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Winter is making a slow exodus in much of the country this year. Heavy winter snows in the North and unseasonably cool weather in South, makes the thought of spring cleanup seem a long way off. It’s easy to get complacent and put off your spring equipment tune up, but a little preparation now will save you a lot of time and frustration when you need to put your tools to work in the near future.
Start With Proper Storage
When fall winds down and your need for trimming or lawn and garden tools wane, it can be easy to just forget about them after the last use and hang them up in the garage – out of sight and mind until you reach for them in the spring. If you neglected those tools in the fall, you are probably in for either hard starting or non-starting equipment that may require a trip to a small engine service department.
One of the essential keys to keeping your 2-stroke engines in top running condition for the spring is making sure you put them away in good condition. Always drain any fuel that remains in the tank. When the fuel is drained, try to start the engine and if the engine starts, let it run its self out of fuel. This will ensure that there is no fuel in the carburetor which can turn thick and clog the small jets.
Cleaning your equipment with a rag or blower is a good practice. Over time, a buildup of grime and dirt can work its way into the engine or fuel tank and cause real problems. Also, make sure you check for any loose or missing bolts or parts.
If you do use your 2-stroke occasionally during the winter for other tasks and don’t want to drain the fuel, it helps to keep the fuel tank full and put a few drops of fuel stabilizer in the tank. The stabilizer will help reduce moisture and keep the fuel in better condition for longer periods of time.
Spring Tune-up Essentials
Performing a spring tune-up of your 2-stroke engine is really not that complicated and can be broken down to three components; air filter, spark plug and fuel filter. It is important to consult your equipment manufacturer service manual to make sure that you cover all the necessary service items recommended for your particular product.
The air filter on most 2-stroke engines is located on the outside of the engine and encased by a cover. The cover is usually held in place by screws or a wing nut type closure. Open the cover and visually inspect the filter. If it is dirty, replace it with a new filter. If there is any doubt about the condition of the filter – replace it. They are fairly inexpensive and they are the carburetor’s first defense against outside dust and impurities getting in the engine.
Spark plugs are a critical piece of your annual spring tune-up. Replacing the spark plug will ensure easier starting and proper engine performance. The first step in replacing the spark plug is to remove the rubber boot on the plug wire. Next, using the proper sized socket or plug removal tool, back the plug out of the cylinder.
Visually inspect the plug looking for things like a dark buildup of carbon on the plug or if the electrode – the wire at the end of the plug – is curled or burned away. These all indicate it is time to replace the plug. Check your owner’s manual for information on the type of spark plug recommended and the gap needed for the plug and adjust if necessary. Reinstall the new spark plug taking care not to overtighten the plug and replace the rubber boot on the plug wire.
Fuel filters are designed to filter the fuel before it reaches the carburetor of your equipment. Replacing the fuel filter on your engine can be one of the more complicated maintenance jobs in your spring tune-up, but it can be easily accomplished with the right instructions. (Your owner’s manual should provide you with the correct filter to use and also a step by step guide for replacing the filter.)
The fuel filter can be located on the outside of the engine or inside the fuel tank. Once you have located your fuel filter, make sure that you are in a safe area with no open flame source and wear protective eyewear. If the fuel filter is in the bottom of the gas tank, you will have to drain the tank.
For filters located outside of the tank, you should shut off the fuel valve on the tank. First remove the metal clips securing the filter to the fuel line and remove the filter by holding the fuel line in one hand and pulling the filter free from one end of the line and then repeat the process with the other side. Replace the old filter with a new filter reversing the steps you took to remove it.
If the fuel filter is in the bottom of the tank, after you have drained the fuel you will need to use either a bent wire or another tool like a forceps to grab the filter inside of the tank. The fuel line is usually long enough for you to work on the filter replacement and the process is the same as replacing a fuel filter on the outside of the tank. When you have replaced the fuel filter place the line and filter back into the fuel tank.
Mixing Gas and Oil
One drawback of the 2-stroke engine is that you need to mix the gas and oil together to fuel the engine and lubricate the internal parts. This is a pretty straightforward process, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Always use an ethanol-free gas in your 2-stroke engine if at all possible. Ethanol in gas attracts water which can then separate and be taken directly into the engine causing serious damage.
- Use good quality two-cycle oil and use the correct mixture based on your equipment manufacturer guidelines.
- Always use a separate container to mix and store your fuel and never mix the oil and gas in the gas tank.
- After mixing the correct ratio of gas to oil “swirl,” don’t shake the container to mix the gas and oil.
- Consider pre-mixed gas and oil widely available in the correct ratio. These pre-mixed fuels use high quality gas and oil and have been treated with a fuel storage additive that can have a shelf life of up to two years.
Utilize One Power Head to Cut Down on Multiple Engine Tune-ups
In the last few years equipment manufacturers have been embracing the concept of using one power head for 2-stroke engines that allow multiple tools to be attached to the same power head. This is a great concept in that it reduces the number of different engines that need to be maintained and stored. Instead of having a different engine for each of your tools, simply swap out the right tool on your power head for the project you need to complete.
The new and more powerful power heads available are professional grade and include attachments such as: grass trimmer, hedge trimmer, pole saw, brush cutter, edger, sweeper and cultivator, just to name a few. Although the multiple tool power head products may start at a higher price point than the traditional units, the savings in storage and maintenance may offset the cost if you use multiple tools.