As the ground thaws and the snow melts it’s time to prep our planes for the spring flying season. If your plane was grounded during the winter months you’ll need to do some thorough maintenance. Here’s a review of what to focus on before the wheels go up. Always consult your aircraft’s operating manual and a qualified mechanic if you have questions.
Review your maintenance history
The first step in spring maintenance is reviewing your aircraft’s maintenance history. Check for the last time repairs and preventative maintenance was done. Do you have needed repairs that you put off until the warm weather returned? Now is the time to take care of any needed repairs. Remember, safety repairs are required by the FAA to legally fly your aircraft.
Change the oil and fuel
Even if you changed the oil and filled the gas tank before parking your plan for winter, it’s important to do a spring oil change and fuel systems check. Old oil can become acidic and cause corrosion. Rust can then mix with the oil and damage your engine. Much easier to change the oil than an engine.
Remove your fuel filter, clean, and replace it. Look for condensation in the fuel tanks, which is common if they were less than full. Water in the bottom of a tank can cause corrosion. If you installed static vent covers before winter, you can remove them now. Check that the fuel cocks are open and master switches are back on. Also, check for:
- Condition of fuel tank and straps
- Fuel lines for leaks or damage
- Fuel drains for water or debris
- Fuel valve for damage or leaks
- Fuel gauge for damage
Check the battery and other electrical components
If your battery is old or in poor condition replace it. Always try to remove and inspect the battery after every 50 hours of use. Make sure to check the condition of the battery leads and mounting. Other electrical components that need attention include circuits, circuit breakers, wiring at terminals, and radio antenna.
Inspect tire pressure and wear
Just like on your car, your aircraft tires will lose pressure over time. Make sure your plane’s tires are at the recommended psi. Also visually inspect the tires for tread wear and bald spots. Check out the wheel brake assembly and look for leaks and examine the strut condition.
Wings, fins, propeller, and landing gear
Make sure the propeller assembly, wing flaps, tail fins, landing gear, and landing gear doors are all in working order. Check that nothing is loose, damaged, or dirty. If so, clean and/or contact an aircraft mechanic before doing anything else.
Check for structural damage
If you had your plane hangared indoors, there’s a low chance that it suffered any winter damage. But you still should do a preflight walk around. Look for hairline cracks or structural damage on the fuselage and wings. Check gaskets and seals to make sure they aren’t dried out. Also inspect the air intake and cowling, stall warning vent, pilot tube, and static ports for small rodents or birds that may have decided to take up residence.
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