Fatigue Fracture of an 8617 Steel Pilot-Valve Bushing
A pilot-valve bushing fractured after only a few hours of service. In operation, the bushing was subjected to torsional stresses with possible slight bending stresses. A slight misalignment occurred in the assembly before fracture. The bushing was made of 8617 steel and was case hardened to a depth of 0.13 to 0.4 mm (0.005 to 0.015 in.) by carbonitriding. Specifications required that the part be carbonitrided, cooled, rehardened by quenching from 790 deg C (1450 deg F), then tempered at about 175 deg C (350 deg F). Visual examination, hardness testing, and metallographic and microstructural investigation supported the conclusion that the bushing fractured in fatigue because of a highly stressed case-hardened surface of unsatisfactory microstructure and subsurface nonmetallic inclusions. Cracks initiated at the highly stressed surface and propagated across the section as a result of cyclic loading. The precise cause of the unsatisfactory microstructure of the carbonitrided case could not be determined, but it was apparent that heat-treating specifications had not been closely followed. Recommendations included that inspection procedures be modified to avoid the use of steel containing nonmetallic stringer inclusions and that specifications for carbonitriding, hardening, and tempering be rigorously observed.