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Oil Coolers, '101'

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Oil Cooler Facts, Trivia, and Basic Information - designed to help widen the gap between fiction and what's really going on, here.

For the most part, aircraft engine oil coolers fall into one of two categories: Remote mounted, or Engine mounted. And it's easy to remember which-is-which: Continental - or "TCM" powered aircraft use engine mounted oil coolers  - and everything else uses a remote mounted oil cooler (with only a few exceptions).


Remote mounted oil coolers, though they come in many different shapes and sizes - and are represented by hundreds of different part numbers, are all basically similar; They mount to the airframe (as opposed to the engine itself), with hoses being used to carry oil to and from the engine.

Continental, engine-mounted oil coolers are just the opposite (in more ways than you might expect); Yeah, they attach directly to the engine - and therefore need no hoses to carry oil between the cooler and the engine. Also unlike remote mounted oil coolers, "TCM coolers" do not come in a great many "shapes and sizes" (basically, there are front-of-the-engine mounted TCM coolers, and there are those that mount to the rear of the engine). Still, obtaining the correct replacement front-mounted oil cooler for your TCM engine can easily erupt into a sizeable pain in the posterior for the unwary.


Far and away, Continental type oil coolers (the front-of-the-engine mounted variety) cause more hair loss among mechanics, and the people who sell them to mechanics, than any other type of oil cooler.

Here's why: There are two basic varieties of front-of-the-engine type Continental oil coolers; 8-bolt and 12-bolt (indicating the number of bolts required to attach the oil cooler to its adaptor plate). Within the 8-bolt category, there are several different oil cooler lengths available. In the 12-bolt category there are also several oil cooler lengths available. The 12-bolt class of Continental coolers is further divided by the availability of what's known as Congealing and Non-Congealing oil coolers.

Has your TCM engine had that 7th cylinder hold-down stud modification done to it? This is something you'll need to know in order to get the correct oil cooler for it. The "7th Stud" mod - or the absence of it -will determine not only which oil cooler it requires, but also which adaptor plate and gaskets, too. If your TCM engine is less than about ten years old, either from factory new, or factory re-manufactured, there's about a 99% likelihood that it is a "7th Stud" engine.

To compound the situation even further, it's quite common to discover (after you've received the wrong oil cooler) that the oil cooler currently bolted to your Continental engine is not of the same part number series listed in the parts book for your airplane. This often occurs when, at some point in time, somebody 'upgraded' from an 8-bolt to a 12-bolt cooler - or from a Congealing to a Non-Congealing type of oil cooler. Or perhaps they had that 7th stud modification performed at the last overhaul. In any event, the important thing to note is that there's absolutely zero oil cooler interchangeability between the many varieties of TCM oil coolers. And watch out; Just because an oil cooler seems to bolt up to your Continental engine just fine, that doesn't mean it is the correct part for your engine.


Go To Page Two... "Getting The Right Stuff for your TCM engine"

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