Failure of Aluminum Alloy Spacers by Galvanic Attack
Immediately after installation, leakage was observed at the mounting surface of several rebuilt hydraulic actuators that had been in storage for up to three years. At each joint, there was an aluminum alloy spacer and a vellum gasket. The mounting flanges of the steel actuators had been nickel plated. During assembly of the actuators a lubricant containing molybdenum disulfide had been applied to the gaskets as a sealant. The vellum gasket was found to be electrically conductive, and analysis (visual inspection, 500x unetched micrographs, galvanic action testing, and x-ray diffraction) supported the conclusions that leakage was the result of galvanic corrosion of the aluminum alloy spacers while in storage. The molybdenum disulfide was apparently suspended in a volatile water-containing vehicle that acted as an electrolyte between the aluminum alloy spacer and the nickel-plated steel actuator housing. Initially, the vellum gasket acted as an insulator, but the water-containing lubricant gradually impregnated the vellum gasket, establishing a galvanic couple. Recommendations included discontinuing use of molybdenum disulfide lubricant as a gasket sealer, and assembling the actuators using dry vellum gaskets.