False Start

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Lycoming Maintenance

False Start
You might have read in a previous entry <link here> about how I replaced the spark plugs due to a bad magneto check.

Last Saturday was my first opportunity to test fly it since then and I was excited to go.

Arriving at the airport with temps in the mid 30s I plugged in the homemade preheater and started my customary preflight inspection.

All was well and after about thirty minutes of preheating I pushed the -8 out of the hangar. Start up was my first indication of a problem. It cranked very slow; I should have anticipated a low battery since its been sat so long since I last flew. Just as I was about to give up, another problem ensued, my starter wouldn’t disengage! I quickly flipped off the battery master to kill the deviant starter. Great!

I pushed it back into the hangar and pulled the top cowl to investigate. Starter relays can become stuck, sort of temporarily welded together due to high amperage. In this case it was from starting with low voltage on the battery – duh! I know this, but I was thinking more about going than I was about what the airplane was telling me. There’s a lesson here.

A couple of taps on the relay and it came unstuck. I then borrowed a battery charger from the airport manager and let it charge while I put the cowling back on.

Once charged and preheated (again), I pushed it back out for another attempt.

This time the start was successful and I taxied to the active. The run-up revealed a much improved magneto check thanks to the new spark plugs.

start contactor

Checklist completed, I cleared the area for traffic, and made the appropriate radio call. As I advanced the power I was treated with a familiar, although much worse, stumble. I pulled the power back and rolled to a stop. Although my new plugs fixed the mag check, clearly there was something else causing this hesitation on throttle-up. Back to the barn forlorn.

Out of ideas and time, I put the airplane to bed and drove away.

As soon as I got home I went straight to the internet looking for answers. The time, since I had a good mag check, I focused on fuel delivery. I quickly honed in on a likely culprit – a partially blocked fuel injector.

So the next step will be to pull the injectors and carefully clean and reinstall. And so it is with airplanes, or any multi-system machine, you have a gremlin that you spend a couple of rounds chasing down, possibly even fixing other issues that aren’t the cause in the process.

Stay tuned to hear how it goes. Hopefully the weather will cooperate!

by Brent A Owens

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