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"POH says 'Throttle — Cracked' for starting. How far open is that? It seems like I always reduce the throttle after startup."
Use the amount of throttle that works best—and is as gentle as possible with your engine.
I’ve watched and heard so many piston-powered airplane engines roar to life and immediately rev to what sounds like in excess of 1500, maybe even 2000 RPM. This can’t be good for a cold engine. So here’s an alternative to consider.
Try a “zero-throttle” start. Prime the engine normally, and keep the throttle all the way back. Fully closed. This may not work 100 percent of the time, but often you’ll be surprised how well it works. If the engine fuel system is set properly and in good condition, your engine will likely start nice and gently, after which you can notice the oil pressure coming up, and then, you can gradually increase the RPM to 1000 for further warm-up.
I’ve used this procedure on a wide variety of Lycomings and Continentals over the years, and it rarely does not work. Just note that a different procedure is required for a hot start on a fuel-injected engine.
So give it a try! I can’t help but think this is a useful procedure to lengthen the life of your engine. And as a side-note, you’ll appear much more professional with your passengers and with everyone around the ramp when you start your engine. It’s all a part of smooth piloting operations that can give you an advantage as the preferred pilot your passengers love to fly with.