Tech Tip - April 2008

Carter Automotive
107 West 11th Street
Coffeyville, KS 67337
Phone: (800) 225-4813 (620) 251-4700
FAX: (620) 251-2215

Small engines need attention, too!

Small engines are an important power source around our farms, gardens, lawns and city lots. We ask a lot from them with little or no thought to how they go about helping us. In the summer, we want the lawn tractor to cut the grass, tow our equipment and start up on the first crank. In the spring, the garden tiller comes out and we want an easy pull to fire it right up. A whole army of weed wackers, pruners, blowers and chain saws are asked to work hard throughout the year. But do you know what you can do to keep these machines reliable and powerful and at the ready when you need them? Well, read on to find out how a few dollars in routine maintenance can help prevent a large repair bill or complete replacement of your valuable small engine machines.

Small engines come in two main varieties: 2-cycle and 4-cycle. Two cycle engines have the gas and oil mixed together in the gas tank and do not require a regular oil change. 4-cycle engines have a crank case filled with oil and there is no oil mixed in with the gas. While many of the maintenance items are the same on both types of engines, there are some differences.

Here are the maintenance items each machine may need regularly. Carter Automotive not only stocks a warehouse full of automobile parts, but you will also find a full line of most common small engine and mower parts including belts, blades and hard to find parts for most common small engine powered machinery.

Spark plugs: Easy to change and important to do every year. With the price of fuel on the rise, every ounce counts. Spark plugs with the improper gap or carbon deposits do not run at the correct spark "heat" and can effect power output, fuel economy or even damage a piston. Replace regularly for best performance. A good time to do this is every Spring when you are getting ready to start the machine. This is even more important in 2-cycle engines where the oil mixed with the gas can more quickly form a layer of carbon on the business end of the plug.

Air filters: Keeping the air filter clean is the surest way to get the most life and best performance out of any engine. The air filter is the main line of defense against dust entering the cylinder where it can quickly abrade the cylinder wall rendering the machine "junk" long before it's life should be over. A clogged air filter changes the air/fuel ratio making the machine run rich and using more fuel which in turn can foul spark plugs and wastes gas. It also robs power from the motor making it (and you) work harder. Spend a few dollars on a new filter, screen or foam cover every year and clean it out with compressed air regularly during the season of use.

Carburator and fuel: As fuel ages, its additives decompose, it can draw moisture in the form of condensation and it generally is more difficult to combust than fresh fuel recently pumped. As fuel evaporates, it leaves behind a sticky residue called varnish composed of additives and non-volatile substances in gasoline. 2-cycle engines also leave behind a residue of oil that doesn't evaporate. There are several schools of thought on how best to store small engines when not in use during the winter season. For best Spring performance, use one of the methods below:

Belts and hoses: Rubber belts and hoses can dry rot becoming cracked and brittle. Fuel lines and filters exposed to UV light from the sun can crack causing dangerous fuel leaks. Brittle belts do not grab as well causing slippage which can affect power transfer or cause a belt to quickly burn up where it rubs on the drive pulley. Sometimes belt dressings or rubber sprays with UV protectant additives or plasticizers can extend the life of these parts. Sometimes you just have to replace them. Carter Automotive carries a full line of protectants, belts and fuel lines and will make custom hydraulic hose on demand.

Points, condensers, coils, electronic ignitions, alternators: For the spark to reach the plug and ignite the fuel, the electrical path must be complete. It is very common to try to start your engine in the Spring after it sits for awhile only to find no spark at the spark plug. Often this is due to corrosion inside one of the small, but critical electrical parts which make up the electrical system. Bringing it in to the Carter service team is the best way to get an accurate and affordable diagnosis of the problem and get running again with the right parts you need.

Batteries: If you engine is electric start, you need a strong, reliable battery. One of the worst things for a lead-acid battery is sitting around in a state of incomplete charge. This is often exactly what happens during the winter months when the alternator is not charging the battery and it slowly self discharges due to a tiny short, galvanic corrosion at the terminals, or internal self discharge. Always wear safety glasses when working on a battery and make sure the area gets plenty of ventilation to remove dangerous hydrogen gas. To get the most out of your battery:

Fuel filters and tanks: when refueling, it is easy for dust, leaves or grass clippings to fall into your fuel tank. Rust can also form in metal fuel cans and tanks due to condensation forming from humid air entering through the vent. The filter's job is to keep this debris from entering the engine's carburator and clogging the tiny orifices and channels. Protect your engine by changing the fuel filter according to the manufacturer's intervals and keeping your fuel tank clean.

Oil: much like a car, your power equipment's 4-cycle engine needs clean, fresh oil and filters to operate at it's best and last for its expected life time. Carters carries a full line of dino and synthetic oils and Hastings filters to keep you engine running for the long haul. 2-cycle engines depend on the oil mixed with the gas for all their lubrication. Use a high quality oil mixed at the correct ratio to keep the engine protected and emissions and odor to a minimum.

We hope these reminders will help you to keep your small engines running at their peak performance and starting reliably. If you are unsure about how to do something, the friendly service team at Carter Automotive will be glad to help.

It's no fun to have a weekend of yard work planned only to find out the equipment you need won't start on Saturday morning when you get ready to get productive. Don't spend the day working on your equipment, do a little preventive maintenance and spend the day out in the fresh air improving your property for the enjoyment of your whole family!

Print me and take me to one of the 6 Carter Automotive locations in SE Kansas. Our friendly and knowledgeable counter staff will help you find the perfect parts for your application at the right price.