Small Engine Repair

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray

How to Store Small Engines

It seems like every blog I submit has to do in one way or another with always being prepared and unforeseen events. This blog is no exception. When we finished with our wood splitter last year I closed the gas shut off, ran the gas out of the line and carburetor, treated the remaining gas, put a note on the unit with the date and what was done and covered it with a tarp to be stored until we needed it this year. When I went to use the unit this year I immediately noticed the gas cap had been cross threaded and all the gas was drained out. The gas line shut off had been turned on and the treated gas had all drained out into the engine and through the carburetor. The unit had been stored behind the wood shed out of sight from the house. Even when living remotely we are not protected from the evils of mankind and someone had vandalized the unit.

Check Carefully Using the Smell Test

In checking the wood splitter carefully it was apparent the gas line had been turned on and the draining gas had saturated the paper air filter. In checking the oil it had a strange odor like it had gas mixed in with it. I could not tell what had been put into the gas tank The unit was still under warranty but warranty does not cover vandalism. I called the manufacturer and their technician gave me advice on what was needed to restore the unit. When you live remotely nothing is easy and this was no exception. I headed into town to purchase new oil and liquid carburetor cleaner. The first three auto parts stores I went to did not have the cleaner but did tell me I would need gasket material and gas treatment. It took a second trip to town before I found the cleaner at the last auto parts store our area has.

Getting Started on Small Engine Repair

In the meantime the new filter kit had arrived so it was time to restore the unit. The other auto parts stores tried to sell me aerosol carburetor cleaner but the manufacturer specifically stated I needed to soak the carburetor. for a few hours. All auto parts stores were helpful but differed from the suggestions I had received from the manufacturer. I therefore decided to follow the manufacturers suggestion and do it my self. First I flushed the gas tank and line making sure it was free from debris and obstruction. I used fresh gasoline to do this. Next I drained the oil from the engine. What ever had been introduced into the gas tank had made the oil consistency thick even with a little gas mixing with the oil. It required two flushes of the engine to get all the old oil out. I used 10 w 40 oil to do this. Since the engine would not start I let the first oil change sit in the unit in direct sun to warm the engine and allow it to flow easier. I made sure the unit was level so all the contaminated oil was able to be drained out. After the flushes I replaced the oil with new recommended oil. The manual stated that the engine required 20 oz. of oil so it is important to not over fill the unit and use the oil suitable for your temperature and area.

Cleaning a Carburetor

The next step was to remove the air filter cover (see photo) then remove the carburetor and disconnect the choke and throttle connection and the gas line. I immersed the carburetor into the Berryman’s solution for the recommended time in the directions. The directions also say to then rinse the part in water which I did. Several told me to rinse it with gasoline but I followed the directions on the can using water. I then put the carburetor in the sun to evaporate any residual water. I also used the air compressor to blow out any remaining water. After it was dry I reinstalled it on the engine. I then replaced the air filters and fueled the unit up with 87 octane gasoline which most small engine manufacturers recommend. I turned the fuel back on and it started on the second pull and ran perfectly.

Final Repair Steps

I would suggest if you have a small engine vandalized or forget to run the gas out of the unit that you be sure to check the oil by smelling it. Flush the system out and use a good carburetor soak to remove varnish or residue from it as described above. The spray may work okay but there are several internal areas to clean and the spray does not always reach into those areas. To finish off the job I then put some Berryman’s gas treatment into the gas to clean and lubricate any possible residue remaining in the system. There are a variety of gas treatments available in any auto parts store. When it first started the engine smoked a little but that is normal and it cleared quickly.

Small Engine Repair and Training

We prepared ourselves prior to moving to our mountain location by taking a small engine course coupled with the advanced course. That provides the knowledge and confidence to work on small engines when necessary. We believe in preventive maintenance which is the proper care and regular service of equipment and it is therefore rare that we need to do any repairs. Having some training however does come in handy when confronted with a situation like this.

When we store the unit this year after we have split our required 9-11 cords of firewood, we will store it closer to the house where we can see it and the dogs can alert us to any intruder. We will also drain any unused gasoline from the system before putting it up in case the vandal does manage to breach our security system. While vandalism is rare in our remote area it can happen and we were at least prepared and our only damage was a little inconvenience and around $100.00, in supplies.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their experiences in remote living go to: