of the first rivet to the edge of the sheet. It should not be less than 2 or more than 4 rivet diameters and the recommended edge distance is about 21⁄2 rivet diameters. The minimum edge distance for universal rivets is 2 times the diameter of the rivet; the minimum edge distance for countersunk rivets is 21⁄2 times the diameter of the rivet. If rivets are placed too close to the edge of the sheet, the sheet may crack or pull away from the rivets. If they are spaced too far from the edge, the sheet is likely to turn up at the edges. [Figure 4-79]

Figure 4-79. Minimum edge distance.

Figure 4-79. Minimum edge distance.

It is good practice to lay out the rivets a little further from the edge so that the rivet holes can be oversized without violating the edge distance minimums. Add 1⁄16-inch to the minimum edge distance or determine the edge distance using the next size of rivet diameter.

Two methods for obtaining edge distance:

  • The rivet diameter of a protruding head rivet is 3⁄32- inch. Multiply 2 times 3⁄32-inch to obtain the minimum edge distance, 3⁄16-inch, add 1⁄16-inch to yield the preferred edge distance of 1⁄4-inch.
  • The rivet diameter of a protruding head rivet is 3⁄32-inch. Select the next size of rivet, which is 1⁄8-inch. Calculate the edge distance by multiplying 2 times 1⁄8-inch to get 1⁄4-inch.

Rivet Pitch

Rivet pitch is the distance between the centers of neighboring rivets in the same row. The smallest allowable rivet pitch is 3 rivet diameters. The average rivet pitch usually ranges from 4 to 6 rivet diameters, although in some instances rivet pitch could be as large as 10 rivet diameters. Rivet spacing on parts that are subjected to bending moments is often closer to the minimum spacing to prevent buckling of the skin between the rivets. The minimum pitch also depends on the number of rows of rivets. One-and three-row layouts have a minimum pitch of 3 rivet diameters, a two-row layout has a minimum pitch of 4 rivet diameters. The pitch for countersunk rivets is larger than for universal head rivets. If the rivet spacing is made at least 1⁄16-inch larger than the minimum, the rivet hole can be oversized without violating the minimum rivet spacing requirement. [Figure 4-80]

Figure 4-80. Rivet spacing.

Figure 4-80. Rivet spacing. [click image to enlarge]

Transverse Pitch

Transverse pitch is the perpendicular distance between rivet rows. It is usually 75 percent of the rivet pitch. The smallest allowable transverse pitch is 21⁄2 rivet diameters. The smallest allowable transverse pitch is 21⁄2 rivet diameters. Rivet pitch and transverse pitch often have the same dimension and are simply called rivet spacing.

Rivet Layout Example

The general rules for rivet spacing, as it is applied to a straight-row layout, are quite simple. In a one-row layout, find the edge distance at each end of the row and then lay off the rivet pitch (distance between rivets), as shown in Figure 4-81. In a two-row layout, lay off the first row, place the second row a distance equal to the transverse pitch from the first row, and then lay off rivet spots in the second row so that they fall midway between those in the first row. In the three-row layout, first lay off the first and third rows, then use a straightedge to determine the second row rivet spots.

Figure 4-81. Rivet layout.

Figure 4-81. Rivet layout.

When splicing a damaged tube, and the rivets pass completely through the tube, space the rivets four to seven rivet diameters apart if adjacent rivets are at right angles to each other, and space them five to seven rivet diameters apart if the rivets are parallel to each other. The first rivet on each side of the joint should be no less than 21⁄2 rivet diameters from the end of the sleeve.