Is Your Engine Worn Out? How to Tell & What to Do About It

Is Your Engine Worn Out? How to Tell & What to Do About It

 

Smart owners who monitor key performance indicators can tell if an engine is still good or whether “it’s time.” If your engine is due for an overhaul or replacement, STEVE ELLS has a list of options which can save you time, money and maybe even both.

 

The day before the start of what I’m now calling the best EAA AirVenture Oshkosh ever (See page 60 for Steve’s AirVenture report. —Ed.), I stood before an enthusiastic group of Cessna Flyer Association members at the annual Gathering at Waupaca, Wisconsin. It was 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning. I made sure everyone was awake by asking a scary question.

I asked how many owners thought they had an engine overhaul looming on the horizon. Seven hands went up. Those owners reflected the concerns of many owners. Engine overhauls are expensive; not to mention they can be time-consuming and stressful.

It is difficult for owners who don’t deal with overhauls on a daily or weekly basis to be able to tell when “it’s time.” An engine can be worn out, but it will still start, develop power and appear to be operating normally. On the other side of the coin, it’s also certainly possible for an engine to be running well and in good condition far beyond the manufacturer’s recommended time between overhaul (TBO).

I’m going to provide a few guidelines for determining your engine’s health.

The engine’s bottom end (and why it matters)

The air-cooled direct-drive engines we fly behind are stout; especially the “bottom end” portions. The bottom end includes the case, crankshaft, connecting rods, camshaft, lifters and accessory gears and accessory housing.

Just because the compression is low in one, two or all cylinders does not mean the engine is ready for an overhaul. Cylinders can be removed and rebuilt, or replaced with new cylinders without disturbing or compromising the bottom end. But when an engine’s bottom end is worn out, nothing short of an overhaul will restore it to airworthy condition. 


Oil pressure

Idling oil pressure when the engine is hot is an excellent indicator of the health of the bottom end of an engine. The hot idling oil pressure of our engines should always stay above the lower red line on the oil pressure gauge. 

The oil pressure limits and acceptable range are in every owner’s manual and pilot operating handbook (POH). As a rule, Lycoming engines have a 25 psi low oil pressure limit and Continental engines have a 10 psi low oil pressure limit. 

One of the most important factors in maintaining oil pressure is the clearance between the crankshaft journals and main crankshaft bearings. The spinning crankshaft in an engine is supported by a cushion of lubricating oil under pressure. 

Since there is a gap between the outside diameter of the journals of the crankshaft and the inside diameter of the main bearings surrounding each journal, the oil that’s pumped in also flows out through the gap between the two. The size of the gap is a major determinant of idling oil pressure. When the gap grows due to wear, the leakage through the gap increases and idling oil pressure goes down. Low idling oil pressure almost always signals that the bottom end of your engine is worn out, or that there’s another problem with the bottom end.

Oil consumption limits

It’s rare for an air-cooled Avgas-burning engine to not use any oil. Manufacturers are tasked with producing engines that must perform in conditions ranging from below zero F outside air temperature (OAT) to 100 F plus OAT. The engines must produce rated power in missions where the aircraft may take off from extremely hot temperatures on the ground, only to climb rapidly to altitude where OATs are below freezing. Given all the metallurgical expansions and contractions that take place due to these extremes, air-cooled aircraft engines are intentionally built to larger tolerances than any automobile engine.

Oil usage is one of the trade-offs that result from building air-cooled engines that perform as well as ours do. 

If your aircraft’s engine uses oil, that’s normal. But how much is too much? Luckily, there’s a formula for that. Lycoming’s Service Instruction 1427C, “Lycoming Reciprocating Engine Break-In and Oil Consumption,” provides the following formula: 

0.006 x BHP x 4 ÷ 7.4 = quarts per hour.

Let’s find the allowable oil consumption for a 180 hp engine. BHP is an acronym for brake horsepower, so the formula works out like this. First, multiply: 0.006 x 180 x 4 = 3.6. Dividing that by 7.4 yields a maximum oil consumption for a 180 hp engine of 0.58 quarts per hour, or a quart every 1.7 hours. 

The same formula applied to a 300 hp engine yields a maximum oil usage
of 0.97 quarts per hour. 

The only drawback with very high oil consumption is that it limits flight leg length. If your engine has a 4-quart sump, you’re not going very far if your engine is going through 2 quarts an hour.

Many owners are unaware that each engine and airframe combination has an oil level “sweet spot,” where consumption slows. 

Above this level, much of the oil is discharged out the crankcase breather tube. The oil is not being consumed; it’s simply being pumped out the breather tube. If you see a lot of oil on the belly of your airplane aft of the breather tube, you are probably over-oiling your engine.

The sweet spot in the 1966 Cessna 182J Skylane with a Continental O-470-R I used to own was 9 quarts, even though the oil capacity was 12 quarts. The consumption rate for my current Lycoming O-360 is 1 quart every five hours. My average cross-country leg is around four hours so I just carry some oil and add about a quart at every stop. 

The key is to first fill to the sweet spot for your airframe/engine and then use consumption from that level to determine your engine’s oil consumption. 

Oil leaks

Damaged engine cases can cause persistent, hard-to-find oil leaks. Cases can and do crack, leading to loss of oil. 

Lycoming narrow-deck engines—the standard configuration before the mid-1960s—can develop a difficult-to-find leak when the engine case through bolts are loosened and then retightened during a cylinder change or top overhaul. The sealing O-rings between the case halves often fail to reseal the through studs after the cylinder(s) are reinstalled and torqued down. The result is a persistent oil leak past one or more of the through studs. 

There’s no way to stop that leak, nor is there a way to fix a leaky crankcase crack short of engine disassembly. 

Section 6-4.12 of Continental Motors Publication M-0, “Standard Practice Maintenance Manual for Spark Ignited Engines,” covers crankcase inspections and allowable cracks. There is a provision for continued operation of certain engines with limited cracks in noncritical areas of the crankcase. However, the engine will continue to leak oil through the crack. 

I once found a leak in my engine by thoroughly cleaning the outside of the engine, then adding a small amount of fluorescent dye to the oil. I bought the dye and a black light at the local auto parts store. I waited for a dark night, then after a ground run, found the leak by shining a black light on the engine. I rebuilt the engine soon afterward. (Be aware of all regulations and the potential hazards before introducing a foreign substance into an aircraft’s engine or oil. —Ed.)

Oil screen and oil filter inspections

Always cut open the spin-on oil filter and inspect the filter media for contamination. I cut the paper media at the edges so I can unfold it for visual inspection. 

Engines that don’t have a spin-on filter will have a pressure screen. Remove it at every oil change and flush it.

If the filter media or screen reveals a quantity of metal that exceeds a quarter teaspoon, Lycoming mandates grounding the airplane until the cause can be found. Lycoming Service Bulletin 480F describes proper procedures for oil filter or screen inspections as well as corrective actions if the inspection shows contamination. 

Jacqueline Shipe’s article “I Found This in my Oil” (May 2017 issue of Cessna Flyer) provides a pictorial guide to oil filter inspection. —Ed.

 

Black oil

If the engine oil turns black in the first 10 hours after an oil change, yet the compression readings are good, combustion gas byproducts are blowing past the pistons and piston rings into the bottom end of the engine. The oil will continue to lubricate, protect and cool the engine, but due to the contamination from combustion byproducts, it’s a good idea to shorten the oil change interval. 

Compression tests and borescope valve inspections

Never pull a cylinder based on one compression reading. Compression test results can vary from flight to flight. Always fly the airplane to bring temperatures up into normal operating range. If you have a low reading, go fly a bit, and then perform a second, and possibly a third compression test. 

Lycoming’s guidelines specify that each cylinder’s compression reading should be above 70/80, and within 5 psi of the engine’s other cylinders. When compression readings fall below 70/80, Lycoming says that’s the result of wear and should be further evaluated. 

There are very detailed instructions in Continental Publication M-0, Chapter 6-4.11.1 through 11.3 describing procedures and guidelines for compression tests. For instance, tests are only valid if a calibrated compression testing tool is used. The calibration procedure provides a low limit compression reading number for that specific testing tool.

Any cylinder with a compression reading above that limit is airworthy, provided a borescope internal inspection of the cylinder does not show cylinder wall scoring or extreme wear and the exhaust valve does not show any signs of burning. 

Many A&P technicians are not aware of the proper compression testing procedure for Continental engines. If your mechanic calls saying your compressions are too low, make sure he reads and understands the Continental procedures which are spelled out in detail in Chapter 6-4.11.2 of Continental Motors Publication M-0.

I strongly recommend that all airplane owners download this manual (it’s free) from the Continental website. There’s
a wealth of general information that, in my opinion, is useful to all air-cooled
airplane engine operators.

Now what?

Let’s assume that you’ve gotten some bad news from these tests. You’re facing an engine overhaul or replacement. What are your options?

There’s a choice of factory new, factory overhauled, factory rebuilt, repair station overhauled or field overhauled engines.

This is also an excellent time to research the STC data on the FAA website to find out if there are any engine upgrades such as installing a more powerful engine in place of the original engine. Some airframes may be eligible for engine upgrades via STC. An upgraded engine may be able to give you better performance and/or reliability. 

Finally, you may want to consider replacing your worn-out engine with a lower-time used engine. 

Cessna OEM engines

Obviously, buying a new “zero-time” engine from Lycoming or Continental will be the most expensive option. A factory rebuilt zero-time (exchange) engine is usually the next most expensive, followed by a factory “time since major” overhaul where the manufacturer overhauls your current engine. 

There are some very good reasons to deal directly with Lycoming and Continental. First, the price quoted is fixed, meaning there won’t be any unexpected price “modification” phone calls. 

Second, it’s broadly accepted that a factory zero-time engine will add value to any airplane. Remember that there are two flavors of factory zero-time engines. A brand-new factory engine is built from all new parts. A rebuilt engine is built with a combination of new parts and used parts which meet new limits. Both come with fresh, zero-time logbooks.

Third, and maybe the most important, is that you can continue to fly your airplane until the day your new engine is drop-shipped to your hangar or the nearest maintenance shop.

It’s a great advantage to have the removed engine and the new engine side-by-side during an engine change. This ensures that all the fittings are available and that routing questions can be answered without having to rely on memory or digital photos taken prior to engine removal. 

All Continental and Lycoming factory engines are sold with a core charge. The core charge for a Lycoming O-360-A1A engine is currently $16,400. If a buyer wants to keep the engine that’s been removed, or can sell it for a better price than the core charge, he/she is free to do that. However, the core charge must be paid if an engine is not returned to the factory.

The window to return the removed core engine is usually 90 days. 

Recent offerings

A relatively new option in new engines is Superior Air Parts’ Type Certificated fuel-injected 180 hp Vantage engine. It is approved for Cessna 172R and 172S models via an STC. 

Several companies have obtained or are in the process of obtaining approvals for installation of diesel engines in some Cessna models. 

 

Repair station or field overhaul

There are excellent non-manufacturer overhauls and not-so-good non-manufacturer overhauls. The excellent ones are built to new limits. The not-so-good are built to what’s called service limits. It’s legal for a shop to build an engine to the worn end of the manufacturer’s service limits guidelines. Of course, the engine won’t last as long as a “new limits” overhaul. When you’re gathering quotes from overhaul shops, make sure that you specify that you want your engine overhauled to new limits. 

Choosing a factory overhaul means your airplane will be down while your engine is removed, boxed for shipping, overhauled and shipped back. During a repair station overhaul or field overhaul of your engine your airplane will be down while the engine is disassembled, the parts inspected and certified, and the engine is reassembled and tested. Smaller repair stations and field overhaul shops typically must box and ship the ferrous parts and the engine case to a specialty shop for inspection and certification. 

There are 77 Type 1 (less than 400 hp) engine repair stations listed in the FAA’s repair station directory. Repair stations have submitted organizational plans and plans for parts accountability and quality assurance to the FAA.

What is included in an overhaul?

Factory engines typically come with a carburetor or fuel injection system, two magnetos and ignition harness, spark plugs, starter, oil cooler and engine-driven fuel pump. This is also the case with most non-factory overhaul options, but you’ll want to double-check to make sure these items are included.

It’s important to take notice of and budget for what’s not included. Time and money must be devoted to inspecting, purchasing, repairing and in some cases overhauling the turbocharger and wastegate (if installed), the exhaust system, the engine mount, the cooling baffles, the generator or alternator, hoses, engine mount and vibration isolators, propeller, prop governor, vacuum pump and fuel boost pump. 

Though you don’t necessarily have to replace or rebuild all of these items at the same time as the engine overhaul, it’s certainly more cost-effective to address them when the engine is already off the airplane. Access is easier, and you can minimize installation and removal hours. 

Most of the larger overhaul shops have worked out favorable pricing with over-the-road shipping companies but shipping costs must also be included during overhaul budget planning. 

It’s also critical to compare the warranties offered by each vendor as there is no industry standard for coverage. 

Can I overhaul my engine myself?

The FAA considers the overhaul of all except a very few engines to be minor repairs, not major repairs. This assumes that the person doing the work adheres to the procedures in the manufacturer’s engine overhaul and inspection manuals. 

You as the aircraft owner (or anyone else) may overhaul your engines, as long as a certificated A&P mechanic oversees the work and he/she is willing to sign off the overhaul. 

If you or your mechanic aren’t ready to do it yourself, there’s no reason a local machinist with years of engine building experience can’t build your engine. Again, this assumes the factory overhaul procedures are adhered to and an A&P is willing to supervise and sign off.

There are some caveats to this approach. 

• Your A&P must agree to this option, and must oversee it to the extent that he/she will sign it off.

• You (or the builder) must use aircraft quality parts.

• You (or the builder) must comply with applicable engine manufacturer Service Bulletins.

• You (or the builder) must comply with all applicable Airworthiness Directives (ADs).

• You (or the builder) must follow the machining processes outlined by the engine manufacturer. 

• You (or the builder) must follow the engine manufacturer’s break-in procedures.

If you’re not sure about the details involved in a light aircraft engine overhaul, there’s a 36-minute video on rebuilding a Lycoming engine on YouTube. (See Resources for the link.
—Ed.) Once you watch the video, it’s easy to see that these engines aren’t complex, nor are they difficult to overhaul. 

Aircraft owners have another option to enhance their knowledge prior to attempting an overhaul. Lycoming offers engine teardown and assembly classes throughout the year in Pennsylvania.

Used guaranteed engines

Another option to get your aircraft back in the air is to buy a used, serviceable engine from an aircraft salvage yard. This is not as radical an option as it may sound. All reputable salvage yards guarantee (warranty) their engines.

Ideally, you’re looking for a first run or first overhaul engine which is mid-time or less. For instance, as of the writing of this article, Wentworth Aircraft had an O-360-A3A with 217 hours since major overhaul for sale for $15,500. Though this engine wouldn’t do me any good (I have an -A1A, not an -A3A, and the two aren’t interchangeable), it does illustrate that there are cost-effective used engines available. The used route is dependent on finding the correct engine. 

An advantage of installing a used engine is the lack of core charge. The $15,500 cost mentioned above could be reduced by a few thousand dollars if you’re able to find a buyer for your core. Your worn-out engine may be just what another owner or kitplane builder is looking for.

Another source for used serviceable engines are engine upgrade specialists. Check the Cessna Yellow Pages online or call CFA for more information about Cessna Flyer supporters. 

You can also often find good engines on the buy-and-sell pages of various online forums, via the For Sale/Wanted thread on the CessnaFlyer.org forums, or through the advertisers in this magazine. 

 

Takeaways

Not every engine showing trouble signs needs an immediate overhaul. However, if you and your mechanic have determined an overhaul or replacement is needed, there are several options. Take your time, do your research and you’ll be back up in the air soon. 

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, California with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to

Resources
Further reading and research
Lycoming Service Instruction 1427C,
Lycoming Service Bulletin 480F, and
Contintental Motors’ publication M-0
CessnaFlyer.org/forum under “Magazine Extras”

FAA STC data
rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgSTC.nsf/MainFrame?OpenFrameSet

FAA Repair Station directory
av-info.faa.gov/repairstation.asp

Factory engines/rebuilds/factory overhauls – CFA supporters
Continental Motors Group
continentalmotors.aero/engines/gasoline-engines.aspx

Lycoming Engines
lycoming.com/services

Superior Air Parts
superiorairparts.com

FAA Repair Stations – CFA supporters
Airmark Overhaul, Inc.

airmarkoverhaul.com

Granite Air Center
graniteair.com

Poplar Grove Airmotive
poplargroveairmotive.com

Other rebuild and overhaul resource – CFA supporter

Progressive Air Services

progressiveair.com

Salvage yards – CFA supporters
Dodson International Parts, Inc.
dodson.com

Preferred Airparts, LLC
preferredairparts.com

Wentworth Aircraft
wentworthaircraft.com

Engine rebuild video

SkywardTech Inc.

youtube.com/watch?v=n-26eqLc4pQ

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Pre- and Post-overhaul: Engine Removal & Installation

Pre- and Post-overhaul: Engine Removal & Installation

Wise owners (and mechanics) know that a successful overhaul starts with careful engine removal. The overhaul process isn’t finished until after the engine has been reinstalled and the break-in period completed. A&P Jacqueline Shipe walks you through best practices to ensure start-to-finish success.

An engine overhaul is a daunting repair that usually takes several weeks to complete. In addition to the engine overhaul itself, there are several maintenance tasks that are associated with pulling the engine and reinstalling it after the overhaul. (For more about what comprises an engine overhaul, see “A Step-by-Step Guide to Overhauls” in the February 2018 issue. —Ed.)


Engine removal location and airframe storage

Once the decision to overhaul the engine has been made, the next step for an owner is to decide on the location for the engine removal. Some owners have their mechanic pull the engine and ship it to an overhaul facility. Other owners fly the airplane to the overhaul location and let the overhaul specialists remove, overhaul and reinstall the engine. 

The next task is to find out where the airplane will be stored while the engine is off the airframe. Hangar space is typically at a premium for both overhaul shops and general maintenance shops. 

Some shops place the airplane outside for the duration of time that the engine is off the airframe. The airframe is unbalanced and hard to secure on a tiedown once the engine has been removed. It is also much lighter than normal, leaving the aircraft more vulnerable to windy weather. 

Make sure to have a clear understanding with whomever is doing the engine removal and installation about where the airplane will be stored while the overhaul is taking place. 


Engine removal

Removing an engine from the airplane is typically not that time-consuming. The engine can be pulled easily enough in most cases in less than a day. 

Once the cowling and propeller are removed, the next step should be to take lots of pictures from all different angles of every section of the engine. This will help to determine the routing of hoses and control cables later on during the reinstallation process. 

The exact location of clamps is not usually specified by the maintenance manual and is left up to the mechanic. Knowing where the old clamps and supports were located helps ensure that everything fits properly during reinstallation.

Once all the engine components are disconnected from the airframe, the engine is stripped of everything that is not sent with the engine for the overhaul. The exhaust system, alternator, starter, vacuum pump and engine baffling typically don’t get sent in with the engine for overhaul. These components are either replaced or refurbished as needed by specialty shops. 

After all the necessary items are removed or disconnected from the engine, the engine itself is removed from the airframe. The tail of the airplane should be secured on a support that will hold it up once the heavy engine is removed. Most engines have permanent lifting eyes installed on one or more of the upper crankcase bolts. If an engine doesn’t have a lifting eye, one will have to be temporarily installed. 

A chain is most often used to attach an engine hoist to the lifting eye. Once the chain is secured, the engine hoist is raised until the chain has all the slack removed from it. Then, the bolts that secure the engine to the mount are removed from the vibration isolators and the engine can be lifted out of its mount. 

Once removed, the engine is either wheeled into the overhaul shop for disassembly or prepared for shipping if the overhaul is to take place elsewhere.

Engines that are shipped out by means of a freight company are generally bolted to a shipping pallet with a prefabricated mount. 

Owners that are having their engines sent out can save money by taking it themselves to the overhaul shop. The engine is often placed on a layer of used tires in the back of a truck and secured to four different tiedowns to keep it from shifting. 

In addition to saving money, the owner can have peace of mind knowing that he or she has overseen the engine shipment the entire time. Careless handling can damage expensive engine components and shipping companies do occasionally drop or damage items. 

If the overhaul facility is located a long distance from the aircraft location, shipping with a freight company may be the only option. In those cases, the shipment should be insured for the full replacement value of the engine. 

After the engine overhaul is underway, attention can be shifted to the repair or refurbishment of all the parts that are now easily accessible with the engine removed. 


Engine mount

Once the engine has been removed, the engine mount is easily accessible and can be thoroughly inspected for cracks and pitted areas. 

Even if the mount itself is in good shape, remove the mount from the airframe and inspect all the attachment areas on the airframe and mount for corrosion. 

Mounts that are free of corrosion and have good paint are often reused as-is. Mounts that are in need of repainting should be cleaned, lightly sanded and painted with a high-quality primer and then a coat of paint. 

In addition, any corroded areas on the airframe should be cleaned and treated or repaired as needed. 

Engine mounts that have pitted areas, excessive corrosion or cracks are usually sent to specialized welding shops like Acorn Welding or Kosola (now Aerospace Welding) for repair. These shops have special jigs and can cut out bad sections of tubing and weld in reinforced sections without distorting the shape of the mount. 

The firewall of the airframe is easily accessible with the engine and the mount removed. Now is an ideal time to clean and paint the firewall. Painting areas such as the firewall and the inside of the cowling with a bright color (usually white) helps to spot leaks easier. It also makes the airplane look better, and adds another layer of protection against corrosion.

Propellers

Controllable-pitch propellers and propeller governors are often overhauled at the same time as the engine. This ensures that the engine will be able to develop its maximum power within the proper limits without being held back by a sluggish or malfunctioning propeller or governor. 


Baffling

Metal engine baffles should be repaired as needed, and any worn baffle seals should be replaced to maximize engine cooling. 

Effective engine cooling is particularly important for overhauled engines because the new cylinder rings have to wear in and seat themselves against the cylinder walls during the first few engine runs. The extra friction will generate more heat than normal, especially in the cylinder heads. 

The air that the cylinders need for cooling should flow in through the front of the cowling, through the cylinder cooling fins, then down and out the bottom of the cowling. Any air leaks in the engine compartment that aren’t sealed off will allow cooling air to escape through a gap or hole instead of being ducted through the fins where it is most needed. 


Exhaust system

Exhaust system components are sent out for repair or are replaced if they are corroded, cracked or deformed in any way. Excessively thin or leaking pipes will only cause trouble later on. Leaking exhaust gases from warped exhaust flanges at the cylinder head connection will corrode and ruin the cylinder heads over time. 

Some overhaul facilities recommend replacing the exhaust system whenever the engine is overhauled. Turbochargers and wastegate assemblies should always be sent out for overhaul or replaced whenever the engine is overhauled. 


Hoses

All fluid-carrying hoses connected to the engine should be replaced at overhaul. Hoses become hardened and brittle after being heated and cooled during engine operation. A ruptured hose can cause a fire hazard or starve internal engine components of precious oil pressure. 

Also, tiny amounts of metal and debris can remain in old hoses even after they are rinsed and blown out and can contaminate the new engine. Many engine overhaul facilities will deem the engine warranty null and void if the fluid-carrying hoses aren’t replaced. 

It is also good idea to replace the SCAT hoses, but they aren’t critical like the fluid-carrying hoses are.


Oil coolers

Oil coolers should be replaced with new units or sent to an oil cooler specialty shop that can thoroughly clean the oil passageways. The oil passageways through the cooler have 180-degree turns in them that cause contaminants to precipitate out of the oil flow and build up in the turn areas.

It is impossible to get all the sludge, metal particles and dirt out of the old cooler by rinsing it in a parts cleaning vat. It’s not worth risking contaminating a freshly-overhauled engine with debris from the old engine in order to save a few dollars on the oil cooler. Clean oil coolers also have better oil flow through them and cool the oil more efficiently. 


Rubber vibration isolators

Most engines are mounted with the four attachments for securing the engine to the mount located on the rear of the engine. The rubber vibration isolators (often called “rubber engine mounts”) that are installed between the engine mounting pads and the engine mount should always be replaced whenever the engine is removed.

Vibration isolators lose elasticity over time and will begin to sag under the weight of the engine. Once the isolators start to age, they allow the front of the engine and the propeller to not only sag, but also to tilt down. 

The cowling is secured to the airframe and the propeller is connected directly to the engine, so as the engine mount isolators droop, the clearance between the bottom of the spinner bulkhead and the cowling becomes smaller while the gap between the top of the spinner bulkhead and the top cowling gets larger.

Isolators that are severely aged and distorted on these types of engine mounts can cause the engine to droop so much that the bottom of the spinner bulkhead actually starts rubbing on the lower engine cowling. 

In addition, rubber engine mounts are easily damaged and prematurely age if they are exposed to leaking oil or hot exhaust leaks. Constant oil leaks soften the rubber, causing it to swell and bulge. Exhaust leaks overheat the rubber, making it brittle and prone to cracking.

The isolators play a critical role in helping to secure the engine to the engine mount. They are typically not that expensive in comparison to other parts, and are easily accessible any time the engine is removed from the airframe—but difficult or impossible to replace without pulling the engine. 


Engine installation

The engine installation process takes longer to complete and is much more detailed than the engine removal process. Installing the engine mount on the airframe and then hanging the engine on the mount can be done quickly in most cases because there are usually only four bolts and nuts that secure the engine mount to the airframe, and an additional four bolts and nuts that secure the engine to the mount. 

Sometimes it is difficult to get the engine hoist adjusted just right so that the engine lines up correctly when attaching it to the mount. It can take a few attempts to get the bolts inserted through the mount and isolators. Components like the magnetos, fuel servo or carburetor may have to be removed to provide enough clearance to get the engine into the proper position on the mount. 

Engine mount bolts should always be torqued to the specified setting listed in the airframe maintenance manual and any specified torque sequence should be adhered to.

Once the engine has been hung, the baffling, accessories, hoses, oil coolers and all remaining parts can be installed. Clamping and securing hoses, wires and ignition leads is one of the most time-consuming tasks in this phase of the project. 

The exhaust system and propeller are usually two of the last items that are installed because once they are installed, they block access to other parts of the engine. 

Many overhaul shops run an engine on a test cell for an hour or so before sending the engine out. Some shops send the engine out with no run time on it at all. 

After reinstallation on the airplane, the engine should be started and run on the ground for the minimum time needed to ensure that there are no leaks; that the magnetos have the proper rpm drop when checked; and, if a controllable-pitch propeller is installed, that the propeller changes pitch as it should. 

Idle mixture and idle speeds should be checked and adjusted if necessary—but ground runs should be kept to a minimum, especially if the engine has not been on a test cell. 

After an overhaul, the rings are not seated. In order for the rings to seat properly, they must be blown out against the cylinder walls. The rings need high manifold pressures to force them to have metal-to-metal contact with the cylinder walls so they seat properly. 

Running an overhauled engine at too low of a throttle setting for any length of time (on the ground or in the air) increases the likelihood of glazing the cylinder walls. Glazing results from the oil oxidizing on the cylinder walls and creating a hardened surface that prevents the rings from ever seating properly. 

After the first flight, the cowling should be completely removed and the entire engine looked over for leaks and to make sure nothing has vibrated loose. Some shops will change the oil at this time if the test flight was the first run on the engine. 

The recommended break-in oil is generally used for the first 50 hours. After the 50-hour mark, there should be no metal in the oil filter when it is inspected. Metal found in the oil filter after this time may be indicative of an internal problem with the engine. 

Most overhauled engines perform well and provide many hours of trouble-free flight time and it is generally a relief for owners to have this major expense behind them.

 

 

Know your FAR/AIM and check with your mechanic before starting any work. Always get instruction from an A&P prior to attempting preventive maintenance tasks.

Jacqueline Shipe grew up in an aviation home; her dad was a flight instructor. She soloed at age 16 and went on to get her CFII and ATP certificate. Shipe also attended Kentucky Tech and obtained an airframe and powerplant license. She has worked as a mechanic for the airlines and on a variety of General Aviation planes. She’s also logged over 5,000 hours of flight instruction time. Send question or comments to .

  

Mentioned in the article

ENGINE MOUNT WELDING
Acorn Welding Ltd. – CFA supporter

acornwelding.com

 

Aerospace Welding Minneapolis, Inc.

awi-ami.com

 

To find resources for other components and services for engine overhauls, please go to the Cessna Flyer Yellow Pages at cessnaflyer.org/cessna-yellow-pages.html or contact Kent Dellenbusch at  or 626-844-0125.

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