How many small engines do you have?
These engines help us live a simple and easier life. They do jobs for us that make our life easier and save us lots of energy, which is very important to people of all ages.
These tools make it possible to continue to live the lifestyle we have chosen. They do everything from pump water, blow snow, generate electricity, till the garden, cut brush, cut firewood, and propel a small boat.
All these engines must run, and do the jobs they were designed to do. For those of you who also have small engines and rely on them, this article is written to help you keep them maintained and to help you diagnose a problem if it does occur. There’s nothing more frustrating to us than to be out fishing and the engine won’t start or going to the woodlot only to find the chainsaw starts, but runs roughly or sputters and dies. Instead of getting your chores done, you end up driving into town to your local repair shop.
Today’s small engines are rugged little critters, and I’ve found that because of that fact, most people neglect them. Where they change the oil religiously in their automobile, they don’t on their lawnmower. They take their car in for a tuneup, but don’t remember the tiller. This neglect is the main reason their engines fail, or do not run for their rated life expectancy. Recently a friend brought me her tiller and asked me to look it over to see if it could be repaired. My diagnosis? Why did it fail? It failed because the air cleaner had never been changed. Why is this important? A small gas engine can literally ground its innards to death because of dirt that got into the combustion chamber. On top of that, the oil in the crankcase needs tl be changed. Just topped off when it was low. The oil lost its ability to lubricate, and was full of grit particles and dirt. That’s death to engines.
Two types of engines
So it is time for you to learn a camshaft from a crankshaft, and how to maintain your engines. It is not beyond your comprehension.
There are two types of Small engines. Two stroke or four stroke. At this point, the only reason this is important to you is the lubrication methods are different. The two stroke requires you mix the oil with the gas. The four stroke is like your auto engine. There is a separate compartment for the oil and a separate fuel tank.
To identify them, two stroke engines are generally used on chainsaws, weedeaters, and other tools that are used at many angles. Chainsaws are a great example of this. Think about all the various angles in which a chain saw is required to run when cutting down a tree. Upside down or 90 degree angles aren’t uncommon. So having the oil mixed with the gas keeps the engine lubricated no matter how it’s tilted or angled.
Four stroke engines are usually found on tools such as lawnmowers which stay horizontal most of the time they are in service. Thus the oil stays in the bottom of the crankcase where oilers or
other mechanical parts distribute the oil to the areas of the engine that require it. Another easy way to know is, generally, two stroke engines are on tools you must lift and carry, i.e., chainsaws and weedeaters. They have many fewer parts than a four stroke engine so they are lighter. Four stroke engines are on tillers and most lawnmowers but not all.
The oil is not only a lubricator, it also helps with heat transfer. Small engines run very hot and are generally air cooled, so it’s imperative the oil is mixed in the proper proportions in the gasoline (two stroke engines), or kept clean and up to the required level in the crankcase.
Here is a great place to buy Service kits for your annual service. Annual Service kits.
Engine cooling vital
Inadequate cooling is the second most prevalent reason for small gas engine failure.
First, keep the engine clean. It’s a simple procedure. After using the engine in the garden or mowing the lawn, let it idle under no load for a few minutes to let it cool down for a while before you turn it off. This is very important. These small gas engines run very hot, especially if they’ve just tilled heavy soil or cut high grass. Letting them cool down to normal operating temperatures before turning them off will allow the metals to cool down slowly. It will add many hours to the life expectancy of your engine.
Also it is a good idea to shut the fuel off an the shutoff valve and let the engine run until it is out of gas. This will empty the carburetor. This helps to keep it clean and have less repairs.
After turning it off, let it cool and then clean all the dirt, twigs, and grass off the cooling fins and the engine block. These engines “cool themselves” by radiating heat into the surrounding air. If they’re covered with matted grass clippings, dirt and oil, it is hard for them to cool.
Second, never remove the engine shrouds. Except to work on the engine and then always replace them. They are designed to channel air around your engine to help it cool.
Think of the system on your small engine like the air conditioning ducts or heat ducts from your furnace or air conditioning system. The ducts provide passageways to move hot or cold air where it’s needed. The engine has the same kind of system. The flywheel acts as a fan and forces air into the shrouded area around the engine, thus carrying off the heat as the cooler air races by. By removing the shroud or not repairing dents to it, you are defeating the cooling system.
Now let’s get to fuel and fuel mix. As we learned earlier, the two stroke requires you mix oil with the gas. This really can be confusing, especially if you have three or four engines that require different ratios in the mix. You will find the ratio mix in your manual that came with the engine, or many times it’s printed right on the gas/oil tank cap.
There are two firm rules on this. Use only two stroke engine oil in two stroke engines. Do not use car engine oil like SAE 10W-30W, or the like. Two stroke engines burn oil and are designed to do this, and require the proper oil in the gasoline. Mix the gasoline and oil thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly. One great method is to take your gas and oil can to the gas station and make the mix right there at the pump. Fill the gas can about 1/3 full and then add the proper amount of oil, then fill the container. The gasoline pumping quite rapidly out of the nozzle mixes the oil and gas together quite well. Later when you go to fill your tiller or generator, shake the gas can vigorously before filling the tank.
There are also High Performance Semi-Synthetic 2-Cycle Oil has been specifically developed to give a long trouble-free life to gasoline-powered 2-cycle engines and is designed for any oil injection system or pre-mix up to 50:1. The oil uses an advanced “smokeless” formula specially blended from mineral oil, synthetic oil and a low-ash additive package containing fortified dispersant inhibitors. Lucas ashless detergent inhibitor package minimizes spark plug fouling, pre-ignition, ring sticking and combustion chamber deposits. The user can expect cleaner exhaust ports and spark plugs, less carbon buildup on the piston rings, skirts, crown and under crown areas. It also contains exclusive detergents and lubricants. The end result of this advanced technology is a more thorough burning of the fuel, resulting in more power and fewer emissions.
Where to find Simi-Snthetic 2-Cycle oil. Two Cycle oil!
The oil must be in very small particles and suspended evenly in the mix, so the engine gets lubricated evenly. If the oil is not mixed thoroughly, the engine starves for lubrication, and the spark plug gets big “globs” of oil stuck on it so it can’t fire. You’ll spend wasted time taking out the plug, cleaning and drying it to keep your engine running.
Gasoline is also important. Head for your manual for types of gasoline and octane rating your engine requires. Some older engines require leaded gasoline. Most of the newer engines run on leaded or unleaded.
Once gasoline is on hand, use it. Don’t buy 10 gallons of gasoline and use five gallons per year to mow your lawn for two years. Gasoline allowed to sit gets stale, gummy and in the case of ethanol or unleaded gas attract water. This buildup sticks especially to carburetor parts and air passages which eventually will restrict air flow, thus changing the air-gasoline mixture that’s required for good engine operation. This simple precaution will save you a lot of downtime and lots of money. A replacement carburetor or a carburetor rebuild will cost you $25 to $250. Using gasoline within 30 days, as you can see, is very cost effective.
Benefits of simple care
This basic information on small engines. If followed, could will save you lots of downtime and lots of expense. On one hand, I appreciate people who don’t maintain their equipment, as it is a means of income to me. But on the other hand, I hate waste. As an ad for oil filters says on TV: “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” You can do simple maintenance like cooling slowly, changing oil, proper fuel mixing, changing air filters, all for little or no cost.
Why pay me, or another technician, lots of money for a valve job, carburetor rebuild, or engine overhaul that’s needed because of neglect? Today’s small engines are rated for approximately 1000 hours of life expectancy before complete rebuilding or replacement is necessary. That doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? But figure how you use your lawnmower. Two hours a week for a six-month season would be about average, or 48 hours a year. At this rate your engine could last 20 years.
Simple home maintenance coupled with a couple of trips to a small engine technician for tune-ups and inspection over that 20-year life can save you lots of money and your engine will roar to life and do its job consistently.
Need tools for those repairs? Here is a great stop to find tools!
If you have no manual for your engine, either go to a small engine sales shop and request one or write the engine manufacturer directly. If you have an old engine, when writing the manufacturer, tell them the information that’s on the engine specification plate. If you can find no plate, tell the manufacturer what machinery the engine powers and the approximate age. This will help them get an appropriate manual to you.