J Fail. Anal. and Preven.

(2009) 9:329–334
DOI 10.1007/s11668-009-9247-9


Failure Analysis on Diesel-Engine Valve Springs
Zhi-Wei Yu Æ Xiao-Lei Xu

Submitted: 1 December 2008 / in revised form: 12 March 2009 / Published online: 29 April 2009
Ó ASM International 2009

Abstract A diesel engine used in a truck had a trouble failed engine were examined to determine the cause of
when servicing. Inspection indicated that four exhaust and failure. In addition, the manufacturer of the engine supplied
intake valve springs and two exhaust and intake valves two used valve springs from a good engine that had been in
were fractured. Fractographic studies indicated that fatigue service for a long time for comparison.
fracture is the main failure mechanism for all of the four
valve springs. Under the action of the maximum normal
stress, the fatigue crack initiated in the spring wire of coil Experimental Methods
1.3-1.5 from the upper end of the spring. This region is also
the most damaged location by contact friction wear. The The chemical composition of the fractured valve springs
fracture of the intake and exhaust valve stems also suggests was analyzed by spectrographic analysis. The microstruc-
fatigue failure probably as a result of the failure of the ture was observed by scanning electron microscope (SEM).
associated valve springs. The fractured surfaces and surface damage morphology
on the spring wire were analyzed by visual and SEM
Keywords Valve spring  Contact friction wear  observation.
Fatigue crack  Failure analysis

Visual Observations
It was reported by the engine manufacturer that a four-
cylinder diesel engine used in truck had a trouble when The remains of the failed engine are shown in Fig. 1. The
servicing. The engine had run for 9800 km before failure. fractured components are, respectively, the first cylinder
Inspection on the engine indicated that four valve springs exhaust valve spring, the second cylinder intake valve and
and two valves were fractured. The valve springs were exhaust valve springs and the third cylinder exhaust spring,
made of 55CrSi steel. The intake valves were made of and the third intake and exhaust valves (Fig. 2).
4Cr10Si2Mo steel. Rod material of the exhaust valve was
4Cr10Si2Mo steel and plate material was 5Cr21Mn9Ni4N Valve Springs
In this study, the fractured valve springs and nonfrac- From Fig. 2, the fracture of springs took place at about coil
tured valve springs along with the fractured valves from the 1.3 (from the upper end), or at the location turning angle of
about 460–480° from the upper end. The fracture surfaces
have an angle of about 45° to the tangent direction of the
Z.-W. Yu  X.-L. Xu (&)
outside circle of wire at fracture, and a representative
College of Electromechanics and Material Engineering,
Dalian Maritime University, Dalian 116026, P.R. China photograph is shown in Fig. 3(a). The fracture surfaces are
e-mail: xxiaolei@dlmu.edu.cn relatively smooth and the beach marks were faintly


(a) Fracture orientation. 1 Remains of failed engine Fig. It is suggested that ‘‘bright the spring wire (marked in Fig. it can be determined that the cracks width of ‘‘bright band’’ on the contacting surfaces of the origins are situated on the surface of the external circle of adjacent coils are the same. It is When the springs were stretched. but ‘‘bright band’’ of the springs from within coil 2. and plate of the valve.7 mm (Fig.5. This bright Fractures took place at the transitional region between rod band is the location at which the crack origins are situated. It is noted that the maximum Valves width of ‘‘bright band’’ appeared at the wire of coil 1. However. 4a). and homogeneous.3 mm (Fig. Anal. (2009) 9:329–334 Fig. 2 Fractured valve springs and valves the ‘‘bright band’’ region observed by stereomicroscope. load which the springs sustained was greater than for the ‘‘bright band’’ on the springs from unfailed engine is wide nonfailed springs from the companion engine.5 from the upper or lower end of all the springs. and crack origins are situated at the 123 . and Preven.330 J Fail. and the maximum width in the radial is about 2. ‘‘bright bands’’ were found on contact and wear between the adjacent coils when spring upper and lower surface of the wire within coil 3 from the was compressed and was not from fabrication processes. It upper or lower ends of the four fractured springs and from must be mentioned that ‘‘bright band’’ of the spring from the the two nonfractured springs from the failed engine failed engine occurred on the wire within the coil 3 from the (Fig.3-1. band’’ was due to surface damage mark resulting from By careful observation. 3 Fracture orientation and wire surface damage morphology. 4b). ‘‘Bright band’’ also appear on the wire surface upper or lower end. The location and corresponding instantaneous region. it is evident that ‘‘bright suggested that the amount of compressive load on the band’’ on the springs from the failed engine is narrow with springs from the failed engine was greater or the applied a maximum width about 0. (b) Squeeze ridges and extruding ditches in Fig. 3a). From the curvature of the All ‘‘bright bands’’ appeared on the contacting surfaces of beach marks and the crack propagation direction in the adjacent coils pairs. 4).5 of the springs from the unfailed engine. the unfailed engine occurred on the wire within coil 2.

The squeezing external circle surface of the rod (Fig. 7). 4 Surface damage on the spring wire.J Fail. b). 123 . 3b). Crack origin exhibiting point- like feature and crack propagation marks were observed on Valves the macrograph of the fracture surface of the exhaust valve. 6a). Observation on the outer circle surface of the wire close Fig. 5 Macromorphology of fracture surfaces of the valves lever along the radial (indicated by dotted arrow in Fig. It can be concluded from these observa. The absence of tions that both valve stems failed by fatigue and that the fatigue striations does not preclude the fatigue failure fracture probably resulted as a progression from the valve process. Overload failure took place after the crack had propagated SEM observation shows that the crack origin regions of the about one-third of the way across the valve stem. 5). Bending occur. that fail by low cycle fatigue (Fig. and Preven. from several intense strikes. spring failures. It can be seen that ilar fractographic features. 2). (a) Exhaust valve spring to the fracture indicates that no metallurgical and from the failed engine. ridges and extruding ditches. Anal. The area of the instantaneous fracture is about one-third to one half of the full fracture. Fatigue striations. Multiple cracks tiation [2]. were found in the ‘‘bright band’’ region propagation marks can be observed on the fracture surface (Fig. 6a. Chemical Composition Valve Springs The chemical composition of the failed valve spring SEM observation shows that the four springs exhibit sim. were found in the crack propagation region (Fig. 3a). It extruding ditches were parallel to the nearby fracture is suggested that the fracture of the intake valve resulted surface. 6d). typical of fatigue [1]. 6c). The dimple fracture surface morphology can be observed in the instantaneous fracture region (Fig. The crack origins are situated at chemical composition of the springs are within the speci- the outer circle of the wire and propagated toward lower fied range. materials is presented in Table 1. (2009) 9:329–334 331 Fig. and the orientation of the squeeze ridges and of the intake valve (indicated by white arrows in Fig. No obvious metallurgical inclusions were found in the crack origin region (Fig. It is demonstrated further that the fatigue fracture is the main failure mechanism of the four springs. The valves and the crack propagation regions show brittle-like microfeatures of both the intake and exhaust valve stems features but such features are often found in ferrous alloys suggest fatigue. (b) Valve spring from the unfailed engine machining defects were found except for the contact fric- tion wear marks (‘‘bright band’’) (Fig. omens of fatigue crack ini- red at the rod of the intake valve. It is suggested that the compressive load which the springs bore was greater than normal and caused the failures.

It must be mentioned that when L1 = 11. it is inferred that the chemical composition of against fatigue damage [3]. and Preven.5 from the ends just begin to touch each other. real cross-sectional area with- are within the range of the technical specification. the valve stems. space between coil 1 123 . compressive tests cations allow for contact between adjacent springs and were conducted on the four unfractured springs from the such contact can lead to fatigue crack initiation. No surface decarburization was noted on the wire of the springs. It was standing load was smaller. when spring was compressed. From sustaining force characteristics of the cylinder-like nation results along with the values specified by technical compressive spring. The micro.3-1. the wire within coil 1. (c) Crack propagation region showing fatigue striations. the specifi- To examine the elasticity of the springs. however.0 mm. the valves reveal the fractured springs was within the range of the technical normal microstructure of the grade steels. tappet just contacts with circle of camshaft. 6 SEM observation of the fracture surface of the valve spring. Moreover. The fine From the observation and the examinations in section grain microstructure is considered good for resistance ‘‘Results’’. propaga- failed engine and two springs from nonfailed engine. It can be seen that the point of wire would bear torque shear stress. The values of compressive load corre- Compressive Tests sponding to the specified compressive amount are within the range of the technical demands. In addition. Once the valve springs fail. tion.332 J Fail. (b) Crack origin region. The exami. The cross-sectional microstructure of the valve springs near the fractures was observed by SEM and the four springs exhibit similar metallurgical features.0 mm. L1 = 11. 8). (a) General view. and failure. every demands are shown in Table 2.0 mm. demand. Analysis on Failure Causes structure is composed of smaller grain-tempered martensite and was uniform from edge to center (Fig. the valve Compressive load P was measured when compressive system is destabilized and the high stresses on the stems amount of springs were specified. Because the compressive load values corresponding to the specified L first coil was ground flat.0 mm and L2 = because of the destabilization caused low cycle fatigue of 22. Anal. (d) Instantaneous fracture region showing dimple morphology Microstructure Examination noted that when L1 = 11. (2009) 9:329–334 Fig.

3-1.53 1. for the springs angle of 45° to the shear stress.013 0. 7 SEM observations of the fracture surfaces of the valves Specified value 337. However.78 0.60 0.0 mm L2 = 22.77 0. the overload maximum normal stress.9 ± 16. when exerting pre. In addition.5 from friction wear and normal fracture took place on the springs the upper or the lower ends had to contact with each other by the maximum normal stress.20–1. So. appearance of surface fracture area on the whole fracture of the four springs is damage on the wire by contact friction wear facilitated to larger than anticipated. Moreover. The location at coil 1.78 0.015 0.016 0.03 B0.012 Balance Exhaust valve 2 0.015 0. (2009) 9:329–334 333 Fig.5 N (intake valve). fatigue cracks tightening load (L1 = 11.012  Intake valve 1 0. initiation of fatigue crack.014 0. (b) Crack propagation region Table 1 Chemical composition of valve springs (wt. Anal.013 0. when the wire bore the from the failed engine. to induce a decrease in the real torque shear stress. On the whole.77 0.80 B0. which From the surface damage on the wire of the springs from this section of spring wire bore. the wire within coil 1. Because the maximum normal stress has an within coil 2.50–0.79 0. These observations suggest that the 123 .9 ± 37.60 0.9 N 749.53 1. wear marks should appear on the wire shear stress.54 0.%) Element C Si Mn P S Cr Cu Fe Exhaust valve 1 0.015 0. it can be deduced that in the normal from upper or lower ends would bear the maximum torque service condition.5 from the ends.015 0.3-1.013 Balance 55CrSi 0. the wire would bear the within coil 3. 8 Microstructure of the valve spring Table 2 Load values (P) corresponding to specified compressive amount (L) L1 = 11.J Fail. (a) Crack origin region. tappet just contacts with initiated at the most damaged zone on the wire by contact the circle of camshaft).50-0.5 the unfailed engine.0 mm Failed engine Spring 1 P = 326 N P = 713 N Spring 2 P = 330 N P = 715 N Spring 3 P = 331 N P = 731 N Spring 4 P = 336 N P = 732 N Good engine Spring 5 P = 326 N P = 725 N Spring 6 P = 326 N P = 712 N Fig.02 Balance and coil 2 is smaller in design.54 1. wear marks appear on the wire maximum torque shear stress.77 0.80 B0.76 0.50–0.0 mm. and Preven.59 0.77 0.52 0.54 1.0 from the ends.60 1.03 0.012 Balance Exhaust valve 3 0.

although more serious contact friction in the valve stems and led to subsequent failure of the wear occurred on the wire.: Failure Analysis of Engineering cross section of the wire was too small to support the Materials. Pergamon springs. Metals Park (1986) 2. Jones. ASM Metal Handbook: Failure Analysis and Prevention. Conclusions Fatigue fracture is the main failure mechanism of the four valve springs.: Engineering Materials.H. friction wear and the fatigue progressed until the remaining American Society for Metals. Choudhury. D. London (1993) 123 . the fact that nonfailed springs also showed wear responsible for the fatigue cracks initiation and fracture of by contact of adjacent springs suggests that the basic the four valve springs. The fracture of the springs destabilized the valves Press.R.. In terms of the fracture features stems. valve. it can be concluded that abnormal impact loads were however. causing abnormal operations and high stresses of the valve No fatigue crack initiated on the wire of the springs from stems. Books. p. The reason for the higher than normal loads and the of the valves and occurrence of bending on the rod of the unusual damage to the valve springs is not apparent. (2009) 9:329–334 compressive load on the springs was greater than normal. Anal. Under the action of the maximum normal References stress. C. design of the engine allows for contact and wear among adjacent springs and perhaps should be modified to avoid future failures. New York (2002) compression load and normal fracture took place on the 3.334 J Fail. and Preven. The damage occurred by contact 1. A. vol. 3. These stresses caused fatigue cracks to be initiated the unfailed engine.R. the fatigue cracks initiated at the most damaged location of the wire. vol. McGraw-Hill. 358. 11.