Aircraft Wing and Stabilizer Deice Boots Maintenance and Troubleshooting

Construction and Installation of Deice Boots

Deicer boots are made of soft, pliable rubber, or rubberized fabric, and contain tubular air cells. The outer ply of the deicer boot is of conductive neoprene to provide resistance to deterioration by the elements and many chemicals. The neoprene also provides a conductive surface to dissipate static electricity charges. These charges, if allowed to accumulate, would eventually discharge through the boot to the metal skin beneath, causing static interference with the radio equipment. [Figure 1]

Aircraft Ice and Rain Protection
Figure 1. Deicing boots inflated (left) and deflated (right)

On modern aircraft, the deicer boots are bonded with an adhesive to the leading edge of wing and tail surfaces. The trailing edges of this type boot are tapered to provide a smooth airfoil. Elimination of fairing strips, screws, and rivnuts used on older types of deicing boots reduces the weight of the deice system. The deicer boot air cells are connected to system pressure and vacuum lines by non-kinking flexible hose.

When gluing the deice boots to the leading edge of wings and stabilizers, the manufacturer’s instruction must be strictly followed. The glue is typically a contact cement normally spread on both the airfoil and the boot and allowed to become tacky before mating the surfaces. Clean, paint-free surfaces are required for the glue to adhere properly. Removal of old boots is performed by re-softening the cement with solvent.

Inspection, Maintenance, and Troubleshooting of Rubber Deicer Boot Systems

Maintenance on pneumatic deicing systems varies with each aircraft model. The instructions of the airframe or system components manufacturer should be followed in all cases. Depending on the aircraft, maintenance usually consists of operational checks, adjustments, troubleshooting, and inspection.

Operational Checks

An operational check of the system can be made by operating the aircraft engines or by using an external source of air. Most systems are designed with a test plug to permit ground checking the system without operating the engines. When using an external air source, make certain that the air pressure does not exceed the test pressure established for the system. Before turning the deicing system on, observe the vacuumoperated instruments. If any of the gauges begin to operate, it is an indication that one or more check valves have failed to close and that reverse flow through the instruments is occurring. Correct the difficulty before continuing the test. If no movement of the instrument pointers occurs, turn on the deicing system. With the deicer system controls in their proper positions, check the suction and pressure gauges for proper indications. The pressure gauge fluctuates as the deicer tubes inflate and deflate. A relatively steady reading should be maintained on the vacuum gauge. It should be noted that not all systems use a vacuum gauge. If the operating pressure and vacuum are satisfactory, observe the deicers for actuation. With an observer stationed outside the aircraft, check the inflation sequence to be certain that it agrees with the sequence indicated in the aircraft maintenance manual. Check the timing of the system through several complete cycles. If the cycle time varies more than is allowable, determine the difficulty and correct it. Inflation of the deicers must be rapid to provide efficient deicing. Deflation of the boot being observed should be completed before the next inflation cycle. [Figure 2]

Aircraft Ice and Rain Protection
Figure 2. Test equipment used to test a wing deice system (left), and test equipment installed in the aircraft for testing (right)


Examples of adjustments that may be required include adjusting the deicing system control cable linkages, adjusting system pressure relief valves, and deicing system vacuum (suction) relief valves. A pressure relief valve acts as a safety device to relieve excess pressure in the event of regulator valve failure. To adjust this valve, operate the aircraft engines and adjust a screw on the valve until the deicing pressure gauge indicates the specified pressure at which the valve should relieve. Vacuum relief valves are installed in a system that uses a vacuum pump to maintain constant suction during varying vacuum pump speeds. To adjust a vacuum relief valve, operate the engines. While watching the vacuum (suction) gauge, an assistant should adjust the suction relief valve adjusting screw to obtain the correct suction specified for the system.


Not all troubles that occur in a deicer system can be corrected by adjusting system components. Some troubles must be corrected by repair or replacement of system components or by tightening loose connections. Several troubles common to pneumatic deicing systems are shown in the left-hand column of the chart in Figure 3. Note the probable causes and the remedy of each trouble listed in the chart. In addition to using troubleshooting charts, operational checks are sometimes necessary to determine the possible cause of trouble.

Problem Causes
(most of which can be identified with a 343 Test Kit)
Corrective Action(s)
Boots do not inflate Open circuit breaker Reset circuit breaker
Faulty deflate valve
Solenoid inoperable:
  1. Improper voltage at solenoid
  2. Blocked air vent in solenoid
  3. Inoperative plunger

Diaphragm not seated
  1. Blocked vent orifice located in rivet bottom at center of diaphragm
  2. Dirty diaphragm seal area
  3. Diaphragm ruptured
Check deflate valves as follows
Solenoid inoperable:
  1. Correct electrical system
  2. Clean with alcohol or replace
  3. Clean with alcohol or replace

Diaphragm not seated
  1. Clean with .010 diameter wire and alcohol
  2. Clean with blunt instrument and alcohol
  3. Replace valve
Two faulty deice control valves of faulty two-stage regulators Clean or replace valve assembly as noted above
Faulty check valve Replace check valve
Relay not functioning Check wiring or replace relay
Leak in system boots Repair as needed
inflateSlow boot inflation Lines blocked or disconnected Check and replace lines
Low air pump capacity Replace air pump
One or more deice control valves not functioning properly Clean or replace valve assembly as noted above
Deflate valve not fully closed Clean or replace valve assembly as noted above
Ball check in deflate valve inoperative Clean check valve or replace deflate valve
Leaks in system or boots Repair as needed
System will not cycle Pressure in system not reaching specified psi to activate pressure switch Clean or replace deice control valve as noted above
Clean or replace deflate valve, as noted above
Leak in system or boots Repair as needed, tighten all hose connections
Pressure switch on deflate valve in Replace switch
Slow deflation Low vacuum Repair as needed
Faulty deflate valve (indicated by temporary reduction in suction gauge reading) Clean or replace valve assembly as noted above
No vacuum for boot hold down Malfunctioning deflate valve or deice valve Clean or replace valve assembly as noted above
Leak in system or boots Repair as needed
Boots will not deflate during cycle Faulty deflate valve Check and replace valve
Boots appear to inflate on aircraft climb Vacuum source for boot holddown inoperative Check operation of ball check in deflate valve
Lines running through pressurized cabin loose or disconnected Check for loose or disconnected vacuum lines and repair

Figure 3. Troubleshooting guide for wing deice system


During each preflight and scheduled inspection, check the deicer boots for cuts, tears, deterioration, punctures, and security; during periodic inspections, go a little further and check deicer components and lines for cracks. If weather cracking of rubber is noted, apply a coating of conductive cement. The cement, in addition to sealing the boots against weather, dissipates static electricity so that it does not puncture the boots by arcing to the metal surfaces.

Deice Boot Maintenance

The life of the deicers can be greatly extended by storing them when they are not needed and by observing these rules when they are in service:
  1. Do not drag gasoline hoses over the deicers.
  2. Keep deicers free of gasoline, oil, grease, dirt, and other deteriorating substances.
  3. Do not lay tools on or lean maintenance equipment against the deicers.
  4. Promptly repair or resurface the deicers when abrasion or deterioration is noted.
  5. Wrap deice boots in paper or canvas when storing.

Thus far, preventive maintenance has been discussed. The actual work on the deicers consists of cleaning, resurfacing, and repairing. Cleaning should ordinarily be done at the same time the aircraft is washed, using a mild soap and water solution. Grease and oil can be removed with a cleaning agent, such as naptha, followed by soap and water scrubbing. Whenever the degree of wear is such that it indicates that the electrical conductivity of the deicer surface has been destroyed, it may be necessary to resurface the deicer. The resurfacing substance is a black, conductive neoprene cement. Prior to applying the resurfacing material, the deicer must be cleaned thoroughly and the surface roughened. Cold patch repairs can be made on a damaged deicer. The deicer must be relieved of its installed tension before applying the patch. The area to be patched must be clean and buffed to roughen the surface slightly. Patches are glued in place. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for all repairs.

Electric Deice Boots

A few modern aircraft are equipped with electric deice boots on wing sections or on the horizontal stabilizer. These boots contain electric heating elements which are bonded to the leading edges similarly to pneumatic deice boots. When activated, the boots heat up and melt the ice off of leading edge surfaces. The elements are controlled by a sequence timer in a deice controller. Ice detector and ram air temperature probe inputs initiate operation when other flight condition parameters exist. The boot elements turn ON and OFF in paired sections to avoid aerodynamic imbalance. The system is inoperative while the aircraft is on the ground. Figure 4 illustrated such a system. A benefit of electric deice boots is the conservation of engine bleed air. Current draw is limited to only those periods when de-ice is required.

Aircraft Ice and Rain Protection
Figure 4. Electric stabilizer deice system

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