Aircraft Systems

Protection of Dissimilar Metal Contacts and Corrosion Limits

Protection of Dissimilar Metal Contacts

Certain metals are subject to corrosion when placed in contact with other metals. This is commonly referred to as electrolytic or dissimilar metals corrosion. Contact of different bare metals creates an electrolytic action when moisture is present. If this moisture is salt water, the electrolytic action is accelerated. The result of dissimilar metal contact is oxidation (decomposition) of one or both metals. The chart shown in Figure lists the metal combinations requiring a protective separator. The separating materials may be metal primer, aluminum tape, washers, grease, or sealant, depending on the metals involved.

aircraft cleaning and corrosion control
Dissimilar metal contacts that will result in electrolytic corrosion

Contacts Not Involving Magnesium

All dissimilar joints not involving magnesium are protected by the application of a minimum of two coats of zinc chromate or, preferably, epoxy primer in addition to normal primer requirements. Primer is applied by brush or spray and allowed to air dry 6 hours between coats.

Contacts Involving Magnesium

To prevent corrosion between dissimilar metal joints in which magnesium alloy is involved, each surface is insulated as follows:

At least two coats of zinc chromate or, preferably, epoxy primer are applied to each surface. Next, a layer of pressure sensitive vinyl tape 0.003" thick is applied smoothly and firmly enough to prevent air bubbles and wrinkles. To avoid creep back, the tape is not stretched during application. When the thickness of the tape interferes with the assembly of parts, where relative motion exists between parts or when service temperatures above 250 °F are anticipated, the use of tape is eliminated and extra coats (minimum of three) of primer are applied.

Corrosion Limits

Corrosion, however slight, is damage. Therefore, corrosion damage is classified under the four standard types, as is any other damage. These types are negligible damage, damage repairable by patching, damage repairable by insertion, and damage necessitating replacement of parts.

The term “negligible” does not imply that little or nothing is to be done. The corroded surface must be cleaned, treated, and painted as appropriate. Negligible damage, generally, is corrosion that has scarred or eaten away the surface protective coats and begun to etch the metal. Corrosion damage extending to classifications of “repairable by patching” and “repairable by insertion” must be repaired in accordance with the applicable structural repair manual. When corrosion damage exceeds the damage limits to the extent that repair is not possible, the component or structure must be replaced.


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