Why are car engines serviced differently than airplane engines?

So this is not a question directly related to car but still important one…Airplane engines are well studies by the manufacturer. Especially piston engines are generally recommended to be overhauled with 2000 hours of usage (for car @55MPH, reflects 110K - surprised?). Those engine are also required to have oil changes every 50 hrs (2750 miles). Often filter and oil analysis (expensive) is done by owners (optional). Why do car engines are not shown same love?

Because cars don’t fall out the sky when the engine quits . There has not been 3000 mile recommended oil and filter change for vehicles for years .
Not sure where you got this question because you are comparing Apples and Oranges.


As @VOLVO_V70 pointed out… cars don’t fall out of the sky and kill their passengers when they stop.

Would YOU accept 3000 mile oil changes and complete engine teardowns on your car’s engine at 110,000 miles? You wouldn’t.

Aircraft piston engines cost $50,000 to buy new and $20,000 to overhaul plus R&R labor. Nearly any car can have a remanufactured engine installed for less than $4500 complete and new for $6500.

Any modern car should last 200,000 miles with little more than oil and coolant changes.

I’ll ask you a question back… why aren’t aircraft engines built as well as automotive engines?


Airplane owners pay for maintenance because engines are expensive, as Mustangman pointed out.
The engines in my Piper Seneca (Lycoming (L)IO360C1E6’s (the right engine turns “backwards”) cost over $35000 for factory overhaul-and that’s an exchange price)
The consequences of an engine failure - even in a twin like my Seneca, are far more dire than an engine failure in a car. Also, the accessories -alternators, vacuum pumps, etc. get replaced or overhauled at “TBO”-time between overhaul. It’s no fun to have an alternator failure while flying in the soup, or a vacuum pump failure when flying in icing conditions, or when needed to power gyros

On top of all that’s been said, another factor is that an airplane engine will cruise for hours at ~75% output, whereas a car engine on flat ground might deliver 20% or even less.
Same situation with boat vs car engines.

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A modern airplane engine would probably last that long as well before it actually needed an overhaul, but you can’t take the chance because the consequences are so much more dire.

Compare timing belt change strategies. Got an interference engine? Get that thing changed at 100k like your manual says, no matter what. Non-interference? Well, the belt in my MR2 made it 27 years and 235,000 miles before I finally changed it, and I only changed it then because the oil pump seal was leaking and I had everything under the timing cover changed. Toyota wanted me to change it at 70,000 miles, so I was more than three times beyond the recommended service.

In all likelihood those airplane engines would keep running fine for thousands of hours beyond required service intervals, but safety requirements demand extra caution.


I’m still laughing at what @VOLVO_V70 said about falling out of the sky in the event of engine failure… Oh my maybe the Duke Boys would be the only ones to say otherwise. Why do I always get a chuckle out of the things Volvo says. He may be losing his “filters” but I respect that… lol

It should be noted that the Aircraft engine service limits are very much on the “safe side” for very obvious reasons.

Compared to an aircraft engine…a car engine can basically be labelled “Severe Duty” with all the stop and go, the short trips, the low rpms seen on average etc…its very very hard on the cars engine so yes it should see more “love” for sure. But the side effects of abuse are not nearly as life threatening…and they promote new vehicle sales etc… so its sort of a safe business paradigm. No “falling” involved in car engine failures lol except for the falling of your “bottom line” that is… and compared to a trip to the coroner (in the aircraft example)…drivers seem to be ok with this.

I’d bet…if you analyze the engine oil of a piston aircraft engine at time of service, that it could “theoretically” be run much longer…nobody will do this however…its that “falling out of the sky” thing again. But since the aircraft engine runs in its “sweet spot” nearly always…it never sees the detrimental things vehicle engines have to deal with.

In fact…Aircraft piston engines are probably the happiest and healthiest engines of all (and should be…its that falling thing again)…just due to how they are run at their designed rpm and rarely anything but its designed rpm… That makes for happy pistons, oil everything really. So…you take that, add diligent safe service limits…and you stay alive longer. Given the choice I know what most pilots would choose

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I understand from my BIL, an A&P mechanic, that the engine is disassembled, measured and anything out of the allowed spec is replaced. If the engine was well maintained, very little needs replacement at the first inspection or even 2nd. So, yes, they are pretty durable.

The labor to DO that inspection is hugely expensive. A&P mechanics are well paid and it takes lots of hours. Still far less than a new engine. But as you say, you can’t take a chance.

You do that with racing engines as well. And they can cost $20K to $200K so the labor is cost effective there, as well. Road car engines are very cheap by comparison. An old-style Chevy V8 from GM is about $2400 brand new and an LS about $4500.


Sorry, but contrary to popular(?) belief, airplanes don’t “fall out of the sky”, even with with a total engine(s) failure, trust me. I’ve practiced many hours of “engine out” emergency landings.

Helicopters… now that’s a different story… sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t. Altitude at the time of the emergency comes into play.
:palm_tree: :sunglasses: :palm_tree:

Both are the stuff of Nightmares…

When I worked at an airport and flew, back in the day, I new a pilot/FAA examiner who’s brother was killed flying a Piper Twin Comanche. Counter-rotating engines, installed on newer twins, probably would have saved his life. As you know, some airplanes are more “forgiving” Than others. Early Twin Comanches were not very forgiving.
:palm_tree: :sunglasses: :palm_tree:

No real comment but I suppose it depends on where you are when the engine(s) quit. That outfit in Duluth, MN developed a model with a parachute and has saved a few souls. I like my pilots with gray hair and preferably ones that have been shot at before and survived. I sat next to a dead heading pilot on one flight and when we had a nice soft landing I asked him who did it, the pilot or the computer. He just said both so it was a little reassuring to not rely on either one too much.

I worked alongside a helicopter pilot (Vietnam vet) for years who swore that they were safer than airplanes if the engine failed because you could land them in no more than a car’s parking space.

Airplanes need 100’s of feet of relatively flat, obstacle free, landing space. I don’t remember how much altitude you needed to auto-rotate but it wasn’t all that much. My BIL said much the same thing.

Both had thousands of hours in rotary wing aircraft and a bit less in fixed wing.

Absolutely Correct (counter-rotating props)

That’s one reason why Piper re-designed the Twin Comanche, PA-39 vs PA-30 on their type certificates. Many have said that. : “In the event of an engine failure the second engine takes you to the scene of the accident”

Crash of a King Air last year near here, one engine failed on takeoff:

Probably true of engine failures, but not so much rotor problems, main or tail.

As a “fixed wing” aircraft pilot, I was advised that is was better to have my wing firmly bolted on :slightly_smiling_face: than to have them spinning around over my head. What could possibly go wrong with that? :grimacing:
:palm_tree: :sunglasses: :palm_tree:

P.S. For @Mustangman only…
I’ve gone to 100% solar electricity at the condo! Have you signed up for FPL’s Solar Together program, yet? It’s an awesome concept and a great opportunity to go solar and save money. I had a long talk with one of their Principal Engineers, a super nice guy. Great company and most innovative! I’m buying shares of parent company NEE Next Era Energy all the time, another super opportunity. America, what a country! :us:


If one was to read the worldwide accident reports in the back of Air Forces Monthly magazine each month I would suspect that one would not want to board a helicopter at all. Helicopters and fatalities seem to make up the majority of those crashes.


I went for one helicopter ride, with a friend, a Viet Nam helicopter pilot who was a very careful individual. We flew in a “traffic watch” TV news/weather helicopter that he flew after he got home from Nam. It was fun and I learned a few things.

That was 5 decades ago, plus. I have had no desire to fly in one again. They are truly dangerous when compared with airplanes, but a lot has to do with where and how they’re flown, low, around buildings, wires, towers, etcetera. Medical crews evacuate accident victims with them and often fly in less than ideal conditions.

I saw one crash at Snow Bird on a Utah ski trip, once, hauling skiers up to the top. Luckily nobody was killed thanks to the pilot grabbing a passenger by the belt and pulling him back inside before he could exit through a chopped off spinning main rotor. Helicopters sometimes chop themselves up following a minor crash landing.

For whatever reasons, they are not very safe to be in or around when compared with airplanes and I have no desire to ride in one, ever again.
:palm_tree: :sunglasses: :palm_tree:

But yet you posted it for all to read . . . :thinking:

Seems to me if you had something that was meant for @Mustangman only, you should have sent him a private message :smiley:


I personally love helicopters. I’d get in one most anytime. Flown in a twin engine single rotor in Hawaii over volcanos and took a ride with my friend in the Bell Jet Ranger he flew. Took the stick a bit, too. Very responsive aircraft. Trickier to fly than my BILs Cessna 150.

Haven’t bought into FPL’s solar program yet. I would rather have PV panels that I paid for on my house with my invertors than pay them. I’d have that now if FPL didn’t keep the price of electricity so low and I hadn’t kept improving the energy efficiency of my home.