Performing Cirrus Oil Change


Posted on Sep 24, 2020 by Mike Radomsky

A good reason to do your own oil change, or at least to be present when the ritual is performed, is that it gives you the opportunity to inspect all things forward of the firewall and to ensure that all the little maintenance items are attended to. The more eyes go over this, every 50 hours or so, the better. This is also why there isn't much point in devising ways to change the oil without removing the cowl.So what actually to do while the cowl is off?

Oil Change Proper

Obtain mid stream oil sample
Drain oil
Drain and remove filter
Thread new filter safety wire through bracket
Lube filter gasket
Install new filter, torque to spec, and safety
Clean up mess (if any )
Fill oil
Cut open and inspect filter
Make engine log entry
Send off oil sample

Cirrus Maintenance

Check battery 1 electrolyte level
Check brake hydraulic fluid level
Lube throttle, prop, mixture, and alternate air cables and linkages
Check air filter for excessive contamination
Inspect on Any Piston Single
Exhaust system, heat exchanger (leakage, cracking)
Baffles and baffle seals (cracking, distress)
Exhaust-to-head nuts and intake manifold nuts (security)
Intake manifold hose couplings and clamps (security, leakage)
Cylinder bases (discoloration)
Spark plugs (security, leakage)
Magnetos (security)
Hoses, wiring, and control cables (chafing)
Engine control rigging (full travel, cushion)
Crankcase (oil or fuel stains, cracking)
Engine mount (security, sagging, cracking)
Nose gear (security, cracking)

Cirrus Foibles (-20 and -22 combined)

Alternator 1 field wire connection (security)
Alternator 1 terminal posts (security) (chafing)
Alternator 2 mounting flange (cracking, leakage)
Starter main wire (security)
EGT and CHT probes (security, wire chafing)
Oil cooler mounting flange (cracking)
Baffle brackets at aft top, fore cross member, and lower fore (cracking)
Alternate air duct bracket (cracking)
Landing light (security, interference with engine)
Air filter (interference with cowl)
Fuel spider (security)
Cowl/engine interference in general

A Step-by-Step Tutorial

The following is an article originally contributed by Mike Radomsky as an article for members. Imported to COPApedia by rhelsing. Modified by n521jl

Today my friend Alex kept me company while I did an oil change on N1MR, so I pressed him into service as a photographer. I've been wanting to document the process I use for a long time, but oily hands and cameras don't go together well (not to mention simply not having enough hands).

CAVEAT 1 - My usual: What I do isn't necessarily smart, proper, correct, etc... emulate at your peril. Mostly, what I'm hoping to get out of this is good feedback from others who do their own oil changes - suggestions on how to do things better/smarter/cleaner/faster/safer etc.

CAVEAT 2 - An oil change provides a great opportunity to do lots of other things, many of which are documented in posts like this one. (Actually, the entire thread has lots of good ideas). I documented a few, but not all of these. One I wish I'd photographed was the lubing of the throttle/governor cables - I'll try to remember to do that in about 30 engine hours from now.

CAVEAT 3,4 etc.. - Mine is a late 2003 vintage SR22. There are slight differences among models, particularly in the design of the cowling. Not all the photos came out properly - I've used some 'substandard' ones where I felt the content was still worthwhile. Some of the sequences could easily be done in a different order; others make sense (to me) only the way I do them.


It is important that everything that you need is available for you at the time you do oil change. Write everything you need and buy it ahead of time. The initial investment is about $290 to $400. Once the essential tools are purchased, a typical oil change will cost you $70 to $90. The variation is due to oil type, oil analysis and oil filter prices.

Estimate 4-5 hours on your first time and then 3-4 hours on subsequent changes. The most important thing to remember: "Slow is fast". Do not rush through it, take your time and you will complete it faster than you expected.

Here is what I prepared before I started oil change:



Remove the four screws that hold the upper/lower cowl halves together behind the propeller.

Orient the propeller with one blade down in preparation for upper cowl removal.


cowl quick-release

Undo the quick-release catches along the sides and top of the upper cowl.

Carefully remove the upper cowl.

cowl Removal

cowl Placement

Place the cowl shell on a piece of cardboard, carpeting, etc; inspect inside for evidence of scuffing, scraping, friction, heat etc.

Unscrew and remove plate behind the nose wheel strut (Note: For the earlier G1 and later G2 and beyond Series the bottom cowling is in two halves and you need to unscrew the connections between the halves and remove each half of the cowl separately).

Nose whell strut


Re-orient the propeller with one blade straight up for lower cowl removal.

Disconnect the landing light connector near the external power connector/MCU and tape it to the side of the plane. Release all but the two topmost quick-release catches for the lower cowl shell. On my airplane, the final step in removing the lower cowl takes two people (hence no photo). Each stands on one side, releases the top catch, stick the screwdriver in their back pocket, and "persuade" the cowl down the nose wheel strut. Some pulling by each away from the longitudinal centerline of the airplane is needed to spread the cowl so that it doesn't scrape the blades of the propeller as it comes off

Landing light

Landing light connector taped to the side of the plane, so that I don't forget to connect it later...

Inspect the inside of the lower cowl shell as done with the upper shell in step (6), then stow on soft surface.

Lower Cowl Shell

Nose whell strut

Set up container for receiving oil. I use a plastic thingy I bought at a car parts store, designed for oil changes. I use a couple of small garbage cans to stand it below the engine, mostly because I keep forgetting to buy a longer hose than the one I've been using for the last four years I attach the hose to the quick-drain, push it up and give it a twist to start the oil flow.

After the oil has been flowing for about 30 seconds, I capture a small sample to send to Blackstone Labs for analysis:

Lower Cowl Shell


Using an awl and a small hammer, I punch a couple of holes in the oil filter so that it can empty properly – holes are preferably small and in the very top or on the top section of the filter. In this thread, Fred Sponsler and Roger Whittier suggested waiting overnight after this step, but today I was impatient. I waited about an hour while I did lots of other things, and I had minimal oil mess when I finally removed the filter.

Now's the time to do other stuff so that the oil has a chance to drain completely. I start by giving the entire engine a good rub with the Mark I eyeball.

Lower Cowl Shell


Is there anyone who doesn't need a ladder to inspect the top half?

I open the brake master cylinder...

Lower Cowl Shell


... and check the level using a homemade "dip stick". A cable tie works well. This one's a little fancier - I cut it out from some (nylon?) stuff that was used as a strap around a cardboard carton. It has a 'shoulder' that stops it at the top of the cylinder, which makes it easier to judge how far the MIL - H5606 is from the top. Any plane with Beringer brakes uses a different fluid, consult your AMM.

This day my brake fluid level was fine. I use a kitchen baster to add fluid if needed.

Lower Cowl Shell


Time to check the battery electrolyte levels. I start by removing the battery cover using 7/16 socket.

Next, I remove the individual caps for the cells. Today, all but one cell - the one on the right in the photo - were fine. The level on the one cell was a little low. The difference is vivid to the eye, much more subtle in the photo. The clue is that the surface of the electrolyte in the rightmost cell is flat, while there is a complex-shape meniscus in the ones that have enough.

Here's some important tips to remember: From this post. If you're low on fluid, never ever add acid back. Only add distilled water until it is 1/4 above the plates.

SLOW CHARGE battery using 2A until its back to full charge, THEN replace the remaining missing fluid with more distilled water until at the top fill line.

Ok, why do it this way you ask? Well...

Apparently if you try to fill all the way to the top and then charge the stuff will overflow, which could create a mess or worse a hazard. Why overflow? Because the plates will give up fluid when charging. On the other hand, if plates remain exposed somehow, when charging at the pace of the built-in alternators (instead of gently by a battery minder or tabletop 2A etc) you can boil off even more, which could lead to battery death from the plates overheating. (Trust me on this point, I fried my boat's generator battery and it was ugly).

So, after topping enough WATER just above the plates, and AFTER slowly charging it up, THEN you finish off with more water to completely bring the volume to full in the cell.

Lower Cowl Shell

Battery Water

I use a turkey-baster to add distilled water to bring up the level where needed.

Put the caps back and dry up the inevitable spills.

Battery Caps


There are lots of places to get distilled water - Walgreens sells it for ironing, automotive stores sell it for radiators and batteries. As far as I know, any distilled water is fine.

After I've completed ALL the "engine housekeeping" - including inspecting the air filter, lubing the throttle and governor cables, etc., it's time to finish up the oil change. I start by putting some rolled-up paper towel under the oil filter, much the way my barber puts something around my neck. He catches hair, I'm hoping to catch oil drips. This step can be painful if the engine is still hot!

Safety Wire

Safety Wire Cut

Now I cut the safety wire that would otherwise prevent the oil filter from being removed.

I use a 1 inch socket wrench to remove the filter.

Safety Wire


I clean the base of the oil filter mount with a paper towel, taking care not to leave any residue behind. Note the remaining safety wire, which I cut off.

I place the oil filter on the oil drain pan so that any remaining oil can exit.

Safety Wire

New Filter

My new CH48108-1 filter... If you have room you may use 48109 filters which are taller and have more filtering capacity. In air conditioned aircraft the short filter is recommended for fit reasons. If you do not have air the taller one is the recommended filter. Filters are also made by Tempest and the part number is AA48108 or 109.

I record date, Hobbs and oil type (who knows who might be doing the next oil change)

Record Date

New Filter

Before installing the new filter, safety wire must be put in place and "started". I cut a piece about three times as long as the filter itself.

I feel for the hole at the base of the filter mount by braille - it's impossible to see - and thread the wire through. Then I use a safetywire- twisty-thingy to twist just enough to reach the top of the filter.

Record Date

Filter Lube

I wipe my finger clean (honest!) then spread a thin layer of Dow Corning 4 (a.k.a. "DC-4") paste onto the filter gasket (this step is not required if you are using “SPPIN-EZ” made by Tempest. Those gaskets are prelubed).

Installing the filter is simply a question of spinning it onto its screw thread until it's "wrist tight", then tighten a little more with a socket wrench. Technically, one should tighten to the correct torque (16 to 18 foot pounds of torque) - used to do that, until I found that I can get it just about "on the money" every time by feel. After it's in place, the other end of the safety wire needs to be attached to an "ear" on the filter, in a direction that would prevent the filter from LOOSENING. Sometimes those ears are practically flat against the filter top, so I have to raise the ear a tad to get the wire through - this was the case today.

Filter Install

Safety Wire

I use the safety-wire-twisty-thingy tool to finalize the safety wire. To be strictly correct, the wire should be twisted in the opposite direction after passing this 'node', but I've been assured by an IA friend that this rule is among many that are commonly ignored in most shops. What's important is that it's not going to come undone... and that the end is bent over, so that it doesn't impale the next hand that wanders by.

Time to start adding back oil. It's very important to remove the tube that runs to the drain pan below - I don't want to be yet another guy who pours eight quarts THROUGH his engine, into the drain pan! With the tube removed, any leak from my quick drain will be very obvious. I give each quart a good long time - no rush, because I've still got plenty to do. I leave the quart bottle in the funnel to drain while I go about the rest of the steps, and come back from time to time to add another quart.

Oil Install

Safety Wire

My main remaining job is to cut open the filter, so that I can get a good look at the filter element and send a sample off to Howard Fenton at SECOND OilPINION. I use a simple cutter that I bought from Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Company.

Time to start adding back oil. It's very important to remove the tube that runs to the drain pan below - I don't want to be yet another guy who pours eight quarts THROUGH his engine, into the drain pan! With the tube removed, any leak from my quick drain will be very obvious. I give each quart a good long time - no rush, because I've still got plenty to do. I leave the quart bottle in the funnel to drain while I go about the rest of the steps, and come back from time to time to add another quart.

Oil filter cut

Safety Wire

Oil spatters all over as the filter concertina is spread - a good excuse to be wearing a grungy T-shirt!

The Q&D examination is done in sunlight - look for glints of metal on the surface that was on the outside of the filter. There's always some. After a few oil changes, you get a feel for what's normal.

Oil filter cut

Safety Wire

I don't throw the empty quart bottles away until I think I'm done; then I count them, to be sure I've added as much oil as I meant to!

The final step is to start the engine and run it for a few minutes. I watch the oil pressure gauge with extra vigilance on the first start after the oil change - the book says to shut down if there's no oil pressure within 30 seconds, but I've never come close. Three or four seconds usually does it. When I remember, I crank the engine with the mixture at idle cutoff for a few blades, wait to see oil pressure, then let the engine start. Not sure whether that's good, but it works within just a few blades. I haven't done that yet - I don't like starting the engine unless I'm going flying, so that will happen tomorrow. Here is a sample document of what I print, sign and paste into my engine log book.

To make the logbook entry legal, you must sign it and include your pilot certificate number and certificate type (e.g., "123456789 Commercial Pilot").

Oil filter cut

This article was migrated from COPApedia, reviewed by Roger Whittier.

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