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Thread: 540 vs 520 or 550

  1. #1
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    Default 540 vs 520 or 550

    Any of you have opinions on the 540 vs the big Continentals? Do the 540s have the same issues with cases cracking? How about cylinder separation? I know the big Continentals are generally smoother. The 540 has a higher TBO and I'm wondering if it's a bit more forgiving. I have little time in or on 540s. Any thoughts or experiences?

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    I operate both the IO520 and the 540(sort of). When I bought my 185 it had 85 hours on a Western Skyways Millennium IO520 heavy case. Compressions were all mid 70s and have continued to drop yearly. Have 750 hours on her now and compressions stable around 65/80 which Continental seems to think is acceptable. Flown the 520 in a number of planes and have never experienced a cracked case or cylinder separation.

    I've operated the 540 in a one off Pitts S2 and beat the heck out of the engine. It's a 540 that has been highly modified. Doing Akro you continue to slam the throttle WFO to closed. The oil temp and cyl head temp always near red line. With that being said, I have never replaced a cylinder and the lowest cylinder 75/80 no BS. That darned Lyc has been bullet proof

    One mans opinion


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    There are so many different models of both engines that make it impossible to give you a good ans. the TSIO of both don't last as long , the older sand cast case in the 470/520 they say isn't as good as the new one, but that again is a one by one thing. Where I work we change both about as often, the boosted one more often. Most is operator induced problems if the engine goes down early in its life, other than that they are both good. Look at models of planes you want or that are operated like you intend , check what they have for power and model and see what you think will fit your needs.

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    Apples and oranges. The choice is made by the airframe manufacturer. How the engines fare is largely a product of how those airframes are used.

    In my 20 years of big bore TCM ownership the case hasn't been an issue. But Phase III cases have been around that whole time. Cylinders have been a problem. iO520s used to crack cylinders near the injector bosses. That's been fixed. There was a period where cranks were bad. That's old history. Cylinder bores failed and compression would drop. TCM changed their honing procedure and then changed the compression rules for what's airworthy or not. ECI and Superior have been plagued with ADs on their cylinders. At the moment TCM, ECI, and Superior seem to be doing well and their engine parts are working well. If a TCM engine is built properly and the fuel system is set up properly (now there's a topic!), 520s are getting along just fine.

    For or thr record, Lycoming had their issues, too.

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    I've been perfectly happy with Continentals, for sure. I've only personally found one cracked case and that was on a 182. And checking cylinders verses those ADs is always fun. I just know how bullet proof the the smaller Lycomings are and was curious about the 540. I figured it was like comparing apples and oranges.

    So now I'm curious...TCM fuel system being set up properly. Is that for carb ice issues? Or fuel burn?

  6. #6

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    Who is making the best cylinders for the IO-520? I might be looking to buy a set soon.
    I will try not to hijack the thread here, so I will start another on fuel systems.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bearsnack View Post
    Who is making the best cylinders for the IO-520? I might be looking to buy a set soon.
    I will try not to hijack the thread here, so I will start another on fuel systems.
    I avoid ECI. Been flying 206,207s for a long time, and never can remember so many cracked heads. Popular engine builder in ANC agrees. None of our ECI jugs make it to TBO. On the upside, IO520s seem to give lots of warning before they fail catastrophically, if your ear and butt are tuned properly. ECI argues that their rate of head separation is the lowest, but they don't address the cracking issue between the ports and plugs. Our mechanics always find the cracks during 100 hour, or after pilots notice hissing while turning prop by hand, usually accompanied by noticeable loss of climb performance.

    The FAA is addressing it as a safety issue, while I think maybe it should be more of a class-action lawsuit over ECI continuing to push junk cylinders.

  8. #8

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    [QUOTE=paladinw94;1435473]Any of you have opinions on the 540 vs the big Continentals? Do the 540s have the same issues with cases cracking? How about cylinder separation? I know the big Continentals are generally smoother. The 540 has a higher TBO and I'm wondering if it's a bit more forgiving. I have little time in or on 540s. Any thoughts or experiences?[/QUOTE

    I think the 520 and 540 are both super engines. No 550 experience here. I understand Lycoming sticks with proven specs, while Continental is always tinkering. Here is a very informative article : http://www.avweb.com/news/maint/1829...l?redirected=1

    It is old, but it's one of the most thorough I have seen on the subject.

    http://www.actechbooks.com/products/act584/

    Good reading..

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