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Why Does My Nitro Engine Die When the Glow Starter Is Removed?

If you want to learn why your nitro engine died after removing the glow starter keep reading. Also, learn more about how a glow plug works, and how you can test it.

Why Does My Nitro Engine Die When the Glow Starter Is Removed?

Here are the most common causes of this issue:

a. Faulty Glow Plug:

The most common cause for this problem is a worn-out or faulty glow plug. If the glow plug doesn’t maintain its heat once the starter is removed, the engine will stall. Ensure you regularly inspect and replace glow plugs, especially if they appear dark or corroded.

b. Incorrect Fuel Mixture:

If the fuel mixture is too lean or too rich, it can prevent the engine from maintaining its idle and running conditions. Make sure you’re using the correct fuel for your engine and that your carburetor settings are adjusted appropriately.

c. Low Engine Temperature:

Engines that are not yet at their operating temperature may stall if the glow starter is removed prematurely. It’s essential to let the engine warm up for a few moments with the glow starter attached before removing it.

d. Engine Tuning:

A poorly tuned engine can cause stalling problems. Regular maintenance and tuning are critical to ensure that all engine components work harmoniously.

e. Air Leaks:

Air leaks in the fuel system can introduce excess air, leading to lean running conditions and making it difficult for the engine to stay running without the glow starter.

f. Compromised Fuel:

Old or contaminated fuel might not ignite as efficiently as fresh fuel. Always ensure your fuel is stored correctly and hasn’t been exposed to moisture.

How can you stop this from happening?

  • Regular Maintenance: Check the glow plug, clean the carburetor, and ensure there are no air leaks in your system.
  • Tuning: Spend time learning and understanding how to tune your nitro engine for optimal performance. A well-tuned engine will be more reliable and have fewer issues.
  • Fuel Quality: Always use fresh fuel and ensure it’s the correct type for your engine. Store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  • Warm-Up Time: Before removing the glow starter, allow your nitro engine to run for a bit, ensuring it reaches its optimal operating temperature.

How Does a Glow Plug in a Nitro Engine Work?

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A glow plug is a simple yet essential component, primarily made of a coiled platinum or nickel wire housed in a protective metal casing.

When the engine is started, the glow plug is heated using an external power source, such as a glow starter. Once the filament within the plug becomes red-hot, it can ignite the fuel-air mixture within the engine’s combustion chamber.

The Principle of Catalytic Combustion

The glow plug doesn’t just provide heat; it also facilitates a catalytic process. The methanol in the fuel undergoes a reaction on the surface of the hot filament, breaking down into formaldehyde and hydrogen.

These components are more easily ignited than the original methanol, allowing the engine to start and run efficiently.

After the initial start-up, the engine’s ongoing combustion keeps the glow plug hot, which means an external power source is no longer needed. This self-sustaining heat cycle is crucial for the engine’s continuous operation.

The Basics of a Nitro Engine

To help you get the full picture, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of nitro engines. These engines are powered by a mixture of nitromethane, methanol, and oil.

Unlike gasoline engines, which rely on spark plugs and an electrical system to ignite the fuel-air mixture, nitro engines use glow plugs to initiate combustion.

Glow Plug Lifespan and Maintenance

Like any component exposed to extreme conditions, glow plugs have a finite lifespan. They may wear out or become fouled due to impurities in the fuel or incorrect fuel-to-air ratios.

RC enthusiasts should routinely check their glow plug’s condition, looking for signs of wear or damage, and replacing it when necessary. Using high-quality fuel and ensuring the correct fuel-to-air mixture can prolong a glow plug’s life.

How Do You Test a Nitro Glow Plug?

Here are the steps:

1. Safety First

Before diving into the testing procedure, always remember to follow the safety guidelines:

  • Wear safety goggles.
  • Ensure your working area is well-ventilated.
  • Keep flammable materials away.
  • Always handle the glow plug and other engine parts with care.

2. Remove the Glow Plug

With the nitro engine off and cooled:

  • Use a glow plug wrench or a suitable socket wrench to unscrew the glow plug from the engine’s head.
  • Examine the glow plug for any visible signs of damage, such as cracks or deformities. If any are present, it’s a good idea to replace the plug.

3. Use a Glow Plug Tester or Battery

The most common way to test a glow plug is by using a specialized tool called a glow plug tester. However, you can also use a 1.5V battery:

  • With a Glow Plug Tester: Connect the tester to the glow plug. Press the button or switch on the tester. If the filament inside the glow plug glows brightly and evenly, the plug is in good condition. If it’s dim, uneven, or not glowing at all, it may be time for a replacement.
  • With a 1.5V Battery: Attach the negative (-) terminal of the battery to the glow plug’s base (threaded part). Touch the positive (+) terminal to the end of the glow plug. If the filament glows, the plug is functional. If not, it’s likely burnt out.

4. Examine the Filament

Beyond checking if it glows, you’ll want to inspect the filament’s condition. A healthy filament should be coiled tightly and centered. If it appears stretched, distorted, or broken, it’s time for a replacement.

5. Check the Ceramic Insulator

The ceramic insulator is the white part located within the plug. Ensure it’s intact with no cracks. A damaged insulator can lead to ignition issues or poor performance.

6. Re-install or Replace the Glow Plug

If your glow plug passed the test:

  • Carefully screw it back into the engine head. Do not over-tighten, as this can damage the plug or engine.
  • Ensure it’s snug but not excessively tight.

If the plug failed any part of the test, replace it with a new one. Glow plugs are relatively inexpensive and are essential for your nitro engine’s optimum performance.