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A basic understanding of how engine instruments work is an important part of the
knowledge you must have as an engine operator and troubleshooter. Part of this knowledge includes
knowing how to interpret the instrument markings so you can comprehend how an engine is performing.
Instrument markings establish operational ranges as well as minimum and maximum limits. In addition,
the markings allow you to distinguish between normal operation, time limited operation, and
unauthorized operating conditions. Engine instrument range markings are based on limits found in the
engine's Type Certificate Data Sheet.

Traditionally, instrument markings consist of green, blue, yellow, and red lines or arcs
and intermediate blank spaces.
Green arcs are the most widely used of all the instrument markings and usually indicate a
safe, or normal range of operation. Usually, the upper end of a green arc indicates the maximum limit for
continuous operation while the low end indicates the minimum limit for continuous operation. Operation
within a green arc is typically not time restricted.
Blue arcs are used to indicate an allowable range of operations under a unique set of
circumstances. For example, a blue arc may indicate an acceptable fuel flow when flying above a specific
altitude. Blue arcs are rarely used and may only be seen on certain engine instruments, such as the
tachometer, fuel flow, manifold pressure, cylinder head temperature, or torque meter.
A yellow arc indicates a precautionary range of time limited operation permitted by the
manufacturer. However, in some cases, a yellow arc may be omitted on instruments if it is too small to be
clearly visible. When this is the case, the manufacturer's instructions will specify a caution range. Engine
operation in the yellow arc is typically an indication of an impending problem or a warning to change an
operational setting.
A red line indicates a maximum or minimum safe operating limit. Operation beyond a red
line typically results in a dangerous operating condition. In addition, other limits of a transient or
momentary nature may be indicated by a red triangle, dot, or diamond mark. A red arc, on the other hand,
indicates a restricted operating range where excessive vibration or other stresses could endanger the
engine or airframe.
The colored arcs and lines on engine instruments are typically painted directly on the
instrument face.
For standardization purposes, the primary engine controls are arranged from left
to right beginning with the throttle, propeller control, and mixture. In addition,
each lever is color coded and uniquely shaped.
Carburetor air temperature (CAT) is measured at the carburetor entrance by a temperature
sensing bulb in the ram air intake duct. The sensing bulb senses the air temperature in the carburetor and
then sends a signal to a cockpit instrument that is calibrated in degrees Centigrade. The primary purpose
of a CAT gauge is to inform a pilot when the temperature at the carburetor can support the formation of
In addition to identifying the conditions necessary for the formation of ice, excessively high
carburetor air temperatures can indicate the onset of detonation. For example, if a CAT gauge has a red
line identifying a maximum operating temperature, engine operation above that temperature increases
the chance of detonation occurring.
Observation of the CAT before engine startup and just after shutdown provides an indication of
fuel temperature in the carburetor body. During startup, this information can be used to determine if the
fuel is warm enough to support vaporization. On the other hand, a high CAT after engine shutdown is a
warning that fuel trapped in a pressure-type carburetor could expand and produce potentially damaging
fuel pressures. High CAT temperatures after shutdown can also indicate the onset of vapor lock,
which is the formation of vaporized fuel bubbles in a fuel line that interfere with the flow of fuel to the

Some engines have a fuel pressure gauge that displays the pressure of fuel supplied to the
carburetor or fuel control unit. Most fuel pressure instruments display fuel pressure in pounds per square
inch (psi), and provide indications to the pilot that the engine is receiving the fuel needed for a given
power setting. A pilot also uses fuel pressure gauges to verify the operation of an auxiliary fuel pump.
One type of fuel pressure gauge uses a Bourdon tube which is a metal tube that is formed
in a circular shape with a flattened cross section. One end of the tube is open, while the other end is
sealed. The open end of the Bourdon tube is connected to a capillary tube containing pressurized fuel. As
the pressurized fuel enters the Bourdon tube, the tube tends to straighten. Through a series of gears, this
movement is used to move an indicating needle on the instrument face.
Another type of fuel pressure indicator utilizes a pressure capsule, or diaphragm.
Like the Bourdon tube, a diaphragm type pressure indicator is attached to a capillary tube, which attaches
to the
fuel system and carries pressurized fuel to the diaphragm. As the diaphragm becomes pressurized, it
expands, causing an indicator needle to rotate.

A third type of fuel pressure indicator uses a bellows that is attached to a capillary tube.
The advantage of bellows over a Bourdon tube or diaphragm is its ability to provide a greater range of
motion. The bellows inside the instrument case expands and moves an indicator needle as the fuel
pressure increases.
A fuel flow indicator measures the rate of fuel an engine burns in gallons per hour or pounds
per hour. This provides the most accurate indication of an engine's fuel consumption. In addition, when
combined with other instrument indications, the amount of fuel an engine burns can be used to determine
the power settings necessary to obtain maximum power, speed, range, or economy.

A manifold absolute pressure (MAP) gauge measures the absolute pressure of the fuel/air
mixture within the intake manifold. A MAP gauge is used on all aircraft that have a constant-speed
propeller to indicate engine power output. Since MAP directly affects a cylinder's mean effective pressure
(mep), a pilot uses MAP gauge indications to set the engine power at a pressure level that will not damage
the engine. This is especially true for aircraft with tur-bocharged engines because it helps the pilot to
avoid excessive manifold pressure.

The oil temperature gauge allows a pilot to monitor the temperature of the oil entering the
engine. This is important because oil circulation cools the engine as it lubricates the moving parts. Most
oil temperature gauges are calibrated in degrees Fahrenheit and sense oil temperature at the engine's oil

The engine lubrication system supplies oil under pressure to the moving parts of the engine. To
allow a pilot to monitor the effectiveness of a given lubrication system, all aircraft engines are equipped
with an oil pressure gauge that is calibrated in pounds per square inch. Since inadequate oil pressure can
lead to oil starvation in engine bearings and excessive pressure can rupture gaskets and seals, the oil
pressure in most reciprocating engines is typically regulated over a fairly narrow operating range.


The engine temperature can have a dramatic impact on engine performance. Therefore, most
reciprocating engine powered aircraft are equipped with a cylinder head temperature (CHT) gauge that
allows a pilot to monitor engine temperatures. Most cylinder head temperature gauges are galvanometer-
type meters that display temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit.


Another performance monitoring instrument often used in reciprocating engine installations is
the exhaust gas temperature (EGT) gauge. An EGT gauge measures the temperature of the exhaust at
some point past the exhaust port. Since the fuel/air mixture setting has a direct effect on the combustion
temperature, a pilot can use an EGT gauge to obtain the best mixture setting for fuel efficiency. A typical
EGT gauge is calibrated in degrees Fahrenheit with 25 divisions.

Many reciprocating engine-powered aircraft utilize some form of analyzer to monitor engine
performance. Cylinder head temperature gauges and exhaust gas temperature gauges are used as simple
engine analyzers. A more complex form of engine analyzer is known as an exhaust gas analyzer
(EGA). An exhaust gas analyzer operates like automotive tailpipe emissions testers in that it samples an
engine's exhaust gas and analyzes its chemical composition. From the information provided by an
analyzer, a pilot can adjust the mixture for the most efficient operation.

An engine's crankshaft rpm is displayed by a tachometer that is calibrated in hundreds of rpm.
The tachometer is a primary engine instrument used extensively by a pilot to monitor engine condition
and verify that the engine is developing the appropriate rpm and power output for a given throttle setting.
Most tachometers are divided into 100 rpm increments and have a red line that indicates a maximum rpm

The suction gauge is not officially classified as an engine instrument since it does not indicate
any engine performance information. However, as an aviation maintenance technician, you will refer to
the suction gauge to adjust the suction regulator and to verify the operation of the vacuum pump. Most
suction gauges are calibrated in inches of mercury and represent a reduction in pressure below
atmospheric pressure. The normal operating range on a typical suction gauge is between 3 and 6 inches of


As an aviation maintenance technician; there is little you can do in terms of making repairs to
engine instruments. However, you can do some basic pre-ventative maintenance that does not require you
to disassemble an instrument. For example, tachometers that are mechanically driven with flexible drive
shafts require periodic maintenance to prevent erratic indications. The drive shaft must be lubricated with
an approved lubricant such as graphite. In addition, the hardware that attaches the drive shaft to the
instrument, airframe, and engine should be secure. The drive shaft should be installed away from
excessive heat or fluids without sharp bends or kinks, and should not impose any strain on the instrument.
In addition, the drive shaft should be secured at frequent intervals to prevent whipping, which causes
pointer oscillation.

Conducting an engine run up is a ground operation that can present a safety hazard to personnel
and can damage an aircraft and surrounding equipment. Therefore, certain precautions must be taken. For
example, all engine run ups should be conducted in an area specifically designated for that purpose.
Furthermore, the aircraft should be positioned on a clean level surface and aimed so the blast
from the propeller does not blow dirt into any hangar or onto another aircraft. Rather than relying solely
on the aircraft's brakes, chock the wheels securely, or tie the aircraft down to prevent movement during
engine power checks. Ground service equipment such as auxiliary power carts or hydraulic service units
should be positioned well away from the propeller arc with their wheels chocked and brakes set.

Hydraulic lock is a condition that can develop in a radial engine after shutdown, where oil or
liquid fuel accumulates and pools in the lower cylinders, or lower intake pipes. Since fluids are not
compressible, any attempt to start an engine with hydraulic lock can cause severe damage to the piston,
connecting rod, valves, or cylinder. Therefore, before attempting to start any radial engine that has been
shut down for more than 30 minutes, you should check for hydraulic lock. To do this, make sure the
ignition switches are "off," then pull the propeller through in the direction of rotation a minimum of two
complete revolutions. Any liquid present in a cylinder will be indicated by an abnormal amount of effort
required to rotate the propeller.

To eliminate a hydraulic lock, remove either the front or rear spark plug and pull the
propeller through in the direction of rotation, allowing the piston to expel any liquid that is present.

Starting an aircraft engine is a specialized procedure and varies with an individual engine and
aircraft. Therefore, before starting any aircraft engine, be sure to study the procedures in the appropriate
airplane flight manual and get instruction from an experienced operator. However, certain general
guidelines apply to all reciprocating engine powered aircraft. Before attempting an engine start, check
engine fluids and verify that all cockpit engine controls are intact and fully operational. In addition,
station extra personnel with fire extinguishing equipment nearby in safe areas.
There is always a possibility of fire when starting an engine. Because of this, you should
always have a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher of adequate capacity available. For starting large aircraft
where it is not possible to see the engine when it is being started, a fire guard should be stationed near the
Induction system fires are the most common type of fire and occur most frequently in
reciprocating engines. The reason for this is if an engine is over-primed and then fires back through the
carburetor, the gasoline in the induction system can ignite. If an induction fire occurs, continue cranking
the engine to draw the fire back into the cylinders. If this fails, signal the fire guard to extinguish the
To start an engine with a typical float-type carburetor, place the mixture control in the full
rich position. Almost all reciprocating engines are equipped with either a carburetor-heat or an alternate-
air position on the carburetor air inlet system. For starting and ground operation these controls should be
in the cold or closed position.

Proper engine warm-up is important, particularly when the condition of the engine is unknown.
An improperly adjusted idle mixture, intermittently firing spark plugs, or improperly adjusted engine
valves all have an overlapping effect on engine stability. Therefore, the warm-up should be made at a
speed that results in maximum engine stability. This typically results when the engine speed is between
800 and 1,000 rpm.

During warm-up, monitor the engine instruments to ensure normal operation. For example, the
oil pressure gauge should indicate pressure within 30 seconds after a start. If that does not happen, the
engine should be shut down immediately.

A magneto safety check can be performed during warm-up. The purpose of this
check is to ensure that all ignition connections are secure and that the ignition system will permit
operation at the higher power settings used during later phases of the ground check. This test is
accomplished at idle rpm with the propeller in the high rpm, low pitch position. To conduct the check,
move the ignition switch from the "both" position to "right" then return to "both," from "both" to "left"
and return to "both," from "both" to "off" momentarily, and return to "both." While switching from the
"both" position to a single magneto, a slight but noticeable drop in rpm should occur. This indicates that
the opposite magneto is properly grounded out. Complete cutting out of the engine when switching from
"both" to "off" indicates that both magnetos are properly grounded. Failure to obtain any drop in rpm
while in a single magneto position, or failure of the engine to cut out while switching to "off" indicates
that one or both ground connections are incomplete.

After engine warm-up, a ground check is performed to verify the operation of the powerplant and
accessory equipment. This check typically requires you to properly interpret instrument readings based on
established performance criteria. Generally, the ground check items are included in the preflight run up

During the ground check, head the aircraft into the wind, if possible, to take advantage of the
cooling airflow. A ground check may be performed as follows:
1. Open the cowl flaps. 2. Set the mixture in the full rich position. 3. Verify that the propeller control is in
the low pitch, high rpm position. 4. Place the carburetor heat control in the cold position. 5. Open the
throttle to the specified rpm and lean the mixture as required. 6. If the engine is carbureted, apply
carburetor heat and observe a slight drop in rpm. Once rpm stabilizes, return the carburetor heat to the
cold position. 7. Move the magneto switch from "both" to "right" and back to "both." Then, switch from
"both" to "left" and back to "both." You should observe a slight rpm drop while operating on the right and
left magnetos. The drop on either magneto should be approximately the same, and the maximum drop
should not exceed that specified by the engine manufacturer. 8. If the aircraft is equipped with a constant-
speed propeller, check the propeller operation accord ing to propeller manufacturer's instructions.9. Check
the fuel pressure and oil pressure. They must be within the established tolerances. 10. Check the ammeter
and suction gauge for proper system operation. 11. Retard the throttle to the idle position.

By comparing the rpm drop encountered when checking the magnetos to a known standard, you
can determine if a magneto is properly timed and if all the ignition leads are properly grounded. For
example, a rapid rpm drop which occurs when you switch to one magneto may indicate that the spark
plugs or ignition harness is faulty because these defects take effect immediately. Faulty spark plugs
or a defective ignition harness is often manifested by dead cylinders or intermittent firing at the instant
the magneto switch is moved. On the other hand, a slow rpm drop is usually caused by incorrect ignition
timing or faulty valve adjustment. These conditions result in a loss of power, but do not occur as rapidly
as a dead spark plug.

When conducting a ground check, most aircraft manufacturers also require a power check. The
purpose of a power check is to measure an engine's performance against an established standard. The
standard is determined by the manufacturer and represents the amount of power an engine can develop at
a given rpm and manifold pressure. With a constant air density, a given propeller and blade angle always
requires the same rpm to absorb the same horsepower from the engine.
To conduct a power check, place the propeller in the low pitch, high rpm position and advance
the throttle to obtain the target rpm established by the manufacturer. Under these conditions, the manifold
pressure gauge should indicate the pressure specified by the manufacturer if all of the cylinders are
operating properly. However, if the engine is weak, or if one or more cylinders are dead or intermittently
firing, the operating cylinders must provide more power for a given rpm.


When an engine is operated at idle for long periods of time, many pilots tend to use an
excessively rich fuel/air mixture to aid in cylinder cooling. However, after prolonged operation, the
excess fuel has a tendency to build up and foul out the spark plugs. With a properly adjusted idle mixture
setting, it is possible to run the engine at idle rpm for long periods. Such a setting results in minimal plug
fouling and exhaust smoking.


Aircraft engines must be capable of accelerating and decelerating rapidly. Therefore, when
conducting a ground check, you should conduct an acceleration and deceleration check. To perform an
acceleration test, move the throttle from idle to full power smoothly and rapidly. The engine should
accelerate without hesitation and with no evidence of engine backfiring. The deceleration check is made
by retarding the throttle from full power back to idle. The rpm should decrease smoothly and evenly, with
little or no tendency for the engine to afterfire. An acceleration and deceleration check often reveals
borderline conditions that are not apparent during other checks.

The procedure used to shut down an engine varies from engine to engine based on the type of
carburetor or fuel injection system installed. Therefore, the shutdown instructions provided by the
manufacturer should be followed exactly. As a rule, most engines are shut down by placing the mixture
control in the "idle cut off" position. This procedure helps ensure that all of the fuel in the cylinders and
induction system is burned. If all the fuel is burned, the chances of an accidental start caused by propeller
movement is minimized. Once the engine quits, the ignition switch is turned off and the key is taken out
of the ignition.

The need for troubleshooting is dictated by unsatisfactory powerplant performance. Efficient
troubleshooting is based on a systematic analysis of what is happening so you will be able to determine
the cause of a malfunction. There is no magic in successful troubleshooting, but rather an application of
logic and a thorough knowledge of the basics of engine operation. For example, if you are faced with
a problem of deteriorating engine performance, the first thing you should do is get all of the facts. Take
nothing for granted, and ask the pilot questions.

For example, find out if the trouble comes about suddenly or was it a gradual decrease in
performance? Under what conditions of altitude, humidity, temperature, or power setting does this
performance loss show up? Does temporarily switching to one magneto cause any change in
performance? What effect did leaning the mixture or applying carburetor heat have on the problem? Did
switching from one fuel tank to another, or turning on the fuel boost pump have any effect on the
problem? After getting all of the facts, perform a ground check to see if the problem can be duplicated.
The next step is to eliminate all of the areas that are not likely to cause the trouble. To assist in the
troubleshooting process, some manufacturers provide troubleshooting flow charts or trouble-cause-
remedy charts.

When an excessively lean fuel/air mixture passes into a cylinder, the mixture may not burn at
all or will burn so slowly that combustion continues through the power and exhaust strokes. If this occurs,
the flame can linger in the cylinder and ignite the contents of the intake manifold and the induction
system when the intake valve opens. This causes an explosion known as backfiring, which can damage
the carburetor and other parts of the induction system.
Backfiring is seldom the fault of the carburetor and, in most cases, is limited to one or two
cylinders. Usually, backfiring is the result of incorrect valve clearance, defective fuel injector nozzles, or
other conditions which result in a leaner mixture entering the cylinder.

Afterfiring, sometimes called afterburning, often results when the fuel/air mixture is too rich.
Overly rich mixtures, like excessively lean mixtures, also burn slowly. However, the slow burn rate of a
rich mixture is due to the lack of sufficient oxygen. If an overly rich mixture burns past the power stroke
and into the exhaust stroke, unburned fuel can be forced out of a cylinder into the exhausted gases. If this
occurs, air from outside the exhaust stacks will mix with the unburned fuel, causing it to ignite and
explode in the exhaust system.

Afterfiring is perhaps more common with engines that have long exhaust ducting that can
retain greater amounts of unburned fuel. Typical causes of afterfiring include an improperly adjusted
carburetor or an unseated exhaust valve. Afterfiring can also be caused by cylinders which are not firing
because of faulty spark plugs, defective fuel injection nozzles, or incorrect valve clearances.


A cold cylinder check can help determine the operating characteristics of each cylinder on an
engine. The tendency of any cylinder or cylinders to be cold or only slightly warm indicates lack of
combustion within the cylinder. A cold cylinder check is made with a cold cylinder indicator which is
simply an accurate pyrometer with a probe that is touched to a cylinder. Engine difficulties which can be
analyzed by use of the cold cylinder indicator are:
1. Rough engine operation. 2. Excessive rpm drop or intermittent misfiring during the ignition system
check. 3. High manifold pressure for a given engine rpm during the ground check when the propeller is in
the full low pitch position. 4. Improper valve clearances.

A cylinder compression test determines if the valves, piston rings, and pistons are adequately
sealing the combustion chamber. Cylinders with good compression provide the most power while
cylinders with low compression provide minimal power. Low compression for the most part can be traced
to valves that leak because of incorrect valve clearances or because the valve timing is too early or too
late. Several other conditions can cause leaking valves such as carbon particles between the valve face
and seat or valves that have been burned or warped. In addition, low compression can result from
excessive wear of piston rings and cylinder walls or pistons that have become worn, scuffed, or damaged
in some way. Before performing a compression test, you should run an engine so the piston rings,
cylinder walls, and other parts are freshly lubricated.

As an aviation maintenance technician, you will probably spend the majority of your time
inspecting various aircraft components. In fact, the Federal Aviation Regulations require specific
inspections at set intervals in order for an aircraft to remain airworthy. When these inspections are done,
impending problems are typically found before they become major. Some of the more common types of
inspections you will be involved in include the preflight inspection, 50-hour inspection, 100-hour
inspection, and annual inspection.
As an aviation maintenance technician, there may be times when you are asked to do a preflight
inspection. Although a typical preflight inspection involves checking the entire aircraft, the following
discussion is concerned with only the part of the inspection that applies to the powerplant. The first step
in any inspection is to verify that the ignition switch is OFF and the mixture is in the idle cutoff position.
The best way to conduct a thorough inspection on an engine is to open the cowling. With the engine
exposed, start at the rear of the accessory section near the firewall and inspect all of the fluid lines. Verify
that no lines are loose, chafing against something, or showing signs of excessive wear or deterioration.

Although a 50-hour inspection is not required by the Federal Aviation Regulations, it is
recommended by almost all engine manufacturers. A typical 50-hour inspection requires you to conduct a
runup and check all of the engine's subsystems including the ignition, fuel, lubrication, exhaust, cooling,
and tur-bocharging systems. In addition, most manufacturers provide a checklist for conducting
a 50-hour inspection.

The spark plug leads should be checked for security and for any indication of corrosion. All of
the leads should be securely fastened to both the spark plug and to the magneto distributor block. In
addition, there should be no evidence of chafing or wear to any part of an ignition lead. The spark plugs
should he examined where they screw into the cylinder heads for any indication of leakage from the


Check the primer lines for indication of leaks and for security. Remove and clean the fuel inlet
strainers and check the mixture control and throttle linkage for proper travel, freedom of movement, and
security. Lubricate the controls if it is necessary. Check the air intake and air box for leaks and for any
indication of filter damage. In addition, look for evidence of dust or other solid contaminants that may
have leaked past the filter. Check the fuel pump vent lines to see if there is evidence of fuel or oil seepage
which could indicate that either a fuel or oil seal is leaking.
Most engine manufacturers recommend that you drain and replace the engine oil during a 50-
hour inspection. If the engine is equipped with an oil screen, it should be removed and inspected for
metal particles. However, if the engine is equipped with an oil filter, the filter is removed and cut open
so you can inspect it for any traces of metal particles. Check all of the oil lines for any indication of
leakage or signs of chafing.
Check all of the flanges on the exhaust pipes where they attach to the cylinder head for evidence
of leakage. If they are loose or show any signs of warpage, they must be removed and machined flat
before they are reassembled. In addition, check the general condition of the entire exhaust manifold and
muffler assembly, paying particular attention for evidence of leaks.
Check all of the cowling and baffles for any indication of damage or missing parts. If a small
crack is found, you can usually stop drill it to prevent further growth. However, if substantial cracking
exists, additional structural repair may be necessary.
Check the rocker box covers for indication of leaks. If a leak is found replace the rocker box
gasket. Carefully check the entire cylinder for signs of overheating. Typical indications of a cylinder that
has overheated include burned or discolored paint on one or more cylinders. If a cylinder has overheated,
further inspection by borescope or by removing the cylinder may be required.

If an engine is equipped with a turbocharger, the oil feed and return lines should be checked
for leaks or chafing. In addition, you should check all of the brackets and heat shielding for security and
for any indication of damage or cracks. Check the waste gate for freedom of action and the alternate air
door for operation and sealing.


FAR Part 91 states that all general aviation aircraft must go through an annual inspection to
remain airworthy. All annual inspections are based on calendar months and, therefore, are due on the last
day of the 12th month after the last annual was completed. For example, if a previous annual was
completed on June 11, 1995, the next annual inspection is due on June 30, 1996.
Annual inspections must be performed regardless of the number of hours flown in the
previous year. Furthermore, they may be performed by airframe and powerplant mechanics holding an
inspection authorization (IA). The IA cannot delegate the inspection duties to an airframe and
powerplant mechanic, nor may an IA merely supervise an annual inspection.

Engine removal is a major task and must be accomplished in an orderly fashion to prevent
personal injury or damage to the aircraft.


There are several reasons why an engine may have to be removed from an aircraft. For
example, the accumulation of the number of hours recommended between overhauls or degradation in
performance are reasons for removal. Also, a sudden engine stoppage or excessive metal particles found
in the oil are certainly valid reasons for engine removal. In addition, some routine maintenance and
repairs may require an engine to be removed from an aircraft.


Engine life is affected by environmental, operational, and design factors. In addition, the level
of quality a manufacturer builds into the engine and the degree to which preventive maintenance is
accomplished have a direct bearing on the useful life of an engine. As a result, it can be difficult to
establish definite engine replacement times. However, by tracking the service life of several different
engines, it is possible for manufacturers to establish a recommended time between overhauls

Whether an engine has reached its recommended TBO or not, signs or symptoms of severe
performance deterioration could require removal and overhaul. As engine components wear, symptoms
signaling a drop in performance become apparent. Increased oil consumption, higher engine operating
temperatures, and a general loss of power all point to a possible need for replacement parts. Careful
monitoring of these conditions may result in the decision to remove an engine for maintenance prior to
the recommended time before overhaul. Normal engine life can be shortened due to several
environmental and operational reasons.

A sudden stoppage is defined as a very rapid and complete arrest of the engine. With a typical
sudden engine stoppage, engine rpm drops to zero in less than one complete propeller revolution.
Common causes of a sudden stoppage include engine seizure or a propeller blade striking an object.
Whenever an engine is stopped suddenly, the inertia of the moving parts creates high torque forces that
can result in cracked or broken flywheel gear teeth, timing gear damage, a bent or broken crankshaft, or
damaged crankshaft bearings. When a sudden stoppage occurs, an engine manufacturer's instructions
usually require a complete engine teardown and inspection.


Engines must be removed for closer examination when unstable engine operation persists for a
period of time. Excessive engine vibration, back firing, afterfiring, cutting out while in flight, and low
power output are all symptoms of one or more problems that require removal of an engine.


When an engine is removed from an aircraft, flammable fluids often leak from the engine and
create a fire hazard. Therefore, an engine removal should be done in a well ventilated area with a least
one fire extinguisher nearby. Once the aircraft is parked, chock the main gear wheels to keep the aircraft
from rolling during the removal operation.


Before starting the engine removal process, make sure that the magneto switch is in the OFF
position. In addition, once the engine is removed, it is a good idea to remove at least one spark plug from
each cylinder. When these steps are taken, you eliminate the chance of the engine suddenly kicking
back or starting when the propeller is turned.


You should begin draining the oil once the magnetos and battery are disarmed. When doing this,
drain the oil into a clean container and place a large metal drip pan under the engine to catch any spills.
Begin by removing the drain plug or opening the drain valve. Additional points that should be drained of
oil include the oil cooler, oil return line, and oil filter. Leave all valves and drains open until the oil
system is completely drained. After draining the oil, reinstall the drain plugs, close all drain valves, and
wipe any excess oil from around the drain points.

With the spark plugs removed, the propeller can be easily turned and removed for inspection and
necessary repairs. When removing a fixed pitch propeller from a light aircraft, one person can typically
conduct the operation safely with no additional equipment. However, when removing a large constant
speed propeller, the use of a propeller sling with a frame and hoist is imperative.


The engine control rods and cables allow operation of the throttle and mixture from within the
cockpit. A typical control rod is threaded at both ends with a clevis attached at one end and a rod end
bearing attached to the other end. On most aircraft, the rod end bearing is connected to the carburetor or
fuel control by a bolt secured with a castle nut and cotter pin. To remove a control rod, begin by removing
the cotter pin and castle nut. Once this is done, remove the bolt passing through the control assembly.

Aircraft operators run the risk of premature engine or component failure if scheduled
maintenance is delayed or neglected. On the other hand, a well-maintained engine can provide many
hours of reliable operation without failure up to the recommended TBO. After reaching TBO, however,
the engine should be overhauled for continued airworthiness so that worn or damaged parts can be
detected and replaced. The best way to identify parts that are defective or worn beyond airworthy limits is
to disassemble the engine and perform a complete and thorough inspection.

A top overhaul is defined as an overhaul of those parts associated with the engine cylinders.
During a typical top overhaul, the cylinders, pistons, and valve operating mechanisms are reconditioned
while the piston rings are replaced. In addition, the valve guides and seats are inspected and replaced
if necessary. When performing a top overhaul, you should remove as few parts as necessary to gain
access to the cylinders. However, in most cases, you must remove the intake manifold, ignition harness,
and exhaust collectors. Engine accessories such as magnetos, starters, and alternators typically receive
normally scheduled maintenance during a top overhaul.

A major overhaul entails a complete engine reconditioning at periodic intervals. The exact
interval is based on manufacturer recommendations or an FAA approved number of accumulated hours
since new or last major overhaul.
During a major overhaul, an engine is completely dismantled, cleaned, inspected, repaired as
needed, reassembled, and tested. Any engine part failing to meet specified tolerances is rejected and either
scrapped or repaired. Parts such as gaskets, seals, and some hardware are used only once, and, therefore,
are normally replaced regardless of their condition. Instructions provided by the manufacturer specify the
parts that must be replaced. Furthermore, all accessories are removed for overhaul or replacement.

Specific overhaul procedures for any given engine are listed in the maintenance and overhaul
manuals written for that engine; Throughout the overhaul process, the engine manufacturer's manuals,
service bulletins, and other service information must be available. Therefore, the first task you must
complete in the overhaul process is to research the airworthiness directives and manufacturer's service
bulletins that apply. In addition, you should gather all the necessary inspection forms and tooling needed
to complete the overhaul.