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Old 12-30-2012, 11:56 PM   #1
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Question Winter prop changes

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Does anyone change there props for the winter?
I was thinking about this yesterday, in the winter the air is less dense so using a different prop might help give the plane more power but less battery consumption? If the air is less dense a prop would need to push more air then it would if the air is more dense like in he summer. And because he air is less dense the prop will be able to spin a prop with more pitch with less battery consumption.
What do you guys think? Do I have anything right? Please enlighten me on the topic.

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Old 12-31-2012, 03:50 AM   #2
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Re: Winter prop changes

Actually it's the other way around. Air Density increases as temp drops. As for the prop changes that's a good question. Can't wait to see what the experienced guys have to say. I would presume the difference would be negligible.
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Old 12-31-2012, 05:20 AM   #3
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Re: Winter prop changes

Leave your prop and enjoy the extra pull power. The colder air will make your engine run stronger. The effect on the prop itself isn't noticeable.
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Old 12-31-2012, 06:53 AM   #4
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Re: Winter prop changes

It is true the air is actually thicker at colder temperatures. With real planes and helis we enjoy a performance boost and generally better visibility in winter.

Having said that, there are a couple of differences that can affect your performance. Since I'm not 100% sure you run electric I will list what I know for both electron and nitro apps.

With electric the battery performance can drop drastically in cold temps. You will find both the output current and duration much less than normal. You should plan for a much shorter flight time. You can help by keeping the batteries warm until flight, but if other systems need to be normalized to the environment, (with helis this was critical to prevent gyro drift) then they would have to remain separate to just before flight.

Motors, ESC's and even batteries will not suffer damage in cold weather, but if there are systems that must remain lubricated with grease or liquid that can become thick and draggy.


With nitro there are a few factors that I've found help a lot: With fresh fuel bathing the crankcase and bearings 2-strokes are not as hard to turn. My 4-strokes can become extremely difficult to flip fast enough to start reliably when cold soaked. This is also important even once fired up as you should allow at least a couple of minutes idle before whacking open the throttle to allow the motor to warm up. Otherwise you can contribute to severe internal wear.

2-strokes can exhibit cold weather cutout, especially if the throttle is dropped from full to idle as a good injection of fresh fuel/oil into the chamber can swamp and cool the glow plug. I find I can run the OS #8 plug down to approx freezing, with the hotter #3 if I want to fly below that. If I still have problems, which is common when running any engine beyond side mount, (towards full inverted) then I will eat the expense and run the OS "F" four-stroke plug.

If you do get the engine to run reliably you will find a very nice increase in performance, with good acceleration and climb with an added stream of white from the exhaust. This moisture can cause problems at the end of the day as it will quickly condense inside as the engine cools. On any engines with access I cap both the carb inlet and exhaust as a normal procedure at the end of every flying session and the remain on during storage. This minimizes dirt or airborne moisture from getting back into the engine as it cools, during transport or in storage. In cold weather that simply occurs much sooner.


Not specific to either electric or nitro, but one common problem I have found in cold weather is cracking of CA hinges, (personally I never use them). Even in warmer temps they can eventually fail due to fatigue or improper installation. It just happens much sooner as the plastic becomes brittle.

Heat shrink covering, plastic and even wood structures can also become less forgiving of pokes and prods, so careful handling is even more important.

Wood props are affected by both temp and humidity. If you have one mounted double check integrity by loosening and retightening the nut if either has had a large change since last flying. Keep a close eye if the prop has suffered any contact as it can crack much easier if the wood is cold and/or dry.

Back to the batteries, that cold weather can also affect the transmitter and flight pack, (if mounted) so keep a good watch on their status during the flight session.
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Last edited by Cougar429; 12-31-2012 at 07:08 AM.
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Old 12-31-2012, 07:36 AM   #5
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Re: Winter prop changes

I have flown in the winter quite a bit(down to -22c) and have noticed an increase in peformance but had not thought it was so much the engine as the airframe and prop efficiency increase in the denser air. Likely a bit of all three.

On the low throttle flame out issue on 2 strokes we use a couple of wraps of electrical tape around the head or a hose clamp on the head to help keep the glow plug warm.

With 4 strokes, I don't recommend running them in cold weather at all as the condensation issues are huge. The crankcase and valve train load up with water and complete dissassembly after a day of flying is the only sure way of getting that moisture out! A 2 stroke flushes the crankcase on every revolution but in a 4 stroke it's dead airspace. Yes this is from personal experience! The push rods, lifters, camshart & crank bearings turned into a siezed up rusty mess!

I hadn't thought of changing props for cold air operation, just enjoyed the increase in climb rate - I suppose if the difference was huge then perhaps the prop you were using was too small for warm weather operation?
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Old 12-31-2012, 07:56 AM   #6
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Re: Winter prop changes

I forgot to mention that if electric and the prop/motor combi was borderline to begin with then colder, more dense air may push it over the edge.

I have frequently seen where electric motors are overpropped. Easy enough to tell since the motor will be too hot to touch at the end of a flight, (check the ESC and battery as well as you look at the entire system together). If anything is too hot then that component is being pushed to the limits.

Counter intuitive, but in the case of the motor being too hot going to a slightly smaller prop or less pitch may actually increase performance, with the extra benefit of increased flight times as less energy is being dumped as heat.
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Old 12-31-2012, 08:31 AM   #7
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Re: Winter prop changes

For any belly landers, I find the APC props are brittle in the winter.
At one point last year I broke a prop a flight. Prop would windmill and on ground strike snap a blade. Using the brake helps but timing it to stop horizontally while on approach doesn't leave you much time to adjust prop.
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Old 12-31-2012, 09:16 AM   #8
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Re: Winter prop changes

I wont recommend anything but will share My Four Stroke winter flying. I have two Saitos that I have been flying for five years now. I would like to say every weekend but sometimes the snow falling in My air space is just too thick to penetrate so I do have some limitations.
Winter flying is just too much fun to not be involved in. There is always lots of parking space close to the pit area, seldom a lineup on the flight line, no grass to cut and general enlargement of runway.
My Saitos have been starting and running flawless now for five years with the past two years on 30% nitro no additives no after run oil.
The 115 is in a Funtana 50x singing an APC 17. 6. W. The 180 was in a Funtana 100x and this winter is in a Rascal 110 swinging an APC 18. 6. W. Both inverted.
Going into My sixth winter with both now and they are still as strong as ever.

Here, hold My beer and watch this.

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Old 12-31-2012, 10:12 AM   #9
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Re: Winter prop changes

Actually, I have a prop stuck up on the ceiling with my skies for one plane.
A Top flight nylon one. A few years ago I turned to some electric stuff. I built an LT25 electric. Built skies for it. Broke a couple of props, digging I found a 30 yr old Nylon prop that works well.
So my answer is that I have changed due to winter flying. But only for durability, not a performance issue, as the original poster was looking for.
After 40 yrs of this, I'm more into making sure it runs reliably and joining in on the fun. We have been fortunate enough to fly the past couple of days. I was using a 62cc Gasser, still with a wood Zinger prop. Not for performance, but in case I smoked it!
FishFly - FunFly, Sept 11-13. Great fun!
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Old 12-31-2012, 01:24 PM   #10
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Re: Winter prop changes

A buddy and I were out yesterday and the temp was 15 F Beautifull sunny day with just a bit of wind. He is glow and I'm electric so we got to wring both types out. On his first flight with a 46FX on a Turnbuckle, it was screaming its head off compared to the summer time. Had an 11-5 prop so he switched to a12-5 and the rpms were much more tolerable as far as the engine staying together. A bit better performance. He starts it in the warmed up clubhouse, so no problem starting. With the electrics, it's a matter of making the batt work hard enough to generate enough heat to keep itself warm, then you get the same run time as you would in the summer.. Ideally it should come out of the plane just warm in your hand. I run the next sized bigger props in the winter as opposed to summer to make the batt. work harder. The colder air in the winter keeps the motor running at an acceptable temp. On planes with the batt inside the fuse, you can close off the air inlets and outlets to keep the batt up to temp. Just make sure it doesn't get too hot. The little weeny batts need an overcoat like these to keep the warm as they don't have enough mass to stay warm for long. With the denser air and the bigger props, the performance goes up drastically.
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