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Preparing Your Craft for the Cold

If possible, store your craft in a temperature-controlled hangar during the cold months. Whether or not that’s possible, here is a checklist of important things to do before putting up your plane for the winter.

If nothing else, change the oil. Shell recommends that you, at minimum, change the old oil from your engine and refill with the appropriate grade. Oil left in the engine can become acidic when combined with water from the atmosphere and cause corrosion. This can lead to pitting of components, which is then compounded when rust particles get into the oil and grind when the engine is next started. This reduces reliability, and can lead to expensive repairs — all for the cost of an oil change.

Remember to put on the brakes. You don’t want your plane rolling away with the winter wind. To keep the plane secure and keep the brakes from seizing up, chock the front and back wheels and release the parking brake. 

Use covers and plates. Pitot tube covers and static vent covers should be used to prevent insects and dirt from forming blockages. Also, placing blanking plates over engine intakes and exhausts will reduce the amount of moisture that gets into your engine, and help prevent corrosion.

Don’t be cheap with grease. The correct selection and application of grease to the airframe is one of the most important choices a pilot, owner or mechanic can make. Grease is vital in preventing metal to metal contact so that mechanisms resist wear and operate smoothly. Grease also provides excellent protection against weather and corrosion, seals against dust and dirt and enables additives to be evenly held in dispersion. 

Fill fuel tanks and close the valves. Filling the fuel tanks prevents the build-up of condensation in the tanks over winter. This is particularly important if your aircraft is stored outside and will likely save you from corrosion and potentially expensive tank repairs. If your aircraft is hangared, make sure you have permission to store your aircraft with full tanks. This is particularly important if your aircraft is stored outside. Also check that the fuel cocks are closed and master switches are off. You may also consider removing the battery to prevent any leakage current from draining it.

Cover it up for a long winter’s nap. Cover the windows, canopy, wings and the horizontal tail, as well as the prop blades. They are some of the most critical flying surfaces on the aircraft, and covers will reduce damage to the airplane's upholstery and avionics caused by sun and rain exposure and bird droppings.

An important note on winter flying. If you are going to fly during the winter or at high altitudes, some manufactures recommend baffles, winter fronts and oil cooler kits for their aircraft during low temperature operation. Winterization kits will reduce airflow through the oil cooler and reduce the chance of oil cooler freeze-up. Be sure to remove the winterization kit when it’s no longer needed.

During winter break-in and high altitude flight, pilots should also be especially observant of their oil temperature and pressure. If the oil pressure or oil temperature moves significantly up or down in flight, you may be experiencing oil cooler plugging or bypassing. If this occurs, take appropriate action.

Important note on winterization kits: If a kit was installed, was it properly signed off and placarded? Do you know at what ambient temperature it should be removed? If installation approval is not provided by the kit’s manufacturer, FAA approval may be needed. Be smart and safe: Read the guides, air worthiness manuals and service bulletins put out by the FAA and manufacturers, and consult Master Aviation at (203) 790-5226 about helping you winterize your plane.

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