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Fire Truck Fitting Failure

A cast aluminum alloy "Y" fitting failed during fire hose pressure testing injuring a firefighter. The failed fire truck fitting was submitted for metallurgical failure analysis.

The, as received, knock-on quick-disconnect coupler and failed "Y" are shown in Photograph A.

fire truck valve
Photograph A  Overall view of cast aluminum "Y" fitting that failed.

The subject casting, after apparently 27 years of useful service, failed in a sudden manner. The casting surface did not contain any manufacturer markings, serial numbers, casting lot numbers, etc. which would identify the manufacturer and possibly the year of manufacture.

Testing included stereo microscopic examination, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), metallography, micro structural examination, chemical analysis and hardness testing. Considerable macro and micro-porosity was observed on the primary fracture face. Photograph B illustrates an area of dendrite structure and porosity surrounded by clear indications of cleavage fractures. However, observing shrinkage and the dendrite structure on a casting fracture surface does not render that casting defective. A true and very valid test of adequacy is the performance history of the casting. As time passes and total usage time increases, the probability of a significant flaw being present diminishes quickly to zero. Additionally, no evidence of progressive fatigue failure was observed on the casting fracture surface or near any area of casting porosity. Fracture features observed where fracture did occur were cleavage, indicating a sudden failure of a casting material lacking in significant ductility. The lack of significant ductility is common to cast metal products.

SEM of dendrite casting porosity.
Photograph B  Scanning electron micrograph (SEM).

It was determined that the cast metal "Y" fitting failed due to over pressurization from an unknown source during scheduled periodic pressure testing.

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J.E.I. Metallurgical, Inc.

5514 Harbor Town
Dallas, Texas 75287

Phone: (972) 934-0493
Fax: (469) 737-3938
Email: r.c.jerner@metallurgist.com

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