AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 0056B ACCREDITED

What Is a Magnetic Chip Detector and Its Function

In the realm of aviation and heavy machinery, precision and safety are paramount concerns that determine various design and operational decisions. One integral component that meets such needs is the magnetic chip detector, commonly known as an MCD. Such components are discreet yet vital sensors that play a crucial role in the smooth operation and longevity of gearboxes and engines. In this blog, we will delve into the ins and outs of magnetic chip detectors, allowing you to understand their functions and why they are indispensable for machine health.

Understanding Magnetic Chip Detectors

Magnetic chip detectors are essentially small, unobtrusive devices strategically positioned within the gearboxes and engines of aircraft, vehicles, and industrial machines. Their primary function is to monitor the condition of the lubricating oil as it circulates through these critical components. A typical detector consists of a magnetic core encased within a housing, such a design making them adept at identifying metallic particles, often as minuscule as a grain of sand, within oil.

Function of Magnetic Chip Detectors

The operation of a magnetic chip detector is relatively straightforward, yet incredibly effective. As oil circulates through the gearbox or engine, it carries with it metallic particles that may have originated from wear and tear on the machinery. The magnetic core of the chip detector is strategically positioned within the oil flow path, enabling it to attract and retain any ferrous particles present.

These metallic particles are typically a by product of friction between moving components, such as gears and bearings, which are susceptible to gradual wear over time. By capturing these particles, the magnetic chip detector effectively serves as an early warning system for potential mechanical issues within the machinery.

Warning Systems and Caution Lights

A key element of the magnetic chip detector system is its ability to alert operators to the presence of metallic particles in the lubricating oil. This is typically achieved through a caution light on the instrument panel. When the detector accumulates a certain amount of ferrous material, it triggers an electrical signal that illuminates the caution light, thereby signaling the need for immediate attention.

This alert system is pivotal in aviation and heavy machinery, as it allows operators and maintenance personnel to address potential issues proactively, reducing the risk of further damage or catastrophic failure. The ability to detect problems at an early stage is invaluable in preventing costly repairs and ensuring the safety of passengers, operators, and those on the ground.

Maintenance and Inspection

Regular maintenance and inspection of magnetic chip detectors are crucial to their effective operation, and this typically involves draining and analyzing the collected metallic debris. By assessing the type, quantity, and size of particles, maintenance personnel can gain valuable insights into the condition of machinery. In cases where an abnormal amount of debris is detected, further investigation and maintenance procedures are typically warranted.

It is important to be aware that a thorough understanding of the specific machinery and its operating conditions is vital for interpreting the results of the chip detector. This is because it is not uncommon for some metallic particles to be present due to normal wear and tear. Therefore, maintenance personnel must discern between acceptable levels of wear and indicators of a more serious problem.


In summary, a magnetic chip detector is an essential component in monitoring the condition of machinery, functioning as an early warning system that is signaled by a caution light. This feature of detectors empowers operators and maintenance personnel to address potential issues proactively. Regular maintenance and inspection of these detectors are imperative, as they enable a comprehensive understanding of the machine's health.

If you are searching for reliable magnetic chip detectors and other devices that promote system health, we have you covered here on After Market Aviation Spares. Our unrivaled product selection is readily available for purchase with competitive pricing and rapid lead times, and we strive to meet the time constraints of our customers with expedited shipping options for domestic and international orders alike. With this in mind, do not hesitate to kick off procurement with us today as we find optimal solutions for even your most difficult needs.


January 19, 2024
October 20, 2022

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