Maintenance Matters

May 1998 Issue

You Gotta Top It?

A hard-nosed, dollars and cents look at critical concerns when major cylinder work comes due.

By their very nature, air-cooled airplane engines are a hand-crafted liability. From the very first hour of operation to the last gasp, aircraft engines suffer a baffling combination of wear patterns, which makes the prospect of making TBO a crap shoot.

Clearly, most of the critical wear happens in the cylinders and the savvy aircraft owner has to resign himself to some mid-time attention to the jugs, a process known less-than-affectionately as “topping.”

As routine maintenance goes, this is a big-dollar item and probably one on which more than a few owners waste money. Sometimes topping a wheezy engine makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s a close call either way. In th...

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