The Benefits of Regular Small-Engine Maintenance

Purchasing a small engine-driven implement can make a dent in your budget. Tools and toys powered by small engines can cost anywhere from $100 to $10,000. That's why it's a good idea to invest in periodic servicing of your small engine. Replacing an engine every couple of years is an annoying and needless expense. Below we will review detailed information on how to service two-stroke gas engines. Following these procedures could help you put more money in the bank and less into your mechanic's pocket.

Benefits of Regular Service

Servicing your small engine tool or toy on a regular basis offers many advantages over the Wait-Until-It-Breaks Maintenance Program.

  • By establishing a service schedule, you will gain confidence that whenever you need the unit it will be ready for use.
  • By performing a number of service functions together, you will save time. You can pick up all needed parts and lubricants in one trip to the parts store. Then you need to disassemble a component only once to perform numerous service procedures rather than taking it apart many times.
  • Regular service gives you a chance to visually inspect the entire engine and related components for damage, wear, and other potential problems.

How, Where, and When to ServiceKnowing how to service is as important as knowing when. Some service procedures can be performed wherever you store your tool or toy: in a garage, storage shed, or tool shed. If the unit is heavy, you can build a ramp up to a sturdy table that is at a handy height for working. Or you can use a ratchet winch to lift the engine. Units weighing less than 40 pounds may be lifted to a workbench or table as long as you lift with your legs rather than with your back. Get help if you need it, and make sure that the unit will remain sturdily in place as you service it. Remember to always put safety first!Servicing a small engine is easy once you know what to do and when to do it. A service chart can help you determine common service requirements as well as track what service has been done. Your engine-powered unit may have a service chart in the owner's manual or service manual. Typical recommendations include changing engine oil every 25 hours of use and tuning up the engine at least once a year.The purpose of ongoing service, also known as preventive maintenance, is to keep your engine-driven tool or toy in good operating condition. Ongoing service procedures include air cleaner service, crankcase breather service, cooling system service, muffler service, lubrication, and tune-up.Lubrication service means making sure that all moving parts have sufficient lubrication (oil and/or grease) to minimize wear. Lubrication service procedures include mixing oil with fuel in two-stroke engines, and lubricating other moving parts.A tune-up consists of the adjustment and/or replacement of parts critical to smooth and efficient engine operation. Those parts include components in all engine systems: fuel, exhaust, ignition, combustion, cooling, and lubrication. Ignition tune-ups are more important for mechanical-breaker ignitions than they are for self-contained solid-state ignitions. Regular tune-ups will keep your small engine running smoothly and reduce the need for repairs.In addition, you should check other systems and make adjustments as needed to keep them operating smoothly. This includes adjusting the throttle, choke, and governor linkage, and cleaning off debris.Engine-driven tools and toys usually come with an owner's manual. While some manufacturers' manuals are more complete and better written than others, most manuals include basic information on safe operation and service. Unfortunately, product manuals are often written to reduce the manufacturer's liability for accidental misuse rather than to help the owner service the product. In addition, manuals for engine-driven products typically show how to service the nonengine components: the grass catcher, wheel adjustments, blades, chains, and other parts. Service information for the engine may be minimal or nonexistent in the owner's manual.

What can you do about this lack of information? Fortunately, there are numerous after-market publishers of service manuals for specific models of small engines. If you don't have an owner's manual, you can contact the manufacturer directly to purchase one; manufacturers also sell service manuals. Most manufacturers keep product manuals for up to 20 years. If they only have one original copy left, you can often request a photocopy for a small charge.

Knowing how to service the fuel system is an important part of caring for a small engine. Learn how to care for fuel filters, carburetors, and other major fuel system parts in the next section.