What Do I Need To Know About Aircraft Maintenance in Winter?

With winter coming around, you also get a fresh set of challenges when we’re talking about aircraft maintenance. Adjusting your plane to cold weather does take a bit of planning ahead of time, especially before winter fully kicks in.

A small aircraft gearing up for flight during the winter | A featured image from “What Do I Need To Know About Aircraft Maintenance in Winter” |

Cold weather poses certain challenges that could make it unsafe and difficult to fly your aircraft. Take note that low temperature affects the viscosity of the engine oil, the airframe, its landing gear struts, batteries, and the fuel system.

Engine preheating and preventive maintenance measures are necessary to keep your small aircraft in top form during the cold months. You will also pay closer attention to adequate preflight action items if your plane is parked outside in cold weather.

To help you prepare your aircraft for winter, follow these essential winter maintenance for your aircraft.

Change your oil

When you perform oil change before low temperature sets in, you can remove not just the contaminants but also water, which could freeze and cause corrosion and wear. Hence, the need for a fresh oil change

Make sure that you use “thinner oil” ideal for winter since their viscosity remains at the acceptable level even when the temperature drops.

Attend to your battery

Let’s talk about battery care. Batteries generally don’t perform well in the cold, so make sure that you recharge or replace the primary and backup batteries. But if you live in a region with severe winter, you may consider removing the main battery and storing it overnight in a heated area before the next day’s flight.

Check your fuel system

You need to drain all sumps in the fuel system; failure to do so can cause serious damage since ice buildup can block valves, filters, and fuel screens, resulting in engine failure.

Very important: don’t ever use automotive anti-icing products on your aircraft because it almost always leads to expensive repairs. If you really need to use a de-icing product, make sure that it is designed for aircraft and not automotive.

Lubricate the airframe

Lubricants protect almost every component of your aircraft. And during cold weather, they are particularly more important because they reduce wear and tear by making the parts less stiff.

Ideally, schedule your lubricant application before the peak of the winter to remove all the traces of water in the bushings and bearings. Also, pay close attention to control cable tensions.

Sometimes, instead of performing re-lubrication, it’s better to replace them completely, especially if they have shown some sign of stiffness during warm weather.

Wax and polish the exterior

Waxing and detailing the exterior is not just about keeping your aircraft “pretty.” The idea here is to leave a layer of protection on its paint to protect the metal from corrosion. Additionally, ice and snow can easily slide off a nicely waxed exterior.

When waxing your aircraft, don’t forget to clean and polish your window as well to protect it from the elements.

Consider your preheating options

There are two affordable ways to preheat your engine before a flight: forced-air and electric preheater.

However, there is another third option, albeit not a cheap one–leave your plane in a heated hangar, which on average costs $25-$75 per night. Aside from being expensive, another issue with this option is that it is not always available.

But unlike forced-air and electric preheaters, a heated hangar ensures that you get even heating for your oil, engine, seats, avionics, exterior, etc.

Look into long-term storage

If you don’t plan to use your aircraft during the entire winter, it is highly recommended to “preserve” it rather than park it without preparing it for the cold weather. When you “preserve” a plane, it means that you (or your mechanic) should regularly check the flight controls and other cold-sensitive systems and remove the heavy accumulation of ice frequently.

A small aircraft gearing up for flight during the winter | A featured image from “What Do I Need To Know About Aircraft Maintenance in Winter” |

A Final Word About Aircraft Maintenance in Winter

Whether your airplane will be active during the winter months or safely secured until spring, we can prepare for the season by identifying some of the usual cold-weather challenges pilots and owners may encounter.

By performing the above mentioned winter maintenance for your aircraft and using high-quality exhaust components, you can be sure of safe and hassle-free flying during winter.

If you need FAA/PMA approved aircraft exhaust parts, call Knisley Welding at this toll-free number: (800) 522-6990.