Easier Oil Changes, Radio Theft Guard

A neater way to change the oil filter? Punch a hole in it and have coffee while it drains.

We sometimes wonder why more owners dont save themselves a few bucks by changing their own oil. Once you get a method down, its not time consuming but, admittedly, oil changes can still be messy.

One solution-actually, three solutions in the form of three tools-comes from Deal Associates, a small manufacturer of maintenance and other aircraft accessories.

We first saw this companys gadgets at Sun n Fun last spring, including their tiedown kit mentioned on page 11 in our Gear of the Year report. Reach Deal at 336-599-3325 or www.dealassoc.com.

Deal sells three oil change tools, an oil drain filter, a knob wrench and a filter cutter. We tested all three during our last oil change: Heres a report.

First, the filter drain. Depending on the aircraft model, removing the filter is potentially the messiest part of an oil change.

On our company Mooney, the filter is mounted directly on the rear of the engine and horizontally, posing somewhat of a dilemma. If the engine is warmed up before the oil change-a good idea-the filter fills with oil and once loosened for removal, it drains all over the engine and runs down the firewall onto the nosewheel tire.

Everyone has tricks to catch the oil, perhaps a small cup or a funnel. Deals solution is to drain the warm filter by punching a hole in it and catching the oil through a hose. The tool for accomplishing this is a robust casting shaped like a C-clamp.

The bottom of the C has a hollow brass fitting to which a long plastic hose is attached. A hardened steel spike is tapped through openings on both ends of the C and the oil runs out the bottom.

We found it worked as advertised, but theres a trick. Once the clamp is positioned and snugged, the spike must be gently tapped through the hole so as not to move the drain hole out of alignment. If you do move it, the Exxon Valdez just docked in your hangar.

With warm oil, it took about a half hour to drain the filter. We let it run overnight and it was bone dry the next morning. The filter drain, says Deal, will work with most but not all filters. Ask the company about the ones it wont fit. At $79.95, its on the expensive side but most specialized tools are.

Knob and Cutter
Deal makes two other tools we tried, a filter knob for removing and installing the filter and yet another cutter, joining the legions of such tools already out there.

The knob is nothing but a big plastic disc with finger grips and a socket to fit the filters hex head. Even with oily hands, it gives you plenty of purchase to remove and tighten the filter.

Some mechanics use a torque wrench to install the filter but most do what we do, tighten by hand to TFAR specs. (That feels about right.) The filter knob retails for $29.95, plus shipping.

Last, Deals filter cutter. Its better made than most and moderately priced at $69.95. The cutter is built on a piece of extruded aluminum barstock with a sliding cutter wheel on a threaded rod.

Once the wheel pierces the filter can, the can itself is rotated and the cut is made along the base of the filter. Not bad but still not our first choice in filter cutters.

We like the heavy-duty model sold by Sacramento Sky Ranch. At $69.95 for a massive cutter and $25 for a holder to mount the can, we havent seen the filter yet thats a match yet for the Sky Ranch filter cutter system. Contact Sky Ranch at 916 421-7672 or on the Web at www.sacskyranch.com.

Block That Theft
Avionics theft is a come again, gone again problem, it seems. At some airports, it happens once a month, at others never. A California company has developed a device for Cessnas to protect avionics from casual theft.

It consists of a heavy channel-iron crossbar that slips over both yoke shafts and locks through the gust lock hole on the pilots side. An aluminum plate-nicely padded to protect the panel-hides the center stack.

We didnt try the bar in an airplane but a sample sent to us appears well made. At $400 or $450, depending on the gust lock style, it strikes us high priced. But if losing your radios to a thief keeps you up at night, we dont have any better ideas.

Contact R.L. Bielawa Associates, 2217 Rockfeller Lane #C, Redondo Beach, CA 90279, 310-376-1589 or www.rlbainc.com.