Cold Weather Operation: Some engine tips for the winter

There are different considerations when preparing an aircraft for winter depending on whether the owner/operator plans to operate the aircraft during the winter months or just store it.

With winter just around the corner, many owners are already starting to think about cold-weather preparation. There are different considerations when preparing an aircraft for winter depending on whether the owner/operator plans to operate the aircraft during the winter months or just store it. This article will focus on tips you can use to help your customers prepare for this winter season.

When preparing an aircraft for winter operation, your first step should be to refer to the applicable maintenance manuals. They will spell out specific maintenance and inspection items necessary for cold weather operation. Each aircraft has specific requirements, but here are a few general tips to keep in mind.

Check the heating system

Probably the most critical item to inspect in preparation for winter operation is the heating system. Many aircraft are equipped with cabin heater shrouds that enclose the muffler or portions of the exhaust system. It is important that the entire heater system be thoroughly inspected to eliminate the possibility of carbon monoxide entering the cockpit or cabin area. Each year, accident investigations reveal that carbon monoxide has been a probable cause in accidents that have occurred in cold weather operations.

Even if the aircraft has a gas-powered heating system such as a Janitrol heater, you still need to ensure the heater is in proper working order. Remember that proper heating system operation isn’t just about pilot comfort, it’s about safety.


Ensure the correct grade of engine oil is installed. In addition, make sure to use the recommended grade of lubricant to grease the aircraft. Oils and greases that are great for summer operation could have a detrimental effect in the wintertime. Always follow manufacturer recommendations for lubrication.

Oil system insulation

Some manufacturers recommend insulating oil lines, oil pressure lines, and the oil tank in cold weather operation. This is to prevent oil from congealing and causing damage to the engine and other oil-dependent systems. If insulation is installed, ensure is it fireproof and the correct type.

Winterization kits

Some aircraft may require baffles, winter fronts, or oil cooler kits during cold weather operation. If baffles are installed, it may be necessary to install a cylinder head temperature gauge to avoid overheating the engine if the owner flies from the cold weather environment to a warmer location.

Engine condition

Since cold weather starting is harder on an engine than starting in warm weather, the engine in general should be in excellent operational shape. In its flyer reprint titled “Cold Weather Operation” Lycoming offers the following advice: “When attempting a start under adverse conditions, it is imperative that the engine be well maintained and in excellent operating condition. Spark plugs and magneto points should be properly gapped and ready to function effectively. In addition to the ignition system, the proper functioning of other systems such as the induction, priming, exhaust, and carburetor heat can have an effect on the starting and operation of the engine.”

Another important part of cold weather preparation is to inspect all hose lines, flexible tubing, and seals for deterioration. Replace all suspect components and ensure all clamps and fittings are properly torqued to the manufacturer’s specifications for cold weather.

Control cables should also be checked in cold weather operation. Temperature changes cause expansion and contraction of metals, and adjustments may have to be made to compensate for these changes.


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