Reciprocating Engine Lubrication Systems – Dry Sump Lubrication System Operation

in Lubrication and Cooling Systems

The following lubrication system is typical of those on small, single-engine aircraft. The oil system and components are those used to lubricate a 225 horsepower (hp) six-cylinder, horizontally opposed, air-cooled engine. In a typical dry sump pressure-lubrication system, a mechanical pump supplies oil under pressure to the bearings throughout the engine. [Figure 6-4] The oil flows into the inlet or suction side of the oil pump through a suction screen and a line connected to the external tank at a point higher than the bottom of the oil sump. This prevents sediment that falls into the sump from being drawn into the pump.

Figure 6-4. Oil system schematic.

Figure 6-4. Oil system schematic. [Click image to enlarge]

Figure 6-6. Engine oil pump and associated units.

Figure 6-6. Engine oil pump and associated units. [Click image to enlarge]

The tank outlet is higher than the pump inlet, so gravity can assist the flow into the pump. The engine-driven, positive-displacement, gear-type pump forces the oil into the full flow filter. [Figure 6-6] The oil either passes through the filter under normal conditions or, if the filter were to become clogged, the filter bypass valve would open as mentioned earlier. In the bypass position, the oil would not be filtered. As seen in Figure 6-6, the regulating (relief) valve senses when system pressure is reached and opens enough to bypass oil to the inlet side of the oil pump. Then, the oil flows into a manifold that distributes the oil through drilled passages to the crankshaft bearings and other bearings throughout the engine. Oil flows from the main bearings through holes drilled in the crankshaft to the lower connecting rod bearings. [Figure 6-15]

Figure 6-15. Oil circulation through the engine.

Figure 6-15. Oil circulation through the engine. [Click image to enlarge]

Oil reaches a hollow camshaft (in an inline or opposed engine), or a cam plate or cam drum (in a radial engine), through a connection with the end bearing or the main oil manifold; it then flows out to the various camshaft, cam drum, or cam plate bearings and the cams.

The engine cylinder surfaces receive oil sprayed from the crankshaft and also from the crankpin bearings. Since oil seeps slowly through the small crankpin clearances before it is sprayed on the cylinder walls, considerable time is required for enough oil to reach the cylinder walls, especially on a cold day when the oil flow is more sluggish. This is one of the chief reasons for using modern multiviscosity oils that flow well at low temperatures.

When the circulating oil has performed its function of lubricating and cooling the moving parts of the engine, it drains into the sumps in the lowest parts of the engine. Oil collected in these sumps is picked up by gear or gerotor-type scavenger pumps as quickly as it accumulates. These pumps have a greater capacity than the pressure pump. This is needed because the volume of the oil has generally increased due to foaming (mixing with air). On dry sump engines, this oil leaves the engine, passes through the oil cooler, and returns to the supply tank.

A thermostat attached to the oil cooler controls oil temperature by allowing part of the oil to flow through the cooler and part to flow directly into the oil supply tank. This arrangement allows hot engine oil with a temperature still below 65 °C (150 °F) to mix with the cold uncirculated oil in the tank. This raises the complete engine oil supply to operating temperature in a shorter period of time.