The following information about the inspection and maintenance of DC generator systems is general in nature because of the large number of differing aircraft generator systems. These procedures are for familiarization only. Always follow the applicable manufacturer’s instructions for a given generator system.
In general, the inspection of the generator installed in the aircraft should include the following items:
- Security of generator mounting
- Condition of electrical connections
- Dirt and oil in the generator—if oil is present, check engine oil seal. Blow out dirt with compressed air.
- Condition of generator brushes
- Generator operation
- Voltage regulator operation
Condition of Generator Brushes
Sparking of brushes quickly reduces the effective brush area in contact with the commutator bars. The degree of such sparking should be determined. Excessive wear warrants a detailed inspection.
The following information pertains to brush seating, brush pressure, high mica condition, and brush wear. Manufacturers usually recommend the following procedures to seat brushes that do not make good contact with slip rings or commutators.
Lift the brush sufficiently to permit the insertion of a strip of No. 000, or finer, sandpaper under the brush, rough side out. [Figure 12-289] Pull the sandpaper in the direction of armature rotation, being careful to keep the ends of the sandpaper as close to the slip ring or commutator surface as possible in order to avoid rounding the edges of the brush.
When pulling the sandpaper back to the starting point, raise the brush so it does not ride on the sandpaper. Sand the brush only in the direction of rotation.
After the generator has run for a short period, brushes should be inspected to make sure that pieces of sand have not become embedded in the brush and are collecting copper.
Under no circumstances should emery cloth or similar abrasives be used for seating brushes (or smoothing commutators), since they contain conductive materials that cause arcing between brushes and commutator bars.
Excessive pressure causes rapid wear of brushes. Too little pressure, however, allows “bouncing” of the brushes, resulting in burned and pitted surfaces.
A carbon, graphite, or light metalized brush should exert a pressure of 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 psi on the commutator. The pressure recommended by the manufacturer should be checked by the use of a spring scale graduated in ounces. Brush spring tension is usually adjusted between 32 to 36 ounces; however, the tension may differ slightly for each specific generator.
When a spring scale is used, the measurement of the pressure that a brush exerts on the commutator is read directly on the scale. The scale is applied at the point of contact between the spring arm and the top of the brush, with the brush installed in the guide. The scale is drawn up until the arm just lifts off the brush surface. At this instant, the force on the scale should be read.
Flexible low resistance pigtails are provided on most heavy current carrying brushes, and their connections should be securely made and checked at frequent intervals. The pigtails should never be permitted to alter or restrict the free motion of the brush.
The purpose of the pigtail is to conduct the current, rather than subjecting the brush spring to currents that would alter its spring action by overheating. The pigtails also eliminate any possible sparking to the brush guides caused by the movement of the brushes within the holder, thus minimizing side wear of the brush.
Carbon dust resulting from brush sanding should be thoroughly cleaned from all parts of the generators after a sanding operation. Such carbon dust has been the cause of several serious fires, as well as costly damage to the generator.
Operation over extended periods of time often results in the mica insulation between commutator bars protruding above the surface of the bars. This condition is called “high mica” and interferes with the contact of the brushes to the commutator. Whenever this condition exists, or if the armature has been turned on a lathe, carefully undercut the mica insulation to a depth equal to the width of the mica, or approximately 1.20 inch.
Each brush should be a specified length to work properly. If a brush is too short, the contact it makes with the commutator will be faulty, which can also reduce the spring force holding the brush in place. Most manufacturers specify the amount of wear permissible from a new brush length. When a brush has worn to the minimum length permissible, it must be replaced.
Some special generator brushes should not be replaced because of a slight grooving on the face of the brush. These grooves are normal and will appear in AC and DC generator brushes which are installed in some models of aircraft generators. These brushes have two cores made of a harder material with a higher expansion rate than the material used in the main body of the brush. Usually, the main body of the brush face rides on the commutator. However, at certain temperatures, the cores extend and wear through any film on the commutator.
Most devices in an airplane, from the starter [Figure 12-290] to the automatic pilot, depend upon mechanical energy furnished by DC motors.
A DC motor is a rotating machine, which transforms DC energy into mechanical energy. It consists of two principal parts—a field assembly and an armature assembly. The armature is the rotating part in which current carrying wires are acted upon by the magnetic field. Whenever a current carrying wire is placed in the field of a magnet, a force acts on the wire. The force is not one of attraction or repulsion; however, it is at right angles to the wire and also at right angles to the magnetic field set up by the magnet. The action of the force upon a current carrying wire placed in a magnetic field is shown in Figure 12-291. A wire is located between two permanent magnets.
The lines of force in the magnetic field are from the north pole to the south pole. When no current flows, no force is exerted on the wire, but when current flows through the wire, a magnetic field is set up about it. [Figure 12-291] The direction of the field depends on the direction of current flow. Current in one direction creates a clockwise field about the wire, and current in the other direction, a counterclockwise field.
Since the current carrying wire produces a magnetic field, a reaction occurs between the field about the wire and the magnetic field between the magnets. When the current flows in a direction to create a counterclockwise magnetic field about the wire, this field and the field between the magnets add or reinforce at the bottom of the wire because the lines of force are in the same direction. At the top of the wire, they subtract or neutralize, since the lines of force in the two fields are opposite in direction. Thus, the resulting field at the bottom is strong and the one at the top is weak. Consequently, the wire is pushed upward. [Figure 12-291C] The wire is always pushed away from the side where the field is strongest.
If current flow through the wire were reversed in direction, the two fields would add at the top and subtract at the bottom. Since a wire is always pushed away from the strong field, the wire would be pushed down.