Magnesium is the most chemically active of the metals used in aircraft construction and is, therefore, the most difficult to protect. When a failure in the protective coating does occur, the prompt and complete correction of the coating failure is imperative if serious structural damage is to be avoided. Magnesium attack is probably the easiest type of corrosion to detect in its early stages, since magnesium corrosion products occupy several times the volume of the original magnesium metal destroyed. The beginning of attack shows as a lifting of the paint films and white spots on the magnesium surface. These rapidly develop into snowlike mounds or even "white whiskers." Reprotection involves the removal of corrosion products, the partial restoration of surface coatings by chemical treatment, and a reapplication of protective coatings.
Treatment of Wrought Magnesium Sheet and Forgings
Magnesium skin attack will usually occur around edges of skin panels, underneath holddown washers, or in areas physically damaged by shearing, drilling, abrasion, or impact. If the skin section can be removed easily, this should be done to assure complete inhibition and treatment. If insulating washers are involved, screws should be loosened, at least sufficiently to permit brush treatment of the magnesium under the insulating washer. Complete mechanical removal of corrosion products should be practiced insofar as practicable. Such mechanical cleaning should be limited to the use of stiff, hog bristle brushes and similar nonmetallic cleaning tools, particularly if treatment is to be performed under field conditions. Any entrapment of steel particles from steel wire brushes or steel tools, or contamination of treated surfaces by dirty abrasives, can cause more trouble than the initial corrosive attack. Corroded magnesium may generally be treated as follows:
1. Clean and strip the paint from the area to be treated. (Paint stripping procedures were discussed earlier in this chapter.)
2. Using a stiff, hog bristle brush, break loose and remove as much of the corrosion products as practicable. Steel wire brushes, carborundum abrasives, or steel cutting tools should not be used.
3. Treat the corroded area liberally with a chromic acid solution, to which has been added sulfuric acid, and work into pits and crevices by brushing the area while still wet with chromic acid, again using a nonmetallic brush.
4. Allow the chromic acid to remain in place for 5 to 20 minutes before wiping up the excess with a clean, damp cloth. Do not allow the excess solution to dry and remain on the surface, as paint lifting will be caused by such deposits.
5. As soon as the surfaces are dry, restore the original protective paint.
Treatment of Installed Magnesium Castings
Magnesium castings, in general, are more porous and more prone to penetrating attack than wrought magnesium skins. However, treatment is, for all practical purposes, the same for all magnesium areas. Engine cases, bellcranks, fittings, numerous covers, plates, and handles are the most common magnesium castings.
When attack occurs on a casting, the earliest practicable treatment is required if dangerous corrosive penetration is to be avoided. In fact, engine cases submerged in salt water overnight can be completely penetrated. If it is at all practicable, parting surfaces should be separated to effectively treat the existing attack and prevent its further progress. The same general treatment sequence in the preceding paragraph for magnesium skin should be followed.
If extensive removal of corrosion products from a structural casting is involved, a decision from the manufacturer may be necessary to evaluate the adequacy of structural strength remaining. Specific structural repair manuals usually include dimensional tolerance limits for critical structural members and should be referred to, if any question of safety is involved.