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Cozy Up For Cold: Aircraft Maintenance Checklist For The Winter

Proper aircraft maintenance is an essential component of being a safe, competent pilot. Now that winter is upon us, it’s time to take care of a few maintenance tasks to ensure your airplane is ready to withstand the cold weather.  So, the inspection begins – use the following steps and checklist to make sure your aircraft is maintained properly throughout the winter, whether you’re storing it or flying it.

1) Exterior Cleaning

Before the snow falls, wash the exterior of your airplane to remove debris, dirt and grime. This helps protect the paint and prevent oxidation. Use window cleaner and polish to clear windows from smudges and bugs. Afterward, apply an airplane wax to the surface for extra protection from snow and ice. 

2) Interior Cleaning

This is also a great time to clean the interior of your plane. Vacuum out the floors, seats and instrument panel to remove dust and other particles. Make sure to go over your windows and windshield with a cleaner so you can see clearly. If you have leather seats or wood paneling, make sure to use the proper treatment to keep them in good shape.

3) Change The Oil

Just like in a car, an airplane’s oil needs to be changed regularly. This helps promote a healthy engine by removing harmful contaminants, acids or mixes. In general, you may want to switch to a thinner oil to prevent any potential blockage that can prevent the engine from starting. An anti-corrosion additive can help you avoid expensive repairs if you don’t fly as frequently during the cold season. Always take proper oil samples and thoroughly analyze trends with each oil change.

4) Keep A Full Fuel Tank

With a full fuel tank, you can prevent condensation from building up through temperature fluctuations. Fuel tank maintenance can be expensive, so if your plane is parked outside, make sure you take the proper steps to avoid corrosion within the fuel tank.

5) Airframe Lubrication

Lubricating the airframe is a necessary winter maintenance task because it reduces strain on components that become more rigid in colder weather, while minimizing metal-to-metal contact that causes faster wear and tear of the airframe. Your airplane’s manual should come with instructions on a proper lubrication schedule, specific types of grease and appropriate application.

6) Maintaining, Replacing Or Removing Battery

First, test your battery to ensure that it has the capacity to operate at colder temperatures. If it fails, purchase a replacement battery – a sealed battery is a good option for winter as they don’t require as much maintenance. If you won’t be flying this winter, consider simply removing the battery to prevent any leakage current from draining it. Additionally, this is a good time to check and replace batteries throughout the plane, like the carbon monoxide detectors or in-flight headsets, for example. 

7) Test The Heat

This time of year, your heating system will likely be on the majority of flight time. On a single-engine plane, inspect your exhaust system to ensure there’s no leakage that could cause carbon monoxide to enter the cabin. On a twin-engine plane, inspect your combustion heater to ensure everything is in proper working order. 

8) Test Preheaters

When the temperature starts to drop below freezing, it’s a good idea to preheat your aircraft’s engine to keep everything running smoothly. For those using an engine preheater, test and inspect the device to ensure it’s properly warming up your engine. The same goes for any portable preheaters that you use. 

9) Protect Engine Systems

In order to keep your engine free from any debris, apply pitot tube covers and static vent covers. Additionally, set blanking plates over exhaust and engine intake systems to keep moisture from seeping into your engine and causing corrosion. 

10) Cover & Chock Your Plane

Whether you’re flying throughout the winter or not, if your plane is parked outside, it’s best to cover it up. Damage caused by sun, rain, snow and ice exposure can wreak havoc on important aircraft systems like the prop, wing flaps, windows and everything else. Finally, secure the plane and keep the brakes from seizing up by chocking the front and back wheels and releasing the parking brake. 

Aircraft Maintenance Checklist For Winter

  • Wash exterior of airplane
  • Wax exterior of airplane with specialized wax
  • Vacuum interior
  • Clean windows and windshield
  • Treat any leather or wood components
  • Change the oil
  • Lubricate the airframe
  • Maintain, replace or remove the battery
  • Inspect exhaust on single-engine plane or combustion heater on twin-engine plane
  • Test preheaters to ensure proper startup
  • Apply pitot tubes and static vent covers
  • Set blanking plates over engine and exhaust systems
  • Cover your plane when storing

Do you need help with winter aircraft maintenance?

Get in touch with the crew at Inflight Aircraft Maintenance and take care of your aircraft issues with ease. Based in the Twin Cities, we’re known for getting the job done in a timely, cost-effective manner. We’ll work with you to solve every problem, no matter how big or small. From winter oil changes to battery inspections to airframe issues and everything in between, we’ll help you maintain your aircraft for years to come.


Whether you’re a frequent flyer or a beginner, we’ll make sure that your plane is in the best shape possible for a fair price – if you’re interested in learning more about aircraft maintenance services, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.