At Hartzell Propeller, one question we often hear from aircraft owners and operators is, “How can I extend my propeller’s service life?”
While aircraft ownership will never be an inexpensive endeavor, there are some proactive steps you can take to avoid pricey repairs, especially when it comes to your propeller. Regular inspections and preventative maintenance tasks can go a long way in increasing your propeller’s operational life, helping you save time and money down the road.
Take a look at these five ways to protect your prop and help extend its operational life:
Perform regular inspections
Regular pre-flight inspections of your propeller will allow you to catch emerging issues before they turn into more significant problems. Before each flight, give your propeller a thorough inspection for physical damage that’s visible to the naked eye, including paint damage, nicks, and gouges. Look for any signs of external corrosion visible on the blades. Then, check the spinner and spinner assembly for cracks and loose or missing hardware. Finally, look for grease or oil leakage in the interior of the spinner. While some oil or grease is normal, it shouldn’t be trailing down the blades. Watch this video for a more in-depth explanation of how to perform a visual inspection of a composite Hartzell propeller.
Keep it clean
The propeller is one of the most highly stressed components on an aircraft, so give it some well-deserved TLC after every flight. When cleaning your propeller, you should never use a pressure washer as it can remove paint and damage internal components. Instead, wash the propeller blades with a soft cloth and a simple solution of dish soap and water after every flight to remove dirt and bugs. Point the blades in the “down” position and wipe toward the ground to prevent water from entering the hub.
Care for the paint
Paint is about more than ramp appeal—it’s a protective layer that can add significant life to your propeller. Be sure to check for chipping or flaking in your paint during pre-flight inspections. While you can do minor paint touch-ups on your own, having a full dress and paint done by a professional is best for major paint damage.
For more substantial paint problems, such as surface corrosion, repainting the propeller blades is necessary. If you have a Hartzell propeller, you can send it to the Hartzell Service Center or one of our Recommended Service Facilities around the world to have it repainted in its original paint scheme.
Keep your propeller balanced
A static balance should be performed any time the propeller is removed from the airplane and is routinely performed during overhaul services. Dynamic balancing, on the other hand, is a specialized service that’s performed when the entire propeller and engine assembly is running. A dynamic balance measures the vibration magnitude of the propeller and engine, allowing propeller technicians to identify where to correct imbalances. The process helps to reduce cabin vibration and usually results in a smoother, more comfortable flight. Although dynamic balancing typically involves an additional service charge, it’s a smart move to protect the health and longevity of the propeller as well as the engine, airframe, and avionics.
Follow the manufacturer’s published TBO limits
There are several steps you can take to help extend the life of your propeller, but there inevitably comes a time when your prop will need to be overhauled or potentially replaced. Flying an aircraft with a propeller that’s beyond its intended service life is inadvisable and may result in unsafe operating conditions.
Pay close attention to the propeller manufacturer’s published TBO limits and send your propeller to a certified prop shop when it’s time for an overhaul. These limits are intended to protect your safety, because like any other mechanical device on your aircraft, propellers require periodic maintenance and inspection. Complying with the manufacturer’s published overhaul limits will ensure that any issues developing within your propeller are identified early, ideally while they are still repairable.