Q&A: Leaky brake pivots, and landing gear maintenance and inspection for Cessna 210s

Written by Steve Ells
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Dear Steve,
I fly a 1984 Cessna T210N. I have enjoyed flying this airplane for over 20 years. It has added immeasurably to my enjoyment of life since I love to fly, to snow ski and to hike.

I own a thriving business that’s situated in the Los Angeles Basin and my 210 permits me to spend my weekends on a ranch I own up near Hearst Castle. I fly down Monday morning and fly back Thursday evening. Driving would take me two-and-a-half to three hours; flying it’s a 40-minute trip.
I am willing and able to devote whatever it takes to maintain this airplane. I have a good service facility just 20 minutes from my home airport.

Recently I noticed hydraulic fluid (bright red) seeping out of one of the drain holes in the bottom of the fuselage. The hole is located between where the two main landing gear legs attach to the fuselage.
The brakes seemed okay—but knowing that brake systems aren’t supposed to leak, I took it in. The inspector at the shop told me that one of the brake swivels was leaking.
I told him to go ahead and replace it. In fact, I told him to go ahead and replace the other one, too, figuring that they were both 30 years old. He did.
When I got the bill, I was floored. These little swivels list for $1,481 each! Those two parts, plus the labor to install them, set me back around $3,000.

I am pretty handy with tools and asked if the pivots could have been rebuilt. The shop manager told me he had heard of people rebuilding them, but he hadn’t ever done it.
Do you have any information that might save me some money if I ever face a leaky brake pivot problem in the future?

—Two-Ten Tom

Dear Tom,
You’re not the first 210 owner that has asked this same question. In fact, this same kind of pivot assembly is installed on all Cessna singles with tubular landing gear legs.
The original part number of the swivel assembly for your T210 is 1280111; it’s now been updated to 1280111-1. List price is indeed $1,481.
Yingling Aviation, a well-known Cessna shop in Wichita, sells new Cessna parts at discounted prices online; the site quotes a price of $1,258.85.

It may be easier to get your mind around the cost of this part when you understand that it’s a ball and socket assembly. The ball part of this assembly must, by design, be free to rotate—without leaking fluid—as the gear leg pivots from the fully-extended position to the full gear-up position.
The ball end must also maintain the seal through +/- 7 degrees of misalignment. Although brake fluid pressures never reach the 3,000 psi operating limit mandated in the design, it’s still pretty impressive that your pivots did their duty for 30 years before starting to leak.

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