small engine maintenance lawn mower

Spring Prep: Small Engine Maintenance

These simple tips will keep your small engines working at peak efficiency and will save you money!

Spring is just around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about your landscaping plans for this new year. But before you get out there and start working, your machines are going to need some maintenance.

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Especially the machines that have small motors: mowers, weed whackers, edgers, leaf blowers, and chainsaws.

An attractive, well-tended landscape offers more benefits than simply looking good—it helps to grow and maintain business. The tools and machines that you need to manage your property’s landscape are going to need some minor maintenance after winter storage in order to help you keep your landscape looking great.

It’s pretty easy to keep these items clean and running smoothly. Here are the things you’ll need to do when taking your tools and equipment out of storage:

PreparationUse these small engine maintenance tips to keep your landscaping in top shape! edge trimmer and lawn mower

Start by blowing off any debris with compressed air to clean outside of a machine’s engine. This will help make engine maintenance easier and cleaner.

Check the Gas

If you didn’t drain or add stabilizer to your gasoline before storage, you’ll need to drain any remaining gas. Over just a few short months, gasoline goes bad. Oxygen causes a chemical reaction in gas, turning it into varnish, which gums up the engine and carburetor. Your small motors can be incredibly difficult to clean and can cause the engine to misfire.

Service Steps:

    • Disconnect gas tank hose to drain any gas you might have forgotten
    • OR pump old gas out
    • Change gas filter
    • Check gas cap vent holes
      • Clear with compressed air if necessary
    • Rinse the gas tank with fresh gas
    • Add fresh gas to tank and run engine for at least 5 minutes

As an added benefit, draining or stabilizing your gas in preparation for winter storage keeps your carburetor clean. A carburetor measures gas and pushes it through the engine, so a dirty carburetor can cause the engine to malfunction. Need to clean a dirty carburetor? Click here.

Check and Change the Oil

Just like a car engine, the oil in your small 4-stroke engine will need to be changed regularly. Consistent oil changes are a normal part of maintenance and ensure that your machines have a long lifespan.

Service Steps:

    • Drain oil
      • Drain plug is usually at the bottom of the crankcase
    • Check for the weight of the oil before adding — 10w-30 is a common weight

Check Spark Plugs

The spark plug is essential to the engine starting. A bad spark plug can be a major inconvenience and potentially damage other parts of the motor if left unattended to. At around $2 or less, spark plugs are an easy and cheap, yet vital, component.

Service Steps:

    • Remove plug from engine
    • Visually inspect condition of the plug
      • Clean or replace if damaged
    • Adjust electrode spark gap if necessary
      • Should be 0.030 on most small engines. Use a feeler gauge to determine
    • Lubricate spark plug hole before reinstalling

Inspect Air Filter

Your engine’s air filter needs to be kept as clean as possible. A clean air filter keeps the carburetor free of debris. A dirty air filter allows debris to get caught underneath and can cause your carburetor to sputter.

Service Steps:

    • Remove filter from housing
    • Visually inspect for damage
    • Clean the filter itself
      • If made of foam, wash with warm, soapy water
      • Apply oil to moisten it
    • If filter is made of paper, blow out with air compressor or replace depending on the level of grime
    • Make sure no debris falls into carburetor during cleaning

Cooling Fins

Just like a heatsink on a computer, the cooling fins draw heat away from vital engine parts and allow it to dissipate harmlessly.

Service Steps:

    • Remove blower housing to access cooling fins
    • Clean fins with wire bristle brush to remove debris

Other Quick Maintenance Steps

Sharpen Blades

Your mower is one of the most important pieces of landscaping equipment, and used frequently. Your mower is subject to a lot of wear and tear, but keeping your mower’s blades sharp means far less work for its engine. This will help keep your mower running strong for years.

Service Steps:

    • Unbolt blade and remove
    • Clear away any debris
    • Sharpen cutting edges with bench grinder at the same angle of the blade’s cutting edge
    • Balance blade by hanging on nail: Grind heavy side until blade sits horizontally on nail
    • Oil blade
    • Bolt back on mower

Wheel Repair

A commonly overlooked maintenance step is checking your mower’s wheels for problems. You don’t want to be in the middle of cutting the grass when a wheel falls off or breaks due to unattended damage.

Service Steps:

    • Visually inspect each wheel for damage
      • Damaged or worn wheels should be replaced
    • Check air pressure and inflate to specified psi
    • Oil wheel bearings and other moving parts

It’s That Easy

Your landscaping equipment is another link to your business’s success at retaining and attracting clients. Regular maintenance will not only keep your machines working at peak performance, but will extend the life of these machines, maximizing your investment and saving you money. Within a few short hours, all of your small engine landscaping machines can be ready to work just as hard as you do!

Image “Mowers on the down-low” courtesy of Flickr user Darron Birgenheier licensed under CC by 2.0. Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Phil Roeder licensed under CC by 2.0