Deformation of a Gas-Nitrided Drive-Gear Assembly
Component slippage in the left-side final drive train of a tracked military vehicle was detected after the vehicle had been driven 13,700 km (8500 miles) in combined highway and rough-terrain service. The slipping was traced to the mating surfaces of the final drive gear and the adjacent splined coupling sleeve. Specifications included that the gear and coupling be made from 4140 steel bar oil quenched and tempered to a hardness of 265 to 290 HB (equivalent to 27 to 31 HRC) and that the finish-machined parts be single-stage gas nitrided to produce a total case depth of 0.5 mm (0.020 in.) and a minimum surface hardness equivalent to 58 HRC. Investigation (visual inspection, low-magnification images, 500X images of polished sections etched in 2% nital, spectrographic analysis, and hardness testing) supported the conclusion that the failure occurred by crushing, or cracking, of the case as a result of several factors. Recommendations included reducing the high local stresses at the pitch line to an acceptable level with a design modification. Also suggested was specification of a core hardness of 35 to 40 HRC to provide adequate support for the case and to permit attainment of the specified surface hardness of 58 HRC.