Have you ever wondered what changing your aircraft’s engine oil really entails? We make it simple for you.
Changing the engine oil in your aircraft is one of the preventative maintenance items that pilots and owners are permitted by the FAA to perform. You can also gain more experience with your aircraft from a perspective other than the pilot seat.
Changing your oil is a frequently performed task and can be intimidating at first. Oil change intervals are usually every 50 hours for engines with an oil filter, and every 25 hours for those with only an oil screen. Don’t treat changing your own oil as an easy task, even if you have changed the oil on your automobile.
For pilots, many phases of flight operations have checklists and checklists are equally important for maintenance operations. This article presents the checklist and procedures to help make your oil change operation run smoothly and efficiently.
What Aircraft Engine Oil Does for Your Plane
Aircraft engine oil is vital to the performance of your aircraft. Aircraft engine oil supports your aircraft engine’s health in many ways, including:
- Keeping the internal engine temperatures low
- Helps keep the interior clean and free of debris and sludge
- Helps to absorb shock from the moving parts
- Acts as a seal for the piston rings to the cylinder wall
- Reduces friction between numerous engine parts
Choosing the Correct Aircraft Engine Oil
When choosing the appropriate aircraft engine oil, you will want to consider what range of temperatures your engine will experience.
Typically, aircraft that will be exposed to cold or wide ranging temperatures can use a multi-viscosity oil such as AeroShell® W15W50 Engine Oil. This oil will remain much thinner and more pourable at room temperature than single-grade aircraft oil.
This oil will also offer you a great advantage in cold weather if a preheater or heated hanger is not available.
In warmer climates you can go with a single-grade oil such as: AeroShell® W100 Plus Engine Oil. This type will become thicker at lower temperatures which will help prevent corrosion when the engine isn’t running. Also, this oil offers good lubrication, as well as powerful cleansing action.
If you fly in a low-corrosion area, such as a desert or near the mountains, you should not have to worry much about corrosion. For this type of environment, it is recommended to use multi-grade oil, such as AeroShell® Mineral Oil.
If you operate in a sub-freezing environment, oil manufacturers recommend that you use a multi-grade oil year round. Examples of this oil include: Phillips XC® Multi-Grade 20W50 Engine Oil or AeroShell® W15W50 Engine Oil.
Changing the Aircraft Engine Oil
Now that we have covered the basics, it is time to change your aircraft’s engine oil.
Begin by gathering the tools and supplies you will need for the job:
- Torque wrench
- 1-inch socket for the oil filter
- Safety wire
- Safety wire pliers
- Wire cutters
- Engine oil
- MS annular washer
- Bucket to catch dirty oil
- Quick drain fuel sample cup (if you plan on doing an oil analysis)
It is best to fly your aircraft before you start your oil change in order to warm up the oil. Never drain cold oil. It does not get all the solid contaminants out of the engine as well as hot oil does.
Begin by removing the cowl and access panels from the aircraft so that you have easy access to your oil filter and drain areas. It is a good idea to grab an assistant to help remove the lower cowling. You may damage it by removing it alone.
Next, place your drain pan or bucket underneath the aircraft and remove the oil drain plug and drain the oil. This would be a good time to consider installing a quick drain valve if you don’t already have one. This can save you hours of time in the long run.
Installing a quick drain valve makes changing your oil easier and cleaner. Simply screw the quick drain valve into the oil-drain hole to install it.
Warning: Be sure to check both your aircraft documentation as well as the aircraft application data on the oil quick drain. While the quick drain valves are quite short, in rare instances they can interfere with gear retraction of certain aircraft such as some Piper Arrows.
TIP: At this point, you may want to consider taking an oil sample, mid-drain, from your aircraft and sending it to a lab for analysis. Using an Oil Analysis Kit may be helpful.
After the oil has completely drained, it is time to install a new annular washer (if your aircraft has an oil screen). Be sure to consult your aircraft manual to obtain the proper washer for your specific engine. Replace the oil drain plug by, first, tightening it with your hand. Then, use your torque wrench to finish the job, making sure it is torqued to the proper level.
Be sure to properly dispose of your old oil. Consider going to a recycling facility and using their services to take care of your excess aircraft engine oil. DO NOT pour it on the ground or in a trash can as a means of disposal.
Now, add fresh oil back to the engine, making sure to choose the proper grade of aircraft engine oil. At this time, you should be cleaning up while the oil is filling. This entails cleaning up the areas inside and outside of the engine compartment, as well as the ground around your aircraft. Any excess aircraft engine oil should be cleaned up.
Reinstall any safety wires that were removed during maintenance; making sure to replace the wires where they previously were located.
After this is complete, start your engine and let it run. You may notice a drop in engine oil level. This is normal. After you’ve run the engine, check your oil levels and top them off, again.
This should give you a good game plan for changing your own aircraft engine oil. Although every aircraft is different, this is a basic guide that should help you to save money and fly safely!
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