An engine for the Cozy


One of the biggest expenses of building a plane is the engine. Typically, this can account for up to one third of the cost, especially when you factor in the accessories like the starter, ignition, and fuel injection system. A rebuilt or new aircraft engine can cost between $20,000 to $40,000 depending on where you purchase it. If you can get a ‘run-out’ engine just about ready to be rebuilt, and the main components such as the crankshaft and case are in good condition, you can save about half the cost by just replacing items that wear out such as the cylinders, rings, and bearings.

A few months ago I was reading my email and noticed that someone from a local EAA chapter was interested in selling a Lycoming IO-360 that he was no longer going to use for a kit plane he had decided to sell. I emailed him immediately and told him I’d be interested in the engine because I am getting to the point where I want to start mounting my cowlings on the plane and you really can’t do that until you know which model of engine you’re going to use. In this case, the engine came out of a Mooney and had sat for the past 10 years awaiting a time when it made sense to rebuild it. The price was reasonable for an angle-valve IO-360 which, despite having 20 extra horsepower (200 HP vs. 180 HP), is not as sought-after as the straight-valve models which tend to be about 40 lbs lighter. Of course, I intend to lighten the engine with a lightweight starter, alternator and ignition. The IO-360A1B6D has an odd arrangement of magnetos, using a single shaft to drive a pair of magnetos mounted in a housing, unlike the more common arrangement of one on each side of the engine. This might be a deterrent for some people, but I’m planning on running dual electronic ignitions with a backup electrical system, so it’s not as much of a concern for me as it might be for someone else.

My biggest concern in buying a used engine was that it had a prop strike that was not recorded in the logbook. This would not be the first time a damaged engine was quietly removed and sold to a broker and passed through enough hands that all hope of finding out the origin of the engine is lost. A prop strike generally ruins the crankshaft, the single most expensive part of the engine. But this engine had a logbook with it, along with a tail number of the plane from which it had been removed. So I tracked down the plane in the government database and called the owner and asked if there ever was a prop strike that he knew about because if a gear had collapsed and caused a prop strike, that event would have likely made it into the logbook of the aircraft, even if it was missing from the logbook of the engine. In talking with the owner, he told me that the previous owner decided to go with a factory new engine because he felt it would more than pay for itself with the increased resale value of the airplane. I had to agree with that logic because it also allowed him to get the more convention arrangement of magnetos, which also increases the perceived value of the plane. So the engine logbook history appeared to be legitimate.

I decided to buy the engine. One of the advantages of getting a local engine is that you don’t have to worry about how to get it shipped across the country which on a 300 lb engine that is quite bulky can get very expensive.

The next step was to figure out how to move it to my hangar. I figured it would fit in my Durango, but I didn’t know where I could borrow an engine hoist to lift it and put it in and then remove it when I got it to my hangar. I looked through Harbor Freight’s website and found that they had a lift that was very reasonably priced that appeared to fold up and come apart quite easily. That was important to me because I knew I’d have to put it in the back of the Durango along with the engine. As you can see from the photo, the engine fit nicely into the Durango. That SUV has now transported every large part of the plane to the hangar, including the fuselage, wings, canard, canopy, turtleck and engine. I worried when I sold my truck that I’d really miss it, but the versatility of the Durango continues to impress me.

Here’s the engine sitting in the hangar. The next step is to get the engine mount so that it can be fitted to the firewall and then the cowlings fit around it. I will have some surgery to do on the cowlings because this engine has tuned intake manifolds and they take up more space than ordinary intakes and are largely responsible for that extra 20 HP.

How to replace surface elements on an elecric range


A few months ago, I repaired the washing machine and wrote about it in a blog posting. Lately, our Whirlpool stove was acting up, not heating up its burners (aka surface elements) until they were ‘wiggled’ a bit. It’s actually been a recurring problem for a while, but was isolated to just one or two elements. Over the past year, it seemed that all of them have been having the same issue at one time or another.

First I took them out and noticed that the contacts were pretty dirty and so I sanded them down, which seemed to help. But then a few of them quickly became intermittent again. I looked at the price of new burners online and found them to be priced quite high, between $30 to $40 *each*. I also realized the receptacles that these coiled burners plug into, which cannot be cleaned, were the the more likely source of poor electrical contact. Those parts weren’t too expensive, about $10 each, so I bought a few of them and spliced them in to replace the ones that were very worn out. This helped quite a bit and we had all 4 elements working reliably for the first time in a long time.

A few months after that I was noticing that a burner wasn’t working, so I attempted to adjust it in the receptacle and when I turned it on, I heard the a very loud pop and saw a very large blue spark jump from the receptacle. I guess that’s what I get for not ‘doing it right the first time’ and just replacing all the receptacles and burners. After that spark, that burner position no longer worked because it evidently took out the switch/temperature controller in the panel. Later, I had an experience where the other small (6″) burner did something similar and this time the spark melted a section of the burner and it came apart near the receptacle. I resigned myself to getting 4 new burners and 2 more new receptacles. I didn’t realize at the time that I’d need two new switch/temperature controllers too.

If you price out a range by the sum of its replaceable parts, you’ll quickly realize that it can get expensive in a hurry. I found that the 4 burners and 2 more receptacles added up to over $160 and with a new stove costing around $500-600, it doesn’t make much sense spend a lot of money to fix one that is 17 years old. However, I found that the entire set of burners and receptacles were available in a kit (shown below) for $72 from the and that put the cost of the repair within reason again. I wished I had seen that kit in the first place and I would not have tried to fix the range a burner at a time.
electric range surface element repair kit

It’s really not that hard to work on a range because it has a kind of hinge that lets you lift up the front just like a hood on a car. It even has a way to support the top with some wire supports while you work on it. The receptacles were easy to replace and so were the elements. You do have to be remove power because an electric range it has high voltages, so you should know where the circuit breaker is for the range and make sure to turn power off to the range when you’re about to touch anything that is electrical.

After I got the burners and receptacles replaced, I learned that the big blue sparks had damaged two of the switch/temperature controllers because I only measure 40 VAC (instead of 240 VAC) across their output so I had to replace two of those too. These parts were not very attractively priced on-line anywhere I looked, so I picked them up at the local appliance store.

Now the range is virtually new again and the pots actually sit flush on the burners which start up immediately with they are turned on. One of the more gratifying things about working on appliances is that you can become a total geek with your tools and multimeter and in the end, it results in a wife who is happy with the result :-). Very few geek adventures offer that as an incentive.

UPDATE: 2013-01-19 This repair has kept the stove running reliably for more than 5 years, and so I wanted to confirm that the fix saved us the cost of a new range and made it much more convenient to use, because we no longer worry about whether one of the burners was not heating. So if you want a stove that works like new, my recommendations is to just buy the repair kit and replace all of the burners and receptacles at once.