Is your small engine gas equipment ready when you need it?

Glenn Owner/Technician Texas Posted   Latest  

Hello DN folks,

I realize many of you live outside of the Metro areas where self survival and preservation skills are a necessity. This may even apply to many out in the suburban areas. Utility companies often cannot meet the demands, especially in rural areas, so what do you do?

Like many of you out there, I own a fair number of equipment with small 2 stoke and 4 stroke engines. These save a lot of extra manual labor, but they need attention before they fail or when you need them the most.

With Winter coming on, there will be times some of us will be getting out the chainsaws and stocking up wood to burn for the cold days/nights ahead? Or, a power outage happens and the trusty generator that sits most of the time, suddenly needs to be put into service? What about that snow blower that has not been run since the last storm came through? Is your equipment on standby, or is it in storage? Hunting season? ATV's, snow mobiles ready? 

Usually around this time of year I start getting requests from several of my customers to “take a look at, and get it running” small engine jobs. A majority of the issues are caused by old, expired Ethanol fuel that has been left in the machines for many months. Ethanol fuels break down and become very corrosive to aluminum, soft lines and siphon (primer) bulbs. Ethanol fuels are developed for automotive fuel injection use, not small engines with carburetors.

I have had good results over the years by making sure to use Non Ethanol fuel (where available) or only use Premium fuel. I know they cost a little more per gallon, but they stay stabile. Budget fuel does not stay stabile past 30 days usually. Contrary to popular belief, adding new fuel on top of bad will not ‘renew’ the bad stuff. Top quality fuel saves a person in the long run from aggravating no starts and failures. Fuel stabilizers in my opinion will last a while, but many will start to gel up around 6-8 months time. I have tried most on the market and have only had Lucas brand actually do what it claims. (this is not a sales pitch). 

If you use a DIY pre mix fuel in your 2 stroke equipment, make sure you use a quality 2 stroke oil that is designed to stay suspended in the fuel. Conventional bulk SAE 30 oil does not stay suspended in the fuel and requires constant agitation. For those who can afford it, there is ready made pre mix fuel available, that stuff keeps a very long time. Just make sure you use the correct mix ratio for the equipment being used, they are not all the same ratio.

This past February we had one of the coldest and destructive Winters in history here in South Texas. It reminded me of the ice storms and cold Winters up in the mountains of Virginia where I'm from. This will bring a laugh to many of you further North, but you realize what I am saying. Be prepared. I was not expecting 7 days without power. I was only semi prepared for a max of 5 days. (That was being very conservative with the generator use) 

After day 5 of that storm/freeze I had no fuel available to run my 7KW portable gas generator (I had 30 gallons of fresh fuel to begin with), I found myself scavenging fuel out of everything I had and even powered up an outdoor lift so I could raise vehicles to activate the fuel pump and semi-empty the tanks of my cars. There were no fuel stations operational within 20+ miles and all the roads were closed. This made a Propane fueled generator look mighty good. I now have a large Propane tank and run a portable 15KW Generac if I need it. I can run on gas or switch to Propane when needed. Once again, I say Be prepared. 

Just think, when Spring comes, it will be time to pay attention to your lawn care equipment, much of it is the same. So make sure you empty out and reuse your fuel in Winter equipment if possible. It will make life easier when Spring arrives. Winterizing equipment goes both ways.

If any of you have trouble with small engine diagnostics, I'll be happy to help if I can. I do this work as ‘fill in’ and as a hobby all year long when I'm not working on highway or farm vehicles. Small engines run on the same principles as vehicle engines. You have to have fuel, compression, ignition and exhaust. The trick is to determine which one is the problem.

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Andrew Mechanic
Michigan
Andrew
 

Love it! I too enjoy working on small engines in my free time, and a little preventative maintenance goes a long way!

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hello Andrew, Often times I feel the simple smaller engine concepts helps me think through the more difficult ones. I started out working small gas and diesel engines many years ago. The dynamics are the same except for a number of modern additions and addons. If a person can use deductive reasoning and understand the additions, anything is possible given they have the technical data to…

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Michael Technician
Massachusetts
Michael
 

Trufuel or VP premixed 2 stroke gas works well and periodically running the equipment in the off season helps keeps equipment running well. I use STABIL on my other 4 stroke machines and changing the engine oil before the season along with fuel and air filters.

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Glen Owner/Technician
Illinois
Glen
 

X2 on the VP fuel

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Michael, I have had good results using TruFuel pre mix for a couple of years now. One of my bigger customers actually buys it by the gallon and provides me with some extra once in a while. Oregon premix oil also works really well for most any 2 stroke engine. I am glad Stabil works well for you. I think the S. Tx. heat affects it too much down here. I switched to Lucas Flex Fuel stabilizer a…

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Bryan Owner/Technician
Vermont
Bryan
 

“Some may be puzzled why I mentioned exhaust in my initial entry, but I have problems with dirt dobber wasps. They love to build nests in very small places like chainsaw and weed eater exhaust outlets. I have had quite a few over the years that only needed the exhaust outlet cleared. After that, they fired right up and ran like new. ” 100%, and this a reason I suggest that people do NOT remove…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Bryan, I recommend removing the spark arrestor when possible to clear it out when there is a bug nest involved. If it is choked from excess oil sludge, then clean it with carb spray or soak it. There are some that cannot be cleaned and have to be replaced. Sadly some think mixing the fuel to be a ‘mosquito killer’ can often foul plugs too regularly and that can be a pain to the operator…

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Bryan Owner/Technician
Vermont
Bryan
 

Hi Glenn, I completely agree, when there's a nest, you definitely want to remove the arrestor to do a thorough clean out. If I wasn't clear, I was saying that I recommend that folks do not remove their arrestors for regular use; I've seen more than a few machines end up with a scored piston & cylinder because the owner removed the spark screen, which allowed the bugs to build a nest right…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Bryan, The spark arrestor also provides slight back pressure that is important to many 2 stroke designs.

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Michael Technician
Massachusetts
Michael
 

There is a very knowledgeable guy on youtube on small engines called “Taryl fixes all” and he is entertaining as well.. He is doing a long term test on many brands of fuels and fuel stabilizers on identical brand new engines each month starting and running them.

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Michael, He does put an interesting twist on his videos. Over all, he does know his stuff though. I like that he is not picky about old or new.

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Rudy Technician
Utah
Rudy
 

Hi Glenn- As a new home owner of 3 months, I am just now learning all about small engines(I bought a chainsaw, lawnmower and weedwacker so far) Gonna need a snowblower soon. With winter approaching and me being from sunny California, and having never owned the above small engines, I have no idea what steps to take to "winterize" my equipment. I intended to Google it, but you may be a sight…

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Bryan Owner/Technician
Vermont
Bryan
 

Hi Rudy, I personally dump the fuel, and start & run the machines again & again (let them idle, do not run them dry WOT, especially 2 strokes) until they won't pop. My equipment always starts right up after sitting for months whenever I do this. I also exclusively run E-free fuel. There is no problem letting the bar & chain oil in your chainsaw sit. Also, wax the chute of your…

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Rudy Technician
Utah
Rudy
 

Bryan- Thanks

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Rudy, With any new push or riding mower, I recommend using PAM cooking spray on the underside of the deck and don't make a habit of cutting wet grass. When you are done cutting, disconnect the spark plug for safety the place a heavy weight on the handle (if it is a push mower) and wash the deck underside. For a rider it is handy to have a set of drive on steel ramps or a rider mower jack…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

I have an interesting scenario that I want to add to this post. It concerns gas weed eaters and chain saws that are bogging down during acceleration. Recently I have been working on several different units, but came across a common issue. That is the spark arrestor screen becoming choked. This happens quite often for people that over mix their fuel/oil mixture. Most spark arrestors are simple…

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