Bushings are a type of vibration isolator that is found in an array of apparatuses including automobiles and aircraft. In fact, both rotary and jet engine aircraft are equipped with bushings. Though they are small, simple components, bushings play a critical role in the proper functionality of aircraft.
A bushing acts as a cushion or interface between parts, and it controls the amount of movement in joints while reducing noise, vibration, and harshness. Put more simply, they are hollow components that enable the parts with which they are utilized to rotate. When a rotating part is connected to a bushing, the parts can rotate freely.
Airplanes, in particular, have countless individual parts and components, many of which rotate. For example, landing gear parts are required to rotate when raised or lowered. Bushings are especially handy for such assemblies as they allow them to rotate only within the perimeters of the bushing’s hollow shell.
Bushings are available in many sizes, some of which include long, short, and medium-sized variations. They are also made of numerous materials, including stainless steel, carbon steel, and aluminum alloy bushing types. Regardless of the material they are made of, they all work in a similar manner.
Bushings all feature a simple design consisting of hollow tubes, and their ends are designed to accommodate a variety of rotating parts. The rotating part is inserted into this section of the bushing wherein it can isolate the part while still facilitating rotation.
These helpful components are beneficial for a number of reasons, one of which includes the fact that bushings eliminate the need for lubricants. As rotating parts generate friction, over time this can have a major impact on performance. Typically, a lubricating grease or oil can reduce friction, but a bushing is also a viable solution.
Beyond eliminating the need for lubricants, bushings also protect the parts they are attached to from excessive vibration. Within aircraft, vibration can arise as a result of turbulence and aircraft engines. Vibrations can weaken and loosen sensitive parts, which can jeopardize the structural integrity of aircraft. Though bushings do not prevent aircraft from vibrating, they can absorb vibrations to lessen the potential damage.
It is important to note that bushings are not ever-lasting components, and they should be regularly checked for fit and function. Though they do not have a replacement interval, they do get worn out over time. Dry rot from exposure to the atmosphere may lead to shrinking, stiffening, and cracking, and bushings near the exhaust system may accelerate this wear due to the constant exposure of extreme heat.
Oil contamination is also a probable cause for bushing degradation, especially for bushings near a leaking engine or transmission. While a weak bushing may not immediately affect an assembly, the damage may unexpectedly accelerate. For instance, a weak control arm bushing may feel like a sudden tug when accelerating or braking, and may cause abnormal tire wear. In addition, extremely weak bushings can eventually break completely, producing undesirable motion and noise.
As previously mentioned, bushings are available in a variety of types, some of which can be replaced, reinstalled, and removed with ease. Body mount, engine mount, steering rack, sway bar, and electric bushings are easily replaced without the need for special tools. Control arm bushings, on the other hand, necessitate specialized tools for removable and installation.
When replacing bushings, you must pay attention to the depth and orientation of the bushings. If a bushing is pressed in too shallow or too deep, this can lead to interference and noise. For control arm, sway bar, shock, and strut bushings, you must ensure that the fasteners on all wheels are tightened. This can prevent preloading the suspension which can mimic alignment issues.
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