Service P+us Car Care Centre
Oct 12, 2015

4 Tips To Troubleshoot Small Engine Problems

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Small engines are critical in many home and farm operations, like powering pumps, augers, and generators; running garden and lawn equipment like chainsaws and lawnmowers; and driving quads and snowmobiles for roaming or enjoyment. Despite their many applications, small engines are often overlooked until they won’t start or run properly.

Troubleshoot Small Engine Problems

A typical engine requires fuel, air or oxygen, and a means to ignite the mixture for it to start up. If the conditions are not favourable for ignition to occur, like when your spark plugs are worn out, the compression timing is bad, or when your system does not have enough fuel, your engine will either run inefficiently or fail to start altogether.

Here are a few tips to help you quickly and easily diagnose most small engine problems:

  1. Check the fuel

    A good number of small engine problems have something to do with fuel, so this should be the first thing you check. Do you have fuel in your tank, and is the shut-off valve open?

    If you have fuel but your engine still won’t run, try to check for faults in the fuel line. Check if the spark plug is dry, and pour a little amount of fuel into the spark plug socket. If your engine runs for a short period of time, then the problem has to do with some fault in the fuel line, like clogged filters or lines, or leaks.

    Excess fuel can also cause flooding, which results in loss of power, smell of gasoline when running, and a tendency to smoke when running.

    Old fuel can also prevent a small engine from starting, because the volatile elements of gasoline tend to evaporate with time, leaving a thick and less combustible residue behind. Old fuel also gums up the plug ports, carburetor, and dries out the diaphragms. Consider adding a gas stabiliser to the fuel tank if you don’t plan on running the engine for a while.

  2. Check the air filter

    Try running the engine with the air filter removed for a short period. If it runs well, replace the air filter.

  3. Check the spark plugs

    If you are convinced that the fuel and air systems are working well, and you haven’t replaced the spark plug in a year or so, it is a good idea to do so. If the spark plug is fairly new, the problem may be in the electrical system.

  4. Adjust the timing

    Ignition of the air/fuel mixture occurs just before the compression stroke is complete. If you suspect that the timing is off, you may need to consult a professional to get it properly adjusted.

Any repair project should start with troubleshooting, whereby you start searching for the likely source of the problem, beginning with the most obvious or basic elements as you work towards the less obvious or more intricate. These tips can help you save hours of frustration as you try to identify what’s wrong with your small machine and fix it.

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