Aircraft Engine Fuel System Inspection and Maintenance

The inspection of a fuel system installation consists basically of an examination of the system for conformity to design requirements together with functional tests to prove correct operation. Since there are considerable variations in the fuel systems used on different aircraft, no attempt has been made to describe any particular system in detail. It is important that the manufacturer’s instructions for the aircraft concerned be followed when performing inspection or maintenance functions.

Complete System

Inspect the entire system for wear, damage, or leaks. Make sure that all units are securely attached and properly safetied. The drain plugs or valves in the fuel system should be opened to check for the presence of sediment or water. The filter and sump should also be checked for sediment, water, or slime. The filters or screens, including those provided for flowmeters and auxiliary pumps, must be clean and free from corrosion. The controls should be checked for freedom of movement, security of locking, and freedom from damage due to chafing. The fuel vents should be checked for correct positioning and freedom from obstruction; otherwise, fuel flow or pressure fueling may be affected. Filler neck drains should be checked for freedom from obstruction.

If booster pumps are installed, the system should be checked for leaks by operating the pumps. During this check, the ammeter or load meter should be read and the readings of all the pumps, where applicable, should be approximately the same.

Fuel Tanks

All applicable panels in the aircraft skin or structure should be removed and the tanks inspected for corrosion on the external surfaces, for security of attachment, and for correct adjustment of straps and slings. Check the fittings and connections for leaks or failures.

Some fuel tanks manufactured of light alloy materials are provided with inhibitor cartridges to reduce the corrosive effects of combined leaded fuel and water. Where applicable, the cartridge should be inspected and renewed at the specified periods.

Lines and Fittings

Be sure that the lines are properly supported and that the nuts and clamps are securely tightened. To tighten hose clamps to the proper torque, use a hose-clamp torque wrench. If this wrench is not available, tighten the clamp finger-tight plus the number of turns specified for the hose and clamp. If the clamps do not seal at the specified torque, replace the clamps, the hose, or both. After installing a new hose, check the clamps daily and tighten if necessary. When this daily check indicates that cold flow has ceased, inspect the clamps at less frequent intervals.

Replace the hose if the plys have separated, if there is excessive cold flow, or if the hose is hard and inflexible. Permanent impressions from the clamp and cracks in the tube or cover stock indicate excessive cold flow. Replace any hose that has collapsed at the bends or as a result of misaligned fittings or lines. Some hoses tend to flare at the ends beyond the clamps. This is not an unsatisfactory condition unless leakage is present.

Blisters may form on the outer synthetic rubber cover of the hose. These blisters do not necessarily affect the serviceability of the hose. When a blister is discovered on a hose, remove the hose from the aircraft and puncture the blister with a pin. The blister should then collapse. If fluid (oil, fuel, or hydraulic) emerges from the pinhole in the blister, reject the hose. If only air emerges, then test the hose pressure at 11⁄2 times the working pressure. If no fluid leakage occurs, the hose can be regarded as serviceable.

Puncturing the outer cover of the hose may permit the entry of corrosive elements, such as water, which could attack the wire braiding and ultimately result in failure. For this reason, puncturing the outer covering of hoses exposed to the elements should be avoided.

The external surface of hose may develop fine cracks, usually short in length, which are caused by surface aging. The hose assembly may be regarded as serviceable, provided these cracks do not penetrate to the first braid.

Selector Valves

Rotate selector valves and check for free operation, excessive backlash, and accurate pointer indication. If the backlash is excessive, check the entire operating mechanism for worn joints, loose pins, and broken drive lugs. Replace any defective parts. Inspect cable control systems for worn or frayed cables, damaged pulleys, or worn pulley bearings.


During an inspection of booster pumps, check for the following conditions:
  1. Proper operation
  2. Leaks and condition of fuel and electrical connections
  3. Wear of motor brushes

Be sure the drain lines are free of traps, bends, or restrictions. Check the engine-driven pump for leaks and security of mounting. Check the vent and drain lines for obstructions.

Main Line Strainers

Drain water and sediment from the main line strainer at each preflight inspection. Remove and clean the screen at the periods specified in the airplane maintenance manual. Examine the sediment removed from the housing. Particles of rubber are often early warnings of hose deterioration. Check for leaks and damaged gaskets.

Fuel Quantity Gauges

If a sight gauge is used, be sure that the glass is clear and that there are no leaks at the connections. Check the lines leading to it for leaks and security of attachment. Check the mechanical gauges for free movement of the float arm and for proper synchronization of the pointer with the position of the float.

On the electrical and electronic gauges, be sure that both the indicator and the tank units are securely mounted and that their electrical connections are tight.

Fuel Pressure Gauge

Check the pointer for zero tolerance and excessive oscillation. Check the cover glass for looseness and for proper range markings. Check the lines and connections for leaks. Be sure that there is no obstruction in the vent. Replace the instrument if it is defective.

Pressure Warning Signal

Inspect the entire installation for security of mounting and condition of the electrical, fuel, and air connections. Check the lamp by pressing the test switch to see that it lights. Check the operation by turning the battery switch on, building up pressure with the booster pump, and observing the pressure at which the light goes out. If necessary, adjust the contact mechanism.

Water Injection Systems for Reciprocating Engines

These systems have very limited use in modern aircraft engines. Water injection was used mostly on large radial engines. The water injection system enabled more power to be obtained from the engine at takeoff than is possible without water injection. The carburetor (operating at high power settings) delivers more fuel to the engine than it actually needs. A leaner mixture would produce more power; however, the additional fuel is necessary to prevent overheating and detonation. With the injection of the antidetonant fluid, the mixture can be leaned out to that which produces maximum power, and the vaporization of the water-alcohol mixture then provides the cooling formerly supplied by the excess fuel.