Aircraft engines are robust apparatuses, tasked with generating propulsion and thrust through the combustion of fuel-and-air mixtures. While all aircraft components and structures should regularly be cleaned, the aircraft engine in particular must be well attended to for the prevention of residue buildup which may hinder operations, cause corrosion, or result in other various issues. As the aircraft engine compartment and its components may be damaged if cleaning is not carried out correctly, it is paramount that operators understand the proper procedures to maintain the health of all parts.
The first question that one should ask themself before attempting an aircraft engine clean is what their end goal is. If one simply wants to have a clean appearance when the cowl is opened, then processes may be fairly simple. With the use of protective gloves, goggles, a rag, and 100LL, creating a clean compartment is as easy as wiping down all components thoroughly but carefully. For more in-depth cleaning prior to conducting MRO servicing, however, a more careful approach must be undertaken for the safety of all components within the aircraft engine compartment.
Within a typical aircraft engine, a number of electrical components, connectors, fuses, and bus bars may be present, thus it is crucial that they are well protected from any cleaning chemicals that are used. Ranging from the accidental disconnection of connectors to the outright damage to a component from a harsh chemical, operators should take the time necessary to carefully clean around all sensitive components. Alternators and starters are also at risk in the presence of cleaning chemicals and water, featuring various vents in which fluids may enter. Internal bearing components may also be present within these assemblies, and they can become damaged or lose their efficiency if proper care is not upheld.
Vacuum pump equipment is also sensitive to liquids, requiring a dry state for proper functionality. In order for the vanes within the hub slots to slide smoothly and correctly, lubrication is supplied in the form of dry carbon from pump vanes. As the introduction of water or other liquids can affect lubrication, a failure may not show up until much later when damage has already been done. There are also other various air paths and tubing that should be similarly protected, including breather tube components, fuel vents, fuel injectors, and air intakes. If any filters are present within these areas, they too are at risk of damage due to fluids or cleaning chemicals.
Lastly, special care should be taken for any bushing, bearing, or hinge. While excess oil may commonly be removed from the crankcase and oil pan, components such as a bushing or bearing need their oil in order to optimally function and accommodate loads, forces, etc. As such, any cleaning solvent or chemical should be carefully applied while working around any at-risk component.
With low pressure cleaning and careful procedures, the aircraft engine compartment and all of its included items should be contaminate-free and safe for operation. After any cleaning procedure, one should utilize the aircraft’s lubrication chart in order to lubricate all listed components for safety. Additionally, the engine should be dried out and all components inspected prior to conducting any further flight operations.
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