Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Upgrade Your Plane! Part III

Firewall forward—life after TBO

A Fresh Start
Four tips for an upgraded engine

No matter which upgrade option you select at TBO, there are some “best practices” you should implement when starting fresh that will help protect your investment and ensure that you get the maximum service out of your upgraded powerplant. Engines that are abused or neglected likely will never reach TBO. Conversely, engines that are operated frequently in accordance with OEM operation guidelines and best practices can surpass TBO. The best way to monitor the health of an engine over time is to conduct an oil analysis at every oil change and monitor the trends in oil contamination. Here are four best practices you should consider adopting.

1 HAVE A PLAN: Every time you change your engine oil, send a sample off for analysis. Establishing a baseline and monitoring trends in engine wear provides an early warning system that will save you far more than the cost of the analysis itself. To get the most comprehensive oil analysis available, select one company and stick with it. Analyses performed by different laboratories may result in inconsistent results. To really establish a baseline that can positively identify trends versus variations in analyses, select a single company and use it every time. While there are a number of companies that perform aviation oil analysis, Aviation Laboratories ( is the only company solely dedicated to aviation. Any company with a specialized focus likely does its job better than the rest.

2 USE THE BEST OIL FILTER: In aviation more than anywhere else, saving a few bucks doesn’t always pay off in the long run. Although I’ve been known to fly out of my way a bit to save a few bucks on fuel, I never purchase oil filters based on price. Using a premium filter is a small investment in engine longevity. Filters vary by manufacturer, but there’s one that clearly rises to the top in terms of filtering ability and features—Tempest ( The oil analysis process only allows for the detection of wear particles that are between one and 12 microns in size. Most oil filters trap wear particles that are 30 microns and larger. Therefore, typical oil analysis combined with filter debris analysis aren’t measuring contaminants between 12 and 30 microns. The Tempest oil filter has a unique magnetic disk that traps ferrous contaminants smaller than 30 microns, preventing such particles from continuing to circulate in the engine lubricant. Analyzing these trapped particles can help identify signs of progressive valve stem or cam wear before more costly repairs are needed or a catastrophic failure occurs.

3 MONITOR ENGINE PARAMETERS: If your aircraft isn’t already equipped with an engine analyzer, this is a perfect addition to your engine upgrade. There are scores of digital and analog systems available, but one thing is for certain, managing and monitoring critical engine temperatures (i.e., cylinder heat temperatures, exhaust gas temperatures and/or turbine inlet temperatures) takes the guess work out of engine tuning at altitude, and provides an added level of peace of mind and economy.

4 INSTALL AN ENGINE HEATER: Few things shave hours off your engine’s life as much as cold starts. Repeatedly cranking a cold-soaked engine when the tolerances are at their tightest and lubrication at its weakest will surely lead to early retirement. For anyone living in a cold climate, installing an engine heater will help your engine last longer and help you do more flying in the winter months. There are a variety of engine preheat systems that keep oil and/or cylinders warm. One of the best is by Reiff (; it’s perhaps the most versatile, least intrusive and—wait for it—least expensive. The Reiff system doesn’t require the replacement or substitution of any factory-installed engine parts and won’t interfere with engine monitoring systems. Naturally, this plays well with the concept of adding an engine analyzer.

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