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Cold Weather Engine Starts — in 10 Easy Steps

Cold Weather Engine Starts — in 10 Easy Steps

As the weather turns colder, it’s a good time to revisit some cold-engine starting techniques. Have some tips for flying in colder conditions? Leave them in the comments section!

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1. Turn on your transmitter and receiver.

2. Fully open the throttle.

3. Watch for fuel in the line and cover the throttle opening with your finger. Firmly grip the propeller, and rotate it until the fuel is just up to the carb. Don’t flip it! Now turn the prop over–twice, if it’s warmer than 50 degrees F; three times, if it’s colder–to prime the engine.

4. With the glow plug disconnected, flip the engine over six to eight times.

5. Close the throttle and move the trim to fully up. This should open the throttle barrel a little more. The throttle should be about 1/4 open.

6. Grab the prop firmly, and rotate the engine until it passes through the compression part of the stroke. You should feel the engine “kick.” If it does, it will now start on the first or second flip. Always use a chicken stick or electric starter for starting. If the engine doesn’t start, flip the prop a few times with the glow plug disconnected, and try again. If it doesn’t kick now, choke it one more time with the throttle fully open, flip the prop a few more times, reposition the throttle, light the glow plug, and try again.

7. If, when your engine starts, it just revs up and quits, turn the high-speed needle valve 1/2 turn counterclockwise to open it, and try again. Repeat this if necessary.

8. If the engine starts, slows down and quits, and if a lot of smoke comes out of the exhaust, turn the high-speed needle valve clockwise to make the mixture leaner, 1/4 turn at a time. Restart the engine.

9. When the engine has started, hold the throttle partially open, and let the engine warm up for at least one minute before making the final adjustments.

10. Most engines are harder to start when they’re hot. To start a hot engine, draw the fuel up to the carb, but don’t choke or prime it. Open the throttle to 1/4. Flip the prop hard. Use and electric starter, if you have one available.

Updated: February 2, 2017 — 9:25 AM
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18 Comments

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  1. I earned my all seasons patch while in northern Minnesota – flew nitro planes at -20 degrees F. One trick is to use chemical hand warmers wrapped around the head and covered with a towel to keep the engine warm. Another is to use higher nitro % than in warm weather.

    1. When we live in the super cold in MI, dad used to leave the car running when he wasn’t flying and put the nose of the plane (and it’s engine) near the tailpipe of the car to help keep the engine warm enough to start easier. Hope this helps!

  2. If you replace 10% methanol with 10% petrol in the fuel, very cold weather starts are much easier as the petrol will vaporize much quicker than methanol. No harm to your engine – works very well. You can leave out the nitro if you wish as the petrol assists both starting and steady idle.

  3. Clarification: the hand warmer and towel is only for before first flight and BETWEEN flights…not WHILE flying. lol

    1. Put the prop hub in the end of your running cars exhaust pipe for 15 – 20 minutes to pre warm your nitro or gas engine. Be carefull flying electric in sub zero weather. You can ruin a battery!

  4. The easy way is to fly electric. Instant on, instant off!

  5. Put a few drop of Lighter fluid (Nafta) in the carburator.

  6. That’s why electric is not proper aeromodelling – it’s all done for you…

    1. I like to fly, not screwing with the engine!

  7. Or, if you have a two-stroke engine, squirt a little lighter fluid into the carburetor and flip the prop.

  8. I do 3 things guaranteed for successful cold weather start. 1. New bottle of nitro fuel. 2. Higher nitro %. 3. Warm the cold engine in your car/truck exhaust for a minute or two. I have done this for over 20 yrs without a failure.

  9. Half a tank of fuel, Start it at home, let run for a minute to warm, wrap a small towel around the engine several times to keep the heat in, starts at the field like it’s summer time.

  10. Great tips everyone! Never really had too much trouble with cold starts but now I’ll have none at all. Excellent.
    I agree, electrics aren’t that great. Short run time is a problem for me. Just about the time I get trimmed out and into some aerobatics it’s time to land. Most of my four strokes will go half an hour easily. Even the hot two strokes get twenty minutes minimum. My electrics get maybe ten minutes tops and that’s with low power use. Any extra work fuel engines require is well worth it to me.

    1. All of my electric planes will out fly almost all the glow guys at my field.
      I get 15 minutes of flight time from most of my planes.
      I bring 5-7 lipos good all morning, then the gas/glow guys show up and adjusting there carbs all day!
      More air time for me!
      Glow is dead! Look in all of the mags, what do see most of? Electrics! That’s what!
      If it wasn’t for electrics, the hobby would be dead!

  11. Cold starts
    Are just to easy I can’t see what the problem is JUST MOVE Australia has a good winter!

  12. When dad was stationed up in MI used to fly when it was super cold, this is what he did. When he wasn’t flying, he’d put the nose of his Falcon 56 near the tailpipe of the car and keep the car running so that the exhaust from the car would keep the engine warm enough to start more easily. Hope this helps!

  13. Typically, I find a richer setting is needed. The worse time I have is when it’s about 32/33 degrees. The moisture in the air wants to drop out, and messes with the run. Below 32 and the colder/dryer it is, engine runs great, as air density is higher.

  14. I use electrics and Glow, it’s always nice to fly year round. In Wisconsin you have toughen up because it gets really cold. I fly both in the summer and Electrics in the Winter while I’m Ice fishing!

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