This “Pilot’s Tip of the Week” was originally published on 9/7/2016. To get free tips like this each week, subscribe at the bottom of the page.

Pilot's tip of the week

Clearing a Fouled Spark Plug

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Subscriber question:

"What is the most likely cause of a bad magneto check during run-up (too large a split) and what should be done if this is encountered?" 
- Dennis B.

Bob:

“It might be a fouled spark plug or perhaps something more serious. I will describe my procedure for dealing with this.

Fouled PlugStart with the fouled spark plug possibility. Try clearing the plugs by running your engine up to 2000 RPM on both mags leaning to about 50 RPM lean of peak (continue to lean until you maximize RPM, then lean further until you lose about 50 RPM). Let the engine run for about 30 seconds and then try another normal run up (at the normal run-up RPM) to see if the problem cleared up. If not, try the same procedure again.

If after the 3rd try it doesn’t clear up, get some maintenance help to correct the problem before flying the airplane.

This type of problem (fouled plugs) could be caused by not properly leaning the mixture in cruise flight. An overly rich mixture will burn incompletely, leaving a coating of deposits on the spark plugs.

Additionally, overly rich mixtures waste gas and reduce the performance of the airplane in cruise in terms of range and cruise speed.”

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