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The Most Common Small Engine Problems

Many owners of small engine vehicles such as lawnmowers, golf carts, motorcycles and snowmobiles make the costly mistake of replacing their engines or entire vehicles simply because they believe the engine is beyond repair. That is rarely the case, and what many small engine owners don't realize is that replacement kits are easy to use, cost effective, and can get your old mower or motorcycle running like new again.

The first thing to do when considering a small engine replacement kit is to identify what is wrong with your current engine. Problems fall into two basic categories; failure to start and problems running after the engine has started.

Just because your engine won't start doesn't mean it is dead. There are a number of reasons an engine might not start. There may be fuel line problems. Make sure you check to see that the fuel tank is full, that the fuel is fresh, and that the shut-off valve is closed. The fuel line or inlet screen could also be blocked or the fuel tank cap could be clogged. These are basic fuel line problems that can easily be remedied with replacement and repair kits.

Carburetor problems are another reason an engine might not start. The carburetor could be blocked or the engine could be flooded. There might be problems with the spark plug or the choke on the fuel bowl could be set too high. These are also relatively easy problems to fix with the appropriate instructions and equipment.

Another obvious cause for a dead engine is an ignition problem. A number of things could be wrong with the spark plug; its contacts could be dirty, the plug gap could be set incorrectly, the lead could be faulty, or the kill switch could be shorted. These all require basic replacement or repair and are a snap with a proper kit.

If you have a compression problem in your small engine you would want to check the valves, pistons, cylinder, or connecting rods. These could be dirty, stripped, or otherwise damaged, and would prevent the engine from starting properly or at all.

Many small engines will start correctly but have problems running properly. These can pose more danger to your vehicle than an engine that simply wont' start. If left to themselves, simple problems such as overheating and emitting smoke can eventually ruin an engine and require a full-on replacement.

Overheating engines can be dangerous for a vehicle as well as its operator. Lack of oil is one of the most common reasons for overheating, as is a dirty engine. Beyond that, there may be shrouds or cooling fans missing within the engine or the gasket could be leaking. The fuel mixture might be too lean, another carburetor problem. Simply cleaning or replacing the fuel tank vent and fuel tank screen can also help reduce the chance of your engine overheating. Fixing overheating problems yourself with replacement or repair kits is much less expensive than taking the engine in for repairs or simply buying a new engine.

If your small engine is emitting smoke you might think you need to replace the engine or vehicle. Not likely. If the engine is emitting blue or white smoke then it is probably burning oil. If it is emitting black smoke it is most likely a problem with a carburetor. If it is neither the carburetor nor an oil leak, then it might be the air filter. A plugged or dirty air filter can cause an engine to smoke.

A knocking engine is a loud and obvious indicator that something is wrong with your small engine. If your engine experiences knocking it may indicate an excess of carbon in the combustion chamber, which would require you to clean carbon from the piston and head. The flywheel might also be loose, and should be replaced as needed. Another reason for engine knocks is a faulty spark plug lead, easily tested, repaired and replaced with the appropriate replacement kit.

Speaking of spark plugs, a small engine might run poorly if the spark plug repeatedly misses under load. This could be caused by any number of things, including a faulty spark plug, faulty breaker points, an incorrectly set carburetor, or a weak valve spring. All these problems can be repaired at home with a specific repair kit.

It may be tempting to simply buy a new small engine vehicle or tool when the engine starts to give you problems, but it is hardly cost-effective and doesn't guarantee you won't run into the same problems a few months down the road. Small engine replacement and repair kits are affordable, easy to use, come with the most advanced technology, and most are back by a warrantee. And with today's economy the way it is, buying a new vehicle when your engine experiences problems is silly. Fix the problem yourself with a detailed replacement kit. It just makes sense.

- Ben Anton, 2009

Repower - Common Small Engine Problems