Steve Ells, A&P/IA and Cessna expert, has decades of experience working on Cessna single-engine aircraft. Here he lists the common problems and areas of concern on Cessna 182s for the third in our four-part series focusing on Cessna Skylanes.
The Cessna 182 is a tough, dependable airplane—but like all machines, there are areas that are problematic or components that should be improved or upgraded.
Cessna Aircraft has developed a series of inspection guidelines for its 182 series airplanes. Those guidelines are titled “Continuing Airworthiness Program (CAP) Structural Inspections” and are available in SEL-05-01R1.
Cessna has also developed a list of inspections for its Supplemental Structural Inspection (SID) Program. The SID for the 1969-76 Cessna 182 is 208 pages long; it’s detailed.
Cessna’s CAP and SID programs focus on corrosion and metal fatigue cracking. Both of these programs along with Service Bulletin (SB) information and Service Kits (SKs) are available online. There’s a sign-in required but once you’re signed in, access is free.
I’ve woven together hints from the manufacturer’s documents and from my personal experience to create a general inspection list. It’s focused on Continental-powered 182s built between 1962 and 1986, but should prove helpful to any owners of 182s produced before and after these dates as well.
NOTE: Some of the inspections described in this article can be carried out by an owner, but you’ll need your trusty mechanic by your side for others.
The first step in any aircraft assessment is a very detailed visual inspection.
Stand back and look to see if the wingtips are the same distance from the floor and that the tips of the horizontal stabilizers are equidistant from the floor. A couple of inches at the wingtips is acceptable, provided the floor is flat and the tires are equally inflated. More than a couple of inches’ difference is a sign to investigate further.
A cheap tool that can be used to detect gross airframe problems is a piece of string. Compare the distance from the outboard trailing edge of the left aileron to the leading edge of the left horizontal stabilizer to the same measurement on the right side of the airplane. They better be pretty close.
Look for skin wrinkling. Compare the appearance of the top wing skins on the left wing with the skins on the right wing.
Check for skin distortion in the boot cowl skins aft of the firewall—skin distortion here is caused by a nosewheel hard landing. If you see any wrinkling, look for a bent firewall and bending of the tunnel parts aft of the firewall.
Check for evidence of a new leading-edge wing skin and/or skin distortion above the rear window near the inner end of the flap—you’re looking for evidence of a wing strike. The wing may be repaired (or changed) and look okay, but the fuselage damage hasn’t been repaired.
Check for fuel leak stains at the fuselage above the door—fuel stains here indicate a leaking fuel bladder—and check for a fuel smell when the tanks are topped off. Both are signals that it’s time to change the fuel bladder.
Check to determine if the inner end of each aileron is level (i.e., married) with the outer end of the flap when the control wheel is level—this is a preliminary check for proper rigging. Don’t be concerned if the outer end of the aileron doesn’t match the trailing edge of the wingtip.
This visual once-over is meant to give you an initial impression and can be used for any 182. Don’t be misled by shiny paint—you’re hoping to see a straight, no-damage airframe.
AFT END OF THE AIRFRAME
209 and 230 bulkheads
Let’s start looking closer at common problem areas with the airframe from back to front.
The 209 and 230 bulkheads (209 and 230 inches aft of the datum) form the aft-most end of the fuselage. They are the mounting points for the horizontal stabilizer and the vertical stabilizer. The 230 bulkhead also provides a strong point for the aft fuselage tiedown.
Inspect for cracks around the upper left and upper right cutouts in the 209 bulkhead. If no cracks are found, it’s a good idea to break any sharp edges of the cutouts with a file and Scotch-Brite to reduce the possibility of cracking.
If cracks are found, bulkhead reinforcement kit SK182-46A is needed for repairs. Price is over $7,000.
AD 72-07-09 mandates a check for loose bolts and cracks in the aft spar of the vertical stabilizer every 1,000 hours. Inspect for cracks in the forward fin spar using a dye penetrant method. This inspection should also be conducted on the aircraft after severe winds or a gusts encounter.
Elevator torque flange rivet upgrade and outboard elevator rib strengthening
Facing the front of the airplane, grab the trailing edges of the left elevator with the left hand and the trailing edge of the right elevator with the right hand.
Push with one hand and resist movement with the other hand. Look and feel for movement between the two sides.
If movement is found, the elevators must be removed and new, larger rivets installed in the flange-to-torque tube connection.
SEB03-1 provides information on adding additional rivets to each elevator outboard rib.
Move the elevator to the full up position while pushing the rudder to its left and right limits of travel. The rudder and elevator should not touch. If they do, check the travel and adjust the stops as necessary.
Let’s now go to the front of the airframe and under the cowling.
FRONT OF AIRFRAME AND UNDER COWLING
Look for black aluminum oxide on the inner surface of the spinner, and for wear at the point where the spinner’s inner surface contacts the plastic forward spinner support bulkhead.
If wear is detected, make sure the wear is not more than 10 percent of the metal thickness.
If the spinner is airworthy, shim the bulkhead until the spinner-to-bulkhead screw holes are half-a-hole out of alignment; then use an awl to pull the spinner and bulkhead holes into alignment before starting screws. Pre-loading the bulkhead in this way prevents wear.
Cowl snubber-engine induction balance tube wear
On earlier 182s, the engine cowlings were secured to the forward portion of the fuselage with cam lock-type fasteners. In 1973, Cessna introduced the “floating” cowling.
A floating cowling is suspended on rubber shock mounts that are support mounted on the firewall. The idea was to prevent engine vibration from being transmitted to the passenger compartment. In order for the floating cowling system to work, all of the cowling shock mounts must be meticulously maintained.
There’s also a rubber bumper installed at the front of the cowling to prevent the cowling from contacting the engine induction balance tube. This front rubber bumper is often missing.
Cessna Service News Letter SNL87-28 applies.
Cowl flap hinge pin wear
Cowl flap hinges wear, especially the one that’s directly aft of the exhaust downpipe.
Hinge wear is easy to check: grab the flap and try to wiggle it. (We once got a 182 into the shop that didn’t have a right cowl flap anymore—it had fallen off in flight.) Cessna wants over $3,500 for a new cowl flap; a used serviceable one costs about $1,000.
If the hinge is worn, it must be replaced. The street price for a new Cessna hinge is around $285.
Horsham Aviation Services in Australia has an STC kit to replace the hinged cowl flaps with a fixed flap, thereby eliminating the hinge wear problem. Tony Horsham said to mention you heard about the kit in Cessna Flyer and he will sell it to you at the 2015 price of $700 Australian dollars plus shipping.
SE71-27-R1 suggests that loose rivets in the hinges can be replaced with 5/32-inch diameter rivets.
Lower forward bulkhead and wing strut fitting inspection
SEB95-19 and SID 53-12-02 detail the procedures to inspect the lower forward fuselage/wing strut fitting for cracks. I have seen an airplane with extensive intergranular corrosion in this area.
SK182-115 contains a reinforcement kit for the lower forward bulkhead and wing strut fitting. The kit sells for around $2,500 date of publication. (Updated pricing for 2021/2022: Cessna $7,500, Hutch Aviation Inc. $4,095.00. See resources for contact information. -Ed.)
Engine ground strap
The must be a ground strap between the engine and the engine mount. This is usually a woven wire flat strap with lugs on each end. I’ve seen this left off after an engine change.
Alternator support bracket AD and service kit
AD 79-25-07 requires the installation of an additional ground strap or the installation of an improved alternator mounting leg. SE79-58S1 and Service Kits SK182-52D and SK182-55A apply.
Firewall damage inspection
It’s not uncommon for a 182 to be landed nosewheel first—especially when there’s no baggage in the baggage compartment and heavy passengers in the pilot and copilot seats—and when it does, firewall, boot cowl and behind-firewall damage result.
In mid-1970, starting with serial number 60291, Cessna beefed up the firewall with hat-section straps that run from the upper engine mounts down to the lower firewall.
Service Bulletin SE71-5 provided information on a firewall reinforcement kit, SK182-44C, for 1961 through 1970 model 182s.
Carburetor air intake seal AD and flange/clip/duct inspection
AD 77-04-05 mandates a visual inspection of the rubber seals on the flange of the flexible duct where it clips to the carburetor air box. This old AD is often missed; SE76-18 applies.
The condition of the flexible duct/flange/clips are often ignored. This results in abnormal carb air box wear and an increased likelihood of dirt ingestion into the engine.
Engine oil filter adapter AD
Cessna developed a screw-in oil filter adapter to replace the screw-in oil screen.
AD 96-12-22 was issued, calling for an inspection for thread damage of the adapters. Thread damage occurred because the lock nut wasn’t torqued to the value called out in the installation instructions. (Read the AD closely; the screw-in oil filter adapters from Teledyne Continental Motors are NOT included in the AD.)
If the threads are deemed good after the inspection, reinstall the adapter and torque the lock nut to 50 to 60 foot-pounds. Mark the position of the adapter, housing and nut with torque putty.
Every time the oil filter is changed, inspect the torque putty for evidence of movement of the parts. The owner can sign off the continuing inspection part of the AD.
A new oil filter adapter kit from Cessna is sold as SK210-160-2. The retail cost is around $1,800.
Cessna bulletins SEB98-08 and SEB93-01R1 apply.
Engine mount rust
The engine mount must be inspected for rust. There should be heat shields (Cessna p/n 0750121) in place to deflect the heat.
The original Cessna heat shields weren’t overly durable, and McFarlane Aviation and other vendors have improved shields.
If rust is found, it must be stopped and the area treated with high-temperature paint. As a general rule when 10 percent of the thickness of the tube is damaged by rust, the mount must be removed for refurbishment or replacement.
Induction air filter ADs
AD 84-26-02 requires that paper-type induction air filters be retired after 500 hours time in service.
Foam-type, replaceable-media induction air filters from Brackett are subject to three ADs. They are 81-15-03, 96-09-06, and 2002-26-03.
Engine baffles and baffle seals’ condition
Sheet metal baffles, intercylinder baffles and flexible baffle seals comprise the cooling system for your engine.
Unfortunately, not every little part and piece of the baffle system gets reinstalled after an engine change. Look for cracks, missing pieces, and flexible baffle seals that are in poor condition.
A very small tab located behind and inboard of the oil cooler (part number 0750152-1 or -3) is often missing.
Exhaust heat exchanger baffles
The 182 might have what looks like a muffler, but in reality it’s a heat exchanger designed to provide carburetor heat and exhaust pipe-heated air to the cabin.
Using a strong flashlight, look up the downpipe for the condition of the internal cones.
These cones must be in good shape; no waviness or missing pieces are permitted. If one of the cone parts falls out of position and blocks the downpipe, a serious power reduction will occur.
Cessna installed McCauley wheels and brakes on many C-182s. Cessna Service Bulletin SE 74-8 notified owners that existing McCauley wheel and brake assemblies could be replaced with Cleveland wheels and brakes.
SEB00-5-R03 and Service Kit 182-120D are the current bulletins and kits for the Cleveland wheel and brake change. I would check to see if you can find a good serviceable set of wheels/brakes from a salvage yard.
Loose or worn nose strut torque links/bushings/bolts
Nosewheel shimmy is caused by an out-of-balance nosewheel/tire assembly or a deteriorated or worn nose tire. The effects can be lessened if the nosegear torque links, shims, bushings, bolts, and shimmy damper are in tip-top, no-slop condition.
Make absolutely sure the correct bolts and parts are used. Cessna service information is in SEB82-37R1.
Flat landing gear leg corrosion limits
The flat landing main landing gear legs were surface shot-peened which resulted in a thin, tough surface layer.
If the leg is permitted to rust through the shot-peened layer, the gear leg strength is severely compromised. We’ve seen broken gear legs.
Inspect for rust at the leg support structure and at the step.
Landing gear leg U-clamps
I like to jack up a 182—the procedure is in the service manual—to determine if there’s any fore and aft and up-and-down play in the landing gear legs.
Prior to 1961, the main gear legs were secured with steel U-shaped clamps. These do break.
I’m going to pound on this pulpit until my fingers are worn to the bone. Install shoulder harnesses. Cessna has kits: SK182-101B.
B.A.S. sells four-point inertia reel kits; Alpha Aviation sells a variety of three-point fixed and inertia reel kits and Wag-Aero sells PMA approved kits (both three-bar slide and Y-style shoulder harnesses).
Seat rails AD and seat clips/rollers inspection
AD 87-20-03R1 and SE83-06 call for repetitive inspections of the seat rails for wear, hole elongation, and security.
AD 2011-10-09 and SEB11-4-R01 add inspections to the existing AD. The AD requires “requires repetitive inspections and replacement of parts, if necessary, of the seat rail and seat rail holes; seat pin engagement; seat rollers, washers, and axle bolts or bushings; wall thickness of roller housing and the tang; and lock pin springs.”
This is a no-joke serious AD. The seat rails and all seat attach components and hardware, must be inspected and replaced if wear is found.
The best source of seat track inspection tools, rails, and seat parts is McFarlane Aviation.
Secondary seat stops
In order to prevent seat movement during maneuvers and during takeoffs, Cessna stressed the need for secondary seat stops in 182s. Cessna has been printing service information related to secondary seat stops for over 25 years. Here are some you need to be aware of:
- SEB10-07, SEB10-1 and Service kits SK195-11, -12, -13, 14, SK210-174B and SK210-175B, -177, -178 and SK337-77 and -78 are current.
- SEB07-5-R05 also addresses secondary seat stop installations.
- SEB07-08 calls for the inspection of certain (505590-401) secondary seat stop reel assemblies.
- SEB89-02R2 and SK172-94D and SK172-102A
Secondary seat stops are cheap insurance. Have you installed a secondary seat stop system?
Metal-to-metal seatbelts and PMA identification tags
NL81-06 Part 91 revision requires all seatbelts to have metal-to-metal ends and all seatbelts must have visible and readable PMA identification tags.
Copilot’s brake linkage/fuel line clearance
I’ve seen 182s where the linkage attached to the forward end of the copilot’s left brake pedal rubs against the aluminum fuel line just aft of the firewall.
Inspect and if necessary, gently bend the fuel line to provide clearance.
Rudder pedal bearing blocks and support structure
Cessna used aluminum bearing blocks to support the steel rudder pedal tubes under the rudder pedals. These blocks, due to moisture from the pilot’s shoes and contact with the steel tubes, are prone to deterioration due to corrosion.
New bearing blocks have the same part number but are constructed of high-impact plastic.
The support structure under the bearing blocks is often cracked and deformed. Look closely with a mirror.
While you’re down there with your mirror and flashlight, take a look at the following items, too.
Brake master cylinder attach brackets
The left brake master cylinder lower support brackets (p/n 0411549 and 0411550) were originally made of aluminum. It’s very common for these small brackets to be bent and deformed. New ones (same part number) are steel.
Cabin skin panel corrosion inspection and repair
Beginning in the 1970s until the end of 1986, Cessna glued vibration dampening material (lead vinyl) on the inner skin panels. Unfortunately, the glue used was hygroscopic and held moisture against the skin panels.
Moisture is the most common electrolyte in aluminum corrosion and the result is localized corrosion. In some cases, the corrosion has eaten completely through the aluminum skins.
Remove the fuselage interior side panels and look for loose dampening panels. SNL 93-03 has more details.
Airframe corrosion overhead and behind wing root headliner
Since Cessna didn’t apply any primer or paint to the interior of 182 airframes until it restarted production in 1998, airframe corrosion is common in older Cessnas.
Unzip the headliner and look for corrosion. This expanse of bare metal is one of the first places to corrode and is a good gauge for determining the extent of airframe corrosion.
If the corrosion in the overhead is serious, it’s a sign that an extensive inspection must be conducted. Look for corrosion in the wing roots where the steel wire in flexible cabin air ducting hoses contacts aluminum parts.
Look closely at the forward and aft wing mount fittings, and at the wing strut/forward door bulkhead fittings under the floor.
Aileron control cables
Inspect the left and right aileron direct cables (the ones from the yokes to the aileron bellcranks), especially at the point where the cables are re-routed 90 degrees over pulleys just aft of the firewall and at the bottom and top of the left and right forward door frames. There’s some evidence that a broken aileron cable caused a fatal accident.
Disconnect the cable at the aileron bellcrank, and after the 90-degree bend section of the cable is pulled off the pulley, run a rag over the section that has been on the pulley. If the cable has any broken strands, it needs to be replaced.
McFarlane sells replacement cable kits.
Ignition switch inspection and AD
AD 76-07-12 calls for repetitive checks on Bendix ignition switches to test whether the switches completely ground out the magnetos when turned to the off position.
AD 93-05-06 applies to ignition switches made by ACS. It calls for disassembly and lubrication of certain switches and the installation of a diode on the starter solenoid.
SEB92-29 calls for a check to see if the key can be removed when the switch is between “R” and “Off” positions. Replace the switch if the key can be removed.
182s with bladder-type fuel tanks (1956 through 1978 182Q) need to have leakproof fuel caps installed. The original flush-type fuel caps seemed like a good idea but due to corrosion of the sealing surface of the collar and lack of maintenance on the sealing O-rings, these caps eventually act more like water funnels than fuel caps.
Cessna issued a large number of service information related to fuel caps for both the bladder and the integral fuel tank airplanes including:
SE77-06R2 Vented fuel caps
AD79-10-14R1 Install vented caps
SE80-59 and SE80-59S1 and SK182-65 Sealing of flush-type fuel caps
SE82-34 and SK182-65 Flush fuel caps seal testing procedure
SEB92-27 and SK182-86C Reduced diameter caps for integral tanks
SEB92-27 Reduced diameter vented fuel cap
I strongly recommend that aftermarket Monarch fuel caps be installed—unless the small red-tabbed Cessna caps with the raised sealing lip are already installed.
Fuel bladder AD and inspection
In 1984 AD 84-10-01 was issued; it was later revised. The current AD is 84-10-01R1. This AD was written because there was a series of engine power interruptions soon after takeoff in fuel bladder-equipped Cessnas.
Instead of addressing the cause of the problem—leaking fuel caps—the AD required owners to determine if there were diagonal wrinkles in the bottom surface of the bladders. Water, let in by the leaking caps, would “hide” behind the wrinkles while the tanks were being sumped.
The owner, thinking his tanks were full of good fuel, would take off. When the water jumped over the wrinkle it would be ingested by the engine causing a power loss.
The AD instructed owners that found wrinkles to drain the tanks to determine if the fluid behind the wrinkle was greater than three fluid ounces.
If more than three ounces were found, the AD required that a placard be placed on the panel calling for a procedure where the tail was lowered to within five inches of the ground and the wings moved up and down (a total of 10 inches up and 10 inches down, at least 12 times; the famous “rock and roll” preflight procedure) until no more water was being sumped out of the tank.
The AD mandated a modification to the fuel tank sump drain valve on each tank. The details of this procedure are in SE 84-09R2; modification kits SK206-24 and -25 sell for around $800 each.
The AD also required the installation of small diameter raised-lip fuel caps (SK182-85B) or an alternate method of compliance. The Monarch-style caps mentioned above are the best solution.
Wing tank fuel vent inspection
SEB99-05 provides a procedure to check if the fuel system vent check valve is operating correctly.
Uneven fuel feeding and wing vent tube position
It’s common for 182 pilots to complain that the fuel doesn’t feed evenly from the left and right tanks when the selector is in the “both” position. This is due to the single-vent system on the aircraft—a single tube is mounted behind the upper end of the left wing strut.
This vent delivers slightly pressurized ram air to the outboard end of the left tank. This pressure usually pushes fuel through the vent interconnect tube to the right tank.
Only after enough fuel is used to expose the vent openings (at the forward upper inboard end of each tank) will the air pressure on the surface of the fuel in both tanks be the same.
Cessna Service information SE81-08 addresses venting adjustments. Service manuals also call out the precise placement of the under-wing vent tube.
ADDITONAL AIRFRAME ITEMS
Flap support arm wear inspection
SEB95-03 calls for the inspection of the flap support arm (tracks) for wear and for the installation of thin washers to prevent wear. Cessna service kit SK180-44 contains parts.
McFarlane Aviation sells flap roller parts kits.
Aileron balance weight AD and hinge pin AD and inspection
AD83-22-06 requires a one-time inspection of the aileron hinge pins; SE83-18 is the Cessna Service Bulletin for this inspection.
There have been reports of loose aileron balance weights. Check the heads of the rivets securing these weights.
Elevator trim tab actuator and hinge inspection
The service manual provides a maximum travel of the trailing edge of the elevator trim tab of ¼ of an inch. The most common causes of excess travel are worn hinges and/or worn bolts in the linkage from the actuator.
This list of items covers most of the critical items on the Cessna 182 airframe that require inspection, attention, and sometimes, replacement. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, this list focuses on 1962 to 1986 Cessna Skylane airframes.
Know your FAR/AIM and check with your mechanic before starting any work.
Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 44 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He’s a former tech rep and editor for Cessna Pilots Association and served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and lives in Templeton, Calif. with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to editor.
Seat track inspection tools, rails, and seat parts – CFA supporter
Replacement seatbelt/harnesses – CFA supporters
Aftermarket fuel caps
From the November 2016 Cessna Flyer magazine