Horror Alert for your small engines

5 11 2009

Twice this year I’ve worked on small engines (a lawn mower and a leaf vacuum) that mysteriously would not run. On the lawnmower I worked for over an hour to find the coil not working. I replaced the coil and the engine still wouldn’t run.  I won’t bore you with all the details, but what had happened was that something other than gasoline had been poured into the gas tank. It smelled like gasoline. But the engine wouldn’t run. I  tried the usual corrective measures to get the engine to run. It just wouldn’t. So I drained the gas tank and put in some of my gasoline. This time when I pulled the rope it ran. When I returned it I mowed a strip to the shed where the lawn mower is stored. About 2 days later the owner called again. Again the mower wouldn’t run. And again I put my own gas in the mower and it ran. In the owner’s storage shed I discovered 2 cans —  one had gasoline in it and the other contained some other petroleum-based distillate but  not gasoline. No more problems with that mower.

This week a client brought me his leaf vacuum  because it wouldn’t run. Of course, this is precisely the time of the year he wants it to run. The vacuum’s engine had spark and it had fuel, so why wouldn’t it run?  I drained the fuel and put in some of my gasoline. It cranked and ran great.

Be very meticulous about fuels you keep on hand. Most lawn mowers, tillers, leaf vacuums, and chipper-shredders need a good grade of gasoline. Most string trimmers, small edgers, hand held leaf blowers, gas powered hedge trimmers, and chain saws need gas mixed with either oil or a chemical lubricant. I have several of these pieces of equipment and they all need different mixes of oil. One needs a 50:1 mix of gasoline and oil, another needs a 40:1 mix, and another needs a 25:1 mix. I can’t tell you the proper mix to use in each tool — I refer to the fuel can and sometimes the owner’s manual for the particular piece of equipment. Since you only use these engines a couple of times each year, do yourself a favor and mark the engine AND the can so you can quickly determine which fuel mix you need. A Sharpie is a great thing!


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