Engine Sputter

Engine Sputter

Has anyone experienced an occasional sputter in the engine that seems to immediately go away?  I was on final into SNA with the engine full rich and the engine seemed to misfire or sputter causing an immediate search for a place to land incase the engine stopped.  It seemed to be only one cycle of the engine and didn't appear again.

Is this common?  I seem to remember this happening once and a while in the rentals but now that I have my own plane, I seem to be much more sensitive to things like this.

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Re: Engine Sputter

Any chance of a little water being in your tanks
thats not being found on your preflight?
More apt to happen in a bladder type tank ie: 182..

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Re: Engine Sputter

Could be a magneto problem. Carbon tracking, moisture, cracked cap, magneto ground lead could be shorting.

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Re: Engine Sputter

erick,
how old are your spark plugs?
brad

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Re: Engine Sputter



Did this happen just after applying carb heat on final?  Maybe there was some carb ice that came loose and sucked through..

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Re: Engine Sputter

The plugs were hand me downs from the previous owner.  I am not sure of the time on them, but they were in good shape when installed.  I just cycled them into the airplane after changing the oil and the engine performed better afterwards.

With all the rain we've been getting, it wouldn't surprise me if there was some water in the line somewhere.  I have a 172N and was unaware that water could be hiding in another area of the tank even with the preflight tapping.

I am not sure that the carb heat was applied before the sputter took place since ATC wanted me to keep my speed up for traffic.  However, I was directed to change my course just before the sputter occurred.  Could this have moved some water from one of those hidden spots in the tank?

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Re: Engine Sputter

> The plugs were hand me downs from the previous owner.  I am >not sure of the time on them, but they were in good shape when
> installed.  I just cycled them into the airplane after changing
> the oil and the engine performed better afterwards.

My first thought is that you "uncycle" those plugs and put the originals back - as that seems to be something that you did different, prior to the sputter. Then check each plug carefully to see if one is damaged.

You didn't say how long a flight you were on but, if you had sumped all of the drains and were returning from a flight it doesn't seem as though it was water in the fuel.

If it was a quick sputter which immediately went away, and you didn't use carb heat before or after, then I don't believe it was water in the fuel.

So what's left?
Dirt in the fuel that temporarily clogged the carb?  Possible but unlikely, if your fuel samples have been clean. Was your last fuel up at a place that you usually fuel up?

Vapour lock?  Possible but unlikely.

Which leads us to electrical, which is what I am betting on.

I'm not even going to attempt to guess what - it could be anything, but I would definitely get it checked out by a professional.

There is not enough information for anyone here to give you anything more than a guess - if it was my plane I would be looking for more than guesses prior to flying it again.

HTH

Tony

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Re: Engine Sputter

Tony hit the nail on the head...mess around playing with everyones guesses and you could find yourself  in a serious state of affairs.. Got to NTSB.gov and read some of the accident senerios resulting from engine sputter/lost power... it is certainly nothing to mess with.. Sputtering  once and I would have it on the ground until I found and answer... good luck.

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Re: Engine Sputter

<HTML>Nobody wants to think about the more serious things because of the potential $$ involved, but I agree with Jack - check it out before you fly again.  I had an engine sputter onetime in flight in a rented airplane on a cross country and stopped twice to get mechanics to check it out.  One said it was probably water and to keep going....it happened again.  The other said the plugs were dirty and that I should keep going...it happened again.  Turned out to be a broken oil ring, which was causing a fouled plug in that cylinder.  If it had run much longer things would have really gotten expensive.

Had another sputter on short final, but didn't need power until I was on the ground and had to taxi off the runway.  There was too much metal in the crankcase to drain the oil - the engine had ground itself to bits in flight and was just about finished when I landed.  Thank God I wasn't too low on final!

Moral of the story - get it checked out!  Motors don't just heal themselves.</HTML>

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Re: Engine Sputter

another moral, and I dont mean to change the topic, is to repeat "Thank God he wasn't too low on final!". I watch hundreds of planes land every day and half the time I'm thinking "What chance does he have if he loses power out there at 100'agl on a three mile final?". I don't understand why so many pilots drag it in so low on long final.

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Re: Engine Sputter

erik,
tony, jack, and joe made several good points, randy got off the subject a little, (but that is what makes this forum as good as it is) your 1-8-2005 reply still didn't tell me what i needed to know. you said you cycled the plugs did you cycle mening replaced, or rotate the plug from top to bottom? both can show anolimilys, if looking thru your logs you find that the plugs are near 400 hrs replace them.
brad

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Re: Engine Sputter

Though I appreciate all of your comments and concerns, I think that the "sputter" is getting to be of urban legend proportions.  The sputter that I experienced was for a fraction of a second and hasn't appeared since.  Perhaps I am miss labeling it, but if your idea of what the sputter is still applies, please let me know.

Also, I am wondering if it might have been condensation that formed at altitude, only to melt into the fuel supply for final.  The air temperature at altitude was below freezing.

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Re: Engine Sputter

<HTML>I took from your comment about looking for a place to land other than the airport, that it might have been more serious.  But no matter how minor, it's still worth getting it checked out.

When it happened, were you applying power?  Was the carb heat on?  When I put on full carb heat in my 182, it runs rough.  Other possibilities - if you were at idle and full rich, some of the plugs might have loaded up, and would be a little rough when you applied power  The field elevations are over 1000' around here and sometimes we lean for taxi to prevent loading up.(although SNA is pretty close to sea level right?)

I doubt if the condensation/ice you mentioned is the problem - we fly at and around freeaing here all of the time and the sumps and sump drains seem to take care of that pretty effectively.

Good luck</HTML>

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Re: Engine Sputter

Thanks for the advice Joe.  So I can take it that this is not something that happens.  I thought I might submit a question to find out if this was something other people have experienced.

To answer your question, carb heat was not on and I think I did apply a little power to maintain altitude through the turn.  This took place during IFR training while I was under the hood and my CFII is always looking for a place to land - a good idea, but sometimes I feel that he might be a little overboard.

Do you think the oil analysis might have picked up a problem if there was one?

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Re: Engine Sputter

In my 172M carb, heat is applied before lowering the throttle below 2000 rpm to prevent carb ice from forming.  Could some ice have broken off when you applied power and caused the "sputter"?  I'm surprised the CFII didn't say anything.

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Re: Engine Sputter

I have a late model 182 and have found that "sputtering" on final is quite common if the mixture is too rich.  The big engine (fuel injected) is quite prone to fouling (POH recommends aggressive leaning during taxi) at a full rich setting.  I have found that it is necessary to keep the mixture lean until on short final to avoid "sputtering" when the throttle is reduced.  The old idea of mixture "full rich" when you enter the pattern just won't work with my airplane - the engine will backfire, rumble, and sputter as the throttle is reduced.  I installed a GEM 610 engine monitor and can set the mixture throughout the pattern to give me "sputterless" performance.

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Re: Engine Sputter

Barry - I think my CFII didn't say anything because we were still at 2200 RPM (90 KIAS) and about 8 to 10 miles from SNA at SNAKE. 

After this past storm, the one that is making national news with mudslides and 15" of rain, I found significant water in my left tank when I sumped.  I haven't flown since the sputter and we experienced the sputter during a right turn .  The A&P that checked the problem said he believes that the sputter was a result of water in the fuel line.  He also recomended that I fill the tanks up and slosh the fuel around by lowering the tail and shaking the wings.  Then sumping again, then a lengthy run up at 2000 RPM while switching the tanks half way through. 

I followed the instructions and found even more water in the tanks before and after the run up.  This was pretty convencing to me that the tanks have pockets in them where water can collect.  Be aware....

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Re: Engine Sputter

I'll put my money on Mike Flanagan's answer.  I think there's a  very high likelyhood that he's dead-on correct on this one.  An overly rich mixture at low power.  Of all of the possibilites offered, that's the most likely.

Walter Atkinson
Adanced Pilot Seminars

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Re: Engine Sputter

If you were on final when the engine sputtered, why did you need to look for a place to land?

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Re: Engine Sputter

Good point.  However, what would you do if you had to make a go-around?

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Re: Engine Sputter

I agree with Steve. Sounds like ice to me.

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Re: Engine Sputter

**However, what would you do if you had to make a go-around?**

We sure worry a lot about something that (essentially) never happens.

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Re: Engine Sputter

So here's what the last few months have shown me. 

I believe that the sputter was just water in the tanks and/or the lack of aggressive leaning.  I have flown the airplane for more than 75 hours since my first posting, all the while being very careful to fill it after each flight and lean the hell out of it when possible.  The traces of water when I sump have disappeared and I have not experienced a sputter since the one I described in my earlier postings.

I did take the recommendation regarding changing all the plugs out for new ones and that really made a difference on the power side.  I went for a check ride and the examiner, who owns a 172m, was surprised at the performance of my 172N after telling him that the engine had 1000+ hours.  The climb rate was 700 to 1000 ft/min.

Thanks again for all the suggestions.

Erik

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