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Avoid These 5 Mistakes When You Start Your Engine

How you start your engine can determines how much wear, tear, and maintenance cost you'll face over time. Avoid making these mistakes...

1) Over-Priming

Over-priming is the leading cause for engine fires on the ground. If your engine doesn't start, how many times are you going to re-prime? How many times does it take to over prime?

During a cold engine start, you have to prime the engine. When you prime an engine, you're putting fuel into the cylinders (or more specifically, the intake manifold) so that the engine can start. Pilots tend to over-prime the engine by priming too much or too many times (we've been guilty of it too). In contrast, there are very few people who prime too little.

2) Dealing With Vapor-Lock? Don't Flood The Engine!

With fuel-injected engines, the problems start at engine shut-down. When you shut down a hot engine, the heat rises, it heats up the fuel lines, and it vaporizes the fuel. All of the sudden you no longer have liquid in the fuel injector lines, and that's a problem.

When you have vapor lock, the only solution is to pump a bunch of fuel through the lines, typically with a boost pump, and push the vaporized fuel out of the lines. But that brings up another problem: flooding the engine. Since there's no way to know exactly when the vaporized fuel has been purged from the injector lines, it's easy to flood the engine in the process.

Ahunt / Wikipedia

3) Too Many Start Attempts

Pay close attention to any starter limits on your engine. If you crank the starter too many times without sufficient cooling time between cranks, you could overhead and damage your starter.

Boldmethod

4) Adding Too Much Throttle During Start

If you jam the throttle forward during a difficult engine start to add more fuel and air, you could have excessive wear on your engine before the oil has warmed up.

5) Starting A Cold-Soaked Engine

According to maintenance expert Mike Busch, starting a cold aircraft engine without preheating can cause as much piston wear as 500 hours of normal operation. Airplane parts are expensive, so it's a good idea to preheat your plane before you head out for a flight on the next cold winter day.

You can use a forced-air preheater, electric heater (pictured below), or even just let the airplane sit in a warm hangar for a while.

Tanis Aircraft Systems

Do you have a start technique to keep your engine in good shape? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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