As mentioned earlier, one disadvantage of the float-type carburetor is its icing tendency. Carburetor icing occurs due to the effect of fuel vaporization and the decrease in air pressure in the venturi, which causes a sharp temperature drop in the carburetor. If water vapor in the air condenses when the carburetor temperature is at or below freezing, ice may form on internal surfaces of the carburetor, including the throttle valve. [Figure 6-11]
The reduced air pressure, as well as the vaporization of fuel, contributes to the temperature decrease in the carburetor putting you at risk for carburetor icing. Ice generally forms in the vicinity of the throttle valve and in the venturi throat. This restricts the flow of the fuel/air mixture and reduces power. If enough ice builds up, the engine may cease to operate. Carburetor ice is most likely to occur when temperatures are below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) or 21 degrees Celsius (°C) and the relative humidity is above 80 percent. Due to the sudden cooling that takes place in the carburetor, carburetor icing can occur even with temperatures as high as 100 °F (38 °C) and humidity as low as 50 percent. This temperature drop can be as much as 60 to 70 °F (15 to 21 °C). Therefore, at an outside air temperature of 100 °F (37 °C), a temperature drop of 70 °F (21 °C) results in an air temperature in the carburetor of 30 °F (-1 °C). [Figure 6-12]
The first indication of carburetor icing in an aircraft with a fixed-pitch propeller is a decrease in engine rpm, which may be followed by engine roughness. In an aircraft with a constant-speed propeller, carburetor icing is usually indicated by a decrease in manifold pressure, but no reduction in rpm. Propeller pitch is automatically adjusted to compensate for loss of power. Thus, a constant rpm is maintained. Although carburetor ice can occur during any phase of flight, it is particularly dangerous when using reduced power during a descent. Under certain conditions, carburetor icing could build unnoticed until power is added. To combat the effects of carburetor ice, engines with float-type carburetors employ a carburetor heat system.