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Routine Maintenance

The purpose and importance of your engine’s owner’s manual can be gleaned from understanding, in proper perspective, the motive of the manufacturer who is supplying you with this information.

When guiding you on the care and operation of their engine, the manufacturer’s reputation is at stake. Their reputation depends on their customer base operating safely and reliably. Their goal is to provide for you, the individual owner/operator, the best over-all direction, with the most reasonable amount of time invested in routine maintenance. They want you to be successful and they want it to be as easy as possible. Their reputation depends on it.

The suggested care and maintenance outlined in your owner’s manual is a result of hard earned knowledge generated through years of research and by field-testing done on these engines.

The objective is for you to achieve optimum operation.

When you understand this perspective, you will understand why following the manufacturer’s guidelines is quite important. And this is where having an hour meter or a good record keeping system becomes imperative in keeping track of the intervals at which certain maintenance tasks should be performed.

If you look at a copy of the Rotax 503 maintenance schedule, you will notice that there are simple routine tasks that need to be performed before each flight and others at 10, 25 or 50-hour intervals. With a great deal of experience you may be able to analyze and adjust these time intervals as necessary for your operations, but until you have had a great deal of experience you should stick fairly close to the recommended intervals.

Remember, these intervals are geared toward giving you the best overall performance with the least amount of maintenance. It is not in the manufacturer’s interest to burden you with excessive maintenance tasks, as that would negatively affect the engine’s reputation. They do not want their engines considered “burdensome,” or “high maintenance.”


Even if you have a mechanic who is capable of maintaining your engine, you should learn to perform all of the simpler jobs. Routine maintenance can be very rewarding and reassuring. When replacing spark plugs, for example, you will have a chance to get a first hand look at how the engine is truly running and performing. Learning to “read” a spark plug is very valuable and will tell more about the critical operation of your engine than any other examination.

If you have an oil injection system, another useful routine task is monitoring your oil level relative to your flight time. Simply place a piece of masking tape next to the sight tube and mark the oil level each time that you service your aircraft. Then compare it with your fl ight time to get a very accurate reading of how much oil is really being used, an indication that the oil injection system is working properly. Actually, most aircraft are simple enough that during the prefl ight inspection you are, in a sense, really doing the equivalent of an annual inspection. Be in the habit of doing your preflight inspections thoroughly and consistently before each fl ight. Here is the bulk of the prefl ight inspection: it can, and eventually will, prevent an in air emergency. The prefl ight inspection is your safety net.

Countless times, during prefl ights, we have found discrepancies that could have become catastrophic had the flight continued. Each time that you find one of these problems for yourself, you will become more of a believer in the power of the prefl ight. Remember the adage that we reiterate throughout this book. ‘Make certain that everything is right or don’t fl y.’ Our customers who fl y successfully, week after week, apply this principle. Others, who consistently break this rule, spend a great deal of time on the ground.

(expert from "A Professional Approach to Ultralights" by Carol and Brian Carpenter)

Light Aviation Edition September 2008

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