Failure of a Carburized Steel Generator-Drive Idler Gear by Pitting Due to Decarburization and Subsurface Oxidation
Evidence of destructive pitting on the gear teeth (AMS 6263 steel) in the area of the pitchline was exhibited by an idler gear for the generator drive of an aircraft engine following test-stand engine testing. The case hardness was investigated to be lower than specified and it was suggested that it had resulted from surface defects. A decarburized surface layer and subsurface oxidation in the vicinity of pitting were revealed by metallographic examination of the 2% nital etched gear tooth sample. It was concluded that pitting had resulted as a combination of both the defects. The causes for the defects were reported based on previous investigation of heat treatment facilities. Oxide layer was caused by inadequate purging of air before carburization while decarburization was attributed to defects in the copper plating applied to the gear for its protection during austenitizing in an exothermic atmosphere. It was recommended that steps be taken during heat treatment to ensure neither of the two occurred.