Seizing of a Spool-Type Hydraulic Valve
Occasional failures were experienced in spool-type valves used in a hydraulic system. When a valve would fail, the close-fitting rotary valve would seize, causing loss of flow control of the hydraulic oil. The rotating spool in the valve was made of 8620 steel and was gas carburized. The cylinder in which the spool fitted was made of 1117 steel, also gas carburized. Investigation (visual inspection, low magnification images, 400x images, metallographic exam, and hardness testing) supported the conclusion that momentary sliding contact between the spool and the cylinder wall caused unstable retained austenite in the failed cylinder to transform to martensite. The increase in volume resulted in sufficient size distortion to cause interference between the cylinder and the spool, seizing, and loss of flow control. The failed parts had been carburized in a process in which the carbon potential was too high, which resulted in a microstructure having excessive retained austenite after heat treatment. Recommendations included modifying the composition of the carburizing atmosphere to yield carburized parts that did not retain significant amounts of austenite when they were heat treated.