Attention Aviation Engine Oil: Lube It or Lose It!


Illustration by the talent engine known as Lauren Horgan©2013

An engine without oil is like a heart without blood: one does not function without the other. Imagine then what would happen if that heart was clogged with contaminants, or worse, deprived of nutrient-rich blood. Thump-thump. Thump. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. A heart attack is imminent with neglect.

Slurp. Slurp. Gulp. Choke. Hack. Wheeze. You hear that? That’s the cacophony of sounds your engine is making. Maybe it’s dying of thirst or screaming because of the unhealthy lube it’s being fed. If that’s the case then it’s time to refill or replace your oil. Just as a once healthy heart can reach critical condition without the proper blood supply so can an aircraft’s engine without fresh oil.

During the course of your travels among the clouds your aircraft’s engine works tirelessly to keep you afloat. During that time, the engine’s oil accumulates by-products as a result of the engine’s activity. These by-products include dirt, metallic wear particulates and carbonaceous materials. Constantly heating and cooling, the oil can also wear thin, so to speak, while also corroding parts that make up the internal structure (e.g. the combustion chamber) of the engine.

It’s inevitable that an oil change is required, in fact, many experts suggest every four months even if your plane has been idle. Planes that sit in hangars for long periods of time are subject to condensation and corrosive atmospheric elements. Just because the engine hasn’t been used doesn’t mean it is safe. And if you’re a frequent flyer, an oil change is even more crucial. In that case, a good rule of thumb is to change every 50 flight hours (without an oil filter, 25 hours). Otherwise, extending the interval between oil changes may reduce your engine’s life and may even void your engine’s warranty. So when it comes time, please service your engine.

SkyGeek puts the “serve” in service by offering a multitude of options so your engine can get its fill of oil. Search and find and select from our exhaustive list. Even if your plane’s engine is picky when it comes to petroleum that is not a problem: we’re serving you a pu pu platter of aviation oil.

Specials of the day include:

Mineral Oil – Has two distinct features: (1) it doesn’t conduct heat or electricity and (2) it keeps parts from corroding as it takes the place of air and water (known corrosive elements). In regards to aviation it is used in new engines or those that have just been overhauled. Famously used for engine break-ins.

Straight Piston Oil – Also known as straight-weight (grade). Provides effective lubricity and contains anti-rust and anti-corrosion properties. It doesn’t quite have the range as multi-weights. It would need to be changed depending on the season and the region where a plane normally operates. Good for cleaning, but tends not to offer the additives that multi-weights do. Most suitably used during break-in periods of either new or recently overhauled engines. Once break-in is achieved, an ashless dispersant (AD) oil, i.e. one with non-metallic additives, is often used. This dispersant suspends by-products in the oil.

Multigrade Piston Oil – Offers a wide range of viscosities (grades) across a broad range of temperatures. Advantages include working well during cold start-ups. Drawback: anti-corrosion properties not as good as single-grade due to the increased additives. The numbers on the bottles refer to the oil’s thickness; the higher numbers refer to thicker (higher viscosity) oils. Thus, an SAE 50 has higher viscosity and is thicker than, say, an SAE 20. When ordering, know the difference between the various grades (*Note: this link is used to give you an idea of what those numbers mean when choosing oil. Do NOT use automobile oil in place of aviation oil).

Turbine Oil – Not all planes carry a piston engine. This type of slippery synthetic oil lubricates for a long time. It is specially designed for use in turbine engines and is known for its endurance (i.e. long service life). Possesses the following additional benefits: sludge and varnish deposit prevention; rapid separation from water; foaming resistance; chemical stability.

Still not sure what to choose? Reading labels is important.

Perhaps established brands are a delicacy worth ordering. AeroShell is one of the top trusted brands with a variety of aviation oils, depending on your location of plane operation (See accompanying map). AeroShell Oil W 15W-50 is a particularly popular choice. As a semi-synthetic with mineral oil and AD additives, it offers versatility in composition as well as application.

Want more? If you wish to put on your dish another brand we have plenty of Phillips 66®, especially their X/C® 20W-50, a multiviscosity, all-weather condition AD-infused oil.

If you are still not satisfied and insist upon giving your engine that little extra boost in performance why not add to its effectiveness with some of the oil additives we stock. In addition we have a full inventory of oil filtersand filter can cutters.

Once you have your supplies, you’re ready for the main course of action. That’s right, an oil change. Not sure how to do it? Has it been a while? Check out SkyGeek’s helpful Online Guide to Oil Changes. In it, author Mike Berry answers such questions and address such issues as:

• You’re changing oil where now?
• Why gloves are more than a fashion statement during an oil change.
• I have a bottle of oil and an old bucket from KFC – what else do I need?
• Oil drains and oil stains need not coincide.
• How do I know that I did this right?

Oil inspection and oil changes should be a permanent fixture when it comes to maintenance and repair. Mechanics know this and so should do-it-yourself pilots. If said procedures are not routinely upheld and performed properly the life of your engine could be in jeopardy. Put another way: no oil, no running engine; no running engine, no flying.

Regardless of the issues, we have the answers that will lead to the proper lube. The products on our site are sure to have your engine feeling full and satisfied. So here’s a tip: when it comes to engine performance, it’s all about the oil. Bathe ol’ Betsy (or whatever nickname you give your plane) in the stuff that keeps you running smoothly on all cylinders. Have your engine run slick, look sleek, all because of the oil and related items we provide at SkyGeek.


SkyGeek and Sky-Tec: A Good Fit

Without an engine, you’re grounded. Without a starter, your engine is next to useless—unless you want a really heavy paperweight.

Sky-Tec Logo New

Ladies and geeks, start your engines…with Sky-Tec

Speaking of weight, when considering what starter to choose for your aircraft’s engine, you want something lightweight yet powerful enough to get you going all the way to your destination. Ultimately, you can’t begin your journey without a starter. The people at Sky-Tec seem to be on board with this sentiment.

In aviation you don’t want to carry anything that helps gravity out. You also don’t want to make your power source work harder than it has to in order to compensate for unnecessary weight, especially when that weight comes from the power source itself. Sky-Tec aims to apply the idea of “FlyweightTM” to engine starters and we’re eager to promote such ingenuity.

As a company consisting of everyday, regular, self-described “plane folk,” Sky-Tec cares about what they make by making it their business to know starters inside and out. SkyGeek is proud to partner up with them so that pilots around the country and around the globe, whether it’s for business or for pleasure, can begin taking flight without worrying about frequent maintenance, warranty issues, and/or an affordable replacement of their aircraft’s starter.

When deciding to team up with Sky-Tec, SkyGeek wanted to make sure their products were of a superior quality. After all, if we want to continue to provide our customers with excellent service and support we need to sell them products that are reputable and reliable and are in demand because of their quality. Based on our research, Sky-Tec has not only matched that expectation, but we have found that their people (real people, not automated messages) strive to exceed said expectations. Sky-Tec starters are used exclusively by all new aircraft manufacturers world-wide. Their starters continue to be the number one selling aftermarket replacement starter world-wide as well. In a word: Impressive.

You may be asking yourself, “Why all the praise?” SkyGeek sells thousands of Lycoming and Continental engine-related parts so naturally Sky-Tec starters fit in just nicely. Here’s a little breakdown of the key advantages these starters offer and why we’re so energized to sell them.

Feeds and Speeds

What do you get when you join sound engineering with technology that allows for the integration of lightweight materials? Answer: starters offering faster starts. Faster spinning ensures the quickest possible start and minimizes electrical system stress and mechanical wear. In addition, low current draw and highly efficient motor designs not only make for prompt starts, but minimum wear on airframe and engine components as well. What more could you ask for?

Higher Torque

Certainly if you were given the option between low or high, you would choose high torque. More torque gives you better rotational force that generates the juice you need in less time.  Through selective gear reduction methods, Sky-Tec starters are engineered to provide optimum starting torque, optimum cranking speed, and thus the most reliable start. Better efficiency and optimized designs, once again, yield better starts for the life of your engine—and beyond.

Rugged, Tough and Durable


Rough, tough, and hard to bluff on the HT starter’s durability.

Affordability (See below) of aircraft parts is what we all desire but not if it comes at the cost of quality and value. Sky-Tec doesn’t believe these factors are mutually exclusive. By considering total cost of ownership as a major issue, Sky-Tec’s engineers design starters with durability as their defining feature. For instance, the FlyweightTM LS/PM series starters are designed for minimum cost while still offering reliability that exceeds engine TBO. Tough, rugged construction highlights the HT series but weighs just half a pound more than the FlyweightsTM. And the NL’s unmatched efficiency and cranking torque cost even less with half a pound sacrificed to provide the industry’s best reliability. These features are exactly what you want in parts that are so critical to engine performance. Remember, durability stretches the dollar by nearly eliminating costs associated with maintenance and repair.


And speaking of costs…Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, Sky-Tec’s full line of Lycoming and Continental starters is little more expensive and in some cases less expensive than heavier, older competitive designs that often ship with 25 or 50 hour maintenance requirements. Sky-Tec starters require zero maintenance and are fully supported by a 2-year factory warranty. Those same “plane folks” we spoke of are always available to help you with warranty, troubleshooting, and very affordable factory rebuilding services at costs comparable or in many cases less than rebuilding an old heavyweight starter.


The NL starter: Popular and dependable.

Kickback Protection System

Many Sky-Tec starters now contain the exclusive Kickback Protection SystemTM (KPS), including the company’s #1 seller, the NL series, as well as HT and ST2-series starters. The KPSTM addresses the issue of kickback, i.e. when premature ignition misfire occurs. This system reduces damage to the starter and ring gear either by using a shear pin (NL-series starters) or self-resetting overtorque clutch (HT-series and ST2-series). Once again, Sky-Tec’s engineers have built in a safety feature that promises to maximize the life of your starter and the cash or credit in your wallet.

Lightweight Design and Construction

We realize we’ve mentioned this before but it cannot be emphasized enough: Sky-Tec engineers have designed lightweight starters that cannot be beaten. Evidence of this fact? Sky-Tec recently announced the lightest weight Lycoming starter available in the industry in 2013—the ultra lightweight XLT. Competitors may often lean on outmoded mechanical centrifugal devices; however, Sky-Tec engineers implement simple, affordable technology. This is proven in one crucial way. While inefficient Bendix drives are still in use by some manufacturers, Sky-Tec uses only lighter weight and more reliable electro-mechanical engagement drives. Customers can rejoice because simple, affordable technologies translate to affordable end products.Those that exemplify lightweight design without compromising power can be found not only in the newly announced XLT series Lycoming starters but also in Sky-Tec’s full line of top selling FlyweightTM LS & PM series starters—all available from SkyGeek.


The Flyweight™ LS starter. Not quite light as a feather but the closest thing to it on the market.

Combine SkyGeek’s expedient shipping and desire to maintain customer satisfaction on every transaction with Sky-Tec starters and you can see that just as a starter and engine work together, SkyGeek and Sky-Tec make a good fit.

Find our entire stock of Sky-Tec products here.

We want our customers to get what they want so let us know how we are doing. Strike up the conversation in the comments section and be sure to review the products you buy.

As always, keep your eyes skyward.

Dehydrator Plugs

I suppose if dehydrator plugs were part of a secret club and they had a motto they recited out loud in unison it would be something like, “Don’t wet yourself!”

In order to understand what these plugs do, you have to know what they are and what they are used for. Like many products, name defines function. Dehydrator plugs are transparent plastic tubes that, well, de-hydrate. They have two ends; while one is sealed the other end is fixed with a threaded and perforated plug. By removing moisture, these plugs protect engines from the ill-effects of water-induced rust and corrosion while a plane is sitting in storage.

Hangars and other storage areas are like any other place—subject to humidity. Of course, like other atmospheric conditions, humidity affects not only the appearance of parts, but the performance of a vehicle as well. It seems strange that a plane’s engine can be harmed while inactive, but ‘tis the reality of owning an aircraft. Installing dehydrator plugs by screwing them into an engine’s spark plug holes will combat humidity.

A disassembled Military Standard MS27215-1 18mm dehydrator plug. Notice the blue silica gel beads; this indicates that they have not been exposed to moisture.

A disassembled Military Standard MS27215-2* 18mm dehydrator plug. Notice the blue silica gel beads; this indicates that they have not been exposed to moisture.

The magic involved in the prevention of rust and corrosion comes from the plugs’ composition. Dehydrator plugs contain silica gel—a desiccant (drying agent)—as well as an indicator such as cobalt chloride. The beauty or rather practicality of this gel and its corresponding indicator is that they change color as moisture is absorbed. Blue is the default color while pink shows the presence of moisture. The fact that dehydrator plugs contain substances that act as a sort of litmus paper is super convenient as that color change will catch the eye and alert you to when these plugs need changing…or fixing.

A common question that often arises when purchasing dehydrator plugs is whether or not they last. In a word or three: yeah, they last. But what’s more important to know is that they are reusable as well as refillable (at least some part numbers; outdated versions might not be refillable). Once the silica gel is soiled, more can be purchased in various sizes (e.g. 1/4 or 5 lb). Or if you prefer to reuse pre-existing crystals, try this: simply take out and spread out the moisture-compromised crystals and dry them in an oven (sources indicate that the recommended heating process should last 16 hours at a temperature of 250 degrees F). Bam, good as new! In this way, it’s plain to see that dehydrator plugs are a sound investment into proper maintenance.

Another common issue raised is whether or not four or eight dehydrator plugs should be used—i.e. four on the top, four on the bottom of an engine. Of course, there is no right or wrong answer to this. It really is a matter of preference. Some say it’s better to be safe and put eight in, especially if you are leaving them in and not planning on checking them. Others argue that four is plenty and won’t lower performance. Still others follow the old adage, “less is more.” Why? Because they find putting four additional at the bottom leaves the plugs susceptible to being filled with oil. While SkyGeek appreciates your business, we promise not to tell you yours. The choice is up to you. One of our goals on this site is providing service that will translate into your satisfaction and that doesn’t mean forcing you into a bad decision.

In terms of selecting an appropriate dehydrator plug, I’ve found that since many aircraft are for military purposes, dehydrator plugs that conform to military standards are a good choice. In this case, you would be looking for dehydrator plugs with a MS27215 or MS3396 designation. Of course, if you are interested in purchasing one or more, you can check here. But that might just be the inner SkyGeek inside me speaking. If there are any more dehydrator plugs that are just as effective, please feel free to mention them in the comments below.

And as always, if there is any aspect of dehydrator plugs that is unclear or you have some more suggestions on the topic, don’t hesitate to let us know.

*UPDATE (6/27/2013): The caption for the image has been changed. The item featured is in fact a MS27215-2 NOT a MS27215-1. Upon inspection we have found that the MS27215-1 is an outdated model that cannot be disassembled; the MS27215-2 can, however. Thanks to David Halmos for steering SkyGeek in the right direction.