Appendix E. Causes of Wire Degradation

The following items are considered principal causes of wiring degradation and should be used to help focus maintenance programs:

Vibration - High vibration areas tend to accelerate degradation over time, resulting in “chattering” contacts and intermittent symptoms. High vibration of tie-wraps or string-ties can cause damage to insulation. In addition, high vibration will exacerbate any existing problem with wire insulation cracking.Moisture - High moisture areas generally accelerate corrosion of terminals, pins, sockets, and conductors. It should be noted that wiring installed in clean, dry areas with moderate temperatures appears to hold up well.

Maintenance - Scheduled and unscheduled maintenance activities, if done improperly, may contribute to long term problems and wiring degradation. Certain repairs may have limited durability and should be evaluated to ascertain if rework is necessary. Repairs that conform to manufacturers recommended maintenance practices are generally considered permanent and should not require rework. Furthermore care should be taken to prevent undue collateral damage to EWIS while performing maintenance on other systems.

Metal shavings and debris have been discovered on wire bundles after maintenance, repairs, modifications, or STCs have been performed. Care should be taken to protect wire bundles and connectors during modification work. The work areas should be cleaned while the work progresses to ensure that all shavings and debris are removed; the work area should be thoroughly cleaned after the work is complete; and the work area should be inspected after the final cleaning.

Repairs should be performed using the most effective methods available. Since wire splices are more susceptible to degradation, arcing, and overheating, the recommended method of repairing a wire is with an environmental splice.

Indirect Damage - Events such as pneumatic duct ruptures or duct clamp leakage can cause damage that, while not initially evident, can later cause wiring problems. When events such as these occur, surrounding EWIS should be carefully inspected to ensure that there is no damage or potential for damage evident. The indirect damage caused by these types of events may be broken clamps or ties, broken wire insulation, or even broken conductor strands. In some cases the pressure of the duct rupture may cause wire separation from the connector or terminal strip.

Contamination - Wire contamination refers to either of the following situations:

  1. The presence of a foreign material that is likely to cause degradation of wiring.
  2. The presence of a foreign material that is capable of sustaining combustion after removal of ignition source.

The contaminant may be in solid or liquid form. Solid contaminants such as metal shavings, swarf, debris, livestock waste, lint and dust can accumulate on wiring and may degrade or penetrate wiring or electrical components.

Chemicals in fluids such as hydraulic fluid, battery electrolytes, fuel, corrosion inhibiting compounds, waste system chemicals, cleaning agents, deicing fluids, paint, soft drinks and coffee can contribute to degradation of wiring.

Hydraulic fluids, deicing fluids and battery electrolyte require special consideration. These fluids, although essential for aircraft operation, can damage connector grommets, wire bundle clamps, wire ties and wire lacing, causing chafing and arcing. Wiring exposed to these fluids should be given special attention during inspection. Contaminated wire insulation that has visible cracking or breaches to the core conductor can eventually arc and cause a fire. Wiring exposed to, or in close proximity to, any of these chemicals may need to be inspected more frequently for damage or degradation.

When cleaning areas or zones of the aircraft that contain both wiring and chemical contaminants, special cleaning procedures and precautions may be needed. Such procedures may include wrapping wire and connectors with a protective covering prior to cleaning. This would be especially true if pressure washing equipment is utilized. In all cases the aircraft manufacturer recommended procedures should be followed.

Waste system spills also require special attention. Service history has shown that these spills can have detrimental effects on aircraft EWIS and have resulted in smoke and fire events. When this type of contamination is found all affected components in the EWIS should be thoroughly cleaned, inspected and repaired or replaced if necessary. The source of the spill or leakage should be located and corrected.

Heat - Exposure to high heat can accelerate degradation of wiring by causing insulation dryness and cracking. Direct contact with a high heat source can quickly damage insulation. Burned, charred or even melted insulation are the most likely indicators of this type of damage. Low levels of heat can also degrade wiring over a longer period of time. This type of degradation is sometimes seen on engines, in galley wiring such as coffee makers and ovens, and behind fluorescent lights, especially the ballasts.