Guide to Manual Engine Controls

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The purpose of Manual Engine Controls

"Manual Engine Controls" means the direct control by the player of the numerous controls associated with the engine. Used properly, these allow for greater speed, fuel efficiency, engine cooling and management of a damaged engine. These take a bit to learn, being left by default to the game to handle automatically, but are worth learning. First of all, one needs to set a key to toggle these engine controls to "manual" mode.

The controllable elements of the engine

Ignition and engine selecting

An engine won't function without being turned on, of course. For turning an engine on, the default key is "I". This will start an engine when it's off and turn it off when it is on. The throttle controls are separate from the ignition, an engine that is not turned on won't work, even if the throttle is at 100%, whilst an engine that is turned on but at 0% throttle will spin its propeller (although only very slowly, putting out very little power). Sometimes it is important to shut down an engine mid-flight. For instance, if your aircraft is set ablaze, turning off the burning engine will cut the fuel from pumping into the burning engine, potentially, cutting out the fuel from the fire.


The radiator's purpose is to keep the engine cool. Essentially, the radiator is a series of snaking tubes that take the hot engine coolant, pass cold air over it to cool it down, and pass it back into the engine. The controllable aspect of a radiator is the cowl flaps, labeled as 'radiator' in the game's controls options. Setting 'radiator' to 0% means closing the flaps, whilst setting it at 100% means having them full open. These, while open, allow an influx of air to enter the cooling system of the plane, reducing the temperature of the engine. However, opening the cowl flaps leads to increased drag in the surface of the aircraft, hurting performance in regards to dive rate, energy retention and straight line speed. Whilst performing a sustained climb, power-to-weight ratio is the most important aspect of the aircraft, thus the increased drag from open cowl flaps is rather harmless. When speed is the top priority, closing the cowl flaps to increase speed is a reasonable choice. When climbing at the start of a match, without the pressure of a dogfight, opening the cowl flaps to 100% to avoid overheating is also very viable. When the engine temperature is too hot (the temperature indicator in the HUD will appear orange, then red), opening the radiator to something higher than 50% is the best choice, save for emergencies where losing speed means losing a fight and, consequently, the plane. Each plane has its own thermodynamic characteristics, so it takes a bit of practice to know how to handle the radiator efficiently. Remember that more speed and altitude affect the effectiveness of the cooling system positively, whilst running at high throttle settings increases the heat the engine emits. A damaged cooling system means that the pilot will have to handle their aircraft more gently. Don't forget that prolonged overheating of an engine will lead to the loss of said engine.

Propeller pitch

The propeller pitch is the angle at which the blades of a propeller operate. The higher the pitch, the more air the propeller is pushing, which means that high prop pitch means better performance at low speeds, whilst at high speeds high pitch not only generates drag, but can also lead to engine failure from over-revving the engine. The general rule is to have high pitch at low speeds and low pitch at high speeds.

Not all propeller-driven aircraft in War Thunder have the option to control the propeller pitch manually, since many have an automatic system for this matter.

Propeller pitch needs to be set as a relative control, or else the pilot will be alternating between 0% and 100%, which is nonsensical and inneficient.

In aircraft that have no 'feathering' option, such as most fighters, setting the propeller pitch to 0% when the engine is dead helps to keep the plane gliding.

Propellor feathering

Under the "Manual Engine Controls" tab in the "Full Aircraft Controls" tab in the controls options, the option "Prop Feathering" is present. What clicking the button assigned to this control will does is to rotate the propeller's blades until they are positioned in a way that they face the wind wit their sharp ends, reducing drag substantially. This should be done when an engine is not working, enabling the aircraft to move more efficiently without the drag from an ill-positioned propeller. In multiple-engined aircraft, it is very common to lose an engine to a fighter, and thus selecting the damaged engine and feathering its propeller is the best choice in order to reduce drag and thus maintain optimal flight characteristics.

Fuel mixture and throttle management

An engine works by reacting fuel with air in its chambers, and as such requires an optimal ratio of the two to function properly. This applies to all the piston-engined aircraft in War Thunder, however, there are many aircraft that don't give their pilots an option to control the mixture themselves, since some aircraft were built with automatic systems for this. It is worth learning how to manage the fuel mixture, since the automatic management of fuel mixture in War Thunder isn't perfect and does not always correspond to the pilot's intentions. A mixture setting with lots of fuel is considered 'rich', whilst one with more air is considered 'lean'.

As the altitude changes, the optimal fuel mixture changes too: the greater the altitude, the lower is the presence of oxygen in the air as well as the density of the air (as such, the air influx goes down). This means that the pilot will need to increase the air in the mixture (making it 'lean'). In War Thunder, fuel mixture is displayed as a percentage - to have a more fuel-rich mixture, useful for top performance at lower altitudes, the pilot sets the mixture to a number close to 100%, whilst to achieve a mixture with more air in it a much lower mixture is used (however, setting it at 0% will do no more than cut the engine off). When at high altitude, such as 8500m, a pilot should be using a mixture setting close to 40%.

Turbo- and Supercharger

In aviation, the purpose of a supercharger is to provide additional oxygen required to maintain engine performance as the aircraft reaches thinner air at higher altitudes. There are two types of superchargers; mechanically driven, and exhaust driven - generally referred to as a turbocharger, or 'turbo'.

  • Turbos

Turbos are currently auto-regulated in War Thunder, which is historic in most applications. Turbos are used almost exclusively on USAAF aircraft intended for high-altitude use (P-38, P-47, B-24, B-17, and B-29). Turbochargers add significant weight and complexity to an aircraft, but it pays dividends at altitudes above 18-20k feet where the efficiency of turbos outperform traditional, mechanically driven superchargers.

  • Mechanically Driven

Traditional superchargers (mechanically driven) have between 1 and 3 gears, each suited to perform at a specific range of altitude, just like gears on a bicycle or automobile. The altitude that gears should be changed (if present or modeled in a specific aircraft) is unique to each airplane. You can either dig up period aircraft manuals and find what altitudes these gears should be changed at, assuming Gaijin modeled them correctly, or simply go into cockpit mode and look at the Manifold Pressure gauge(s) - again assuming Gaijin modeled them correctly, while selecting between different gears to see which one provides the highest manifold pressure (power) at your current altitude. Also, don't forget to go back down in gears as you descend in altitude. This becomes second nature as you become more familiar with specific aircraft.

Rocket booster

The "Ignite Booster" control is undefined by default, and a key must be bound to it in order to use the full potential of the Me 262 C "Heimatschützer" series. In these aircraft, a rocket booster is an engine that adds immensely to the aircraft's thrust output. This will increase climb rate and acceleration very significantly. In the future, it is possible that the "Ignite Boosters" control will serve to also ignite RATO (Rocket-Assisted Takeoff) boosters, since the functions are very similar.

Using MEC in RB

Plane-specific advice

Additional information (links)

This page is to be built based on _SKYWHALE_'s guide on the War Thunder Forums. The guide is very complete, and the user has granted the permission via PM to use the guide. Ling to the guide: