Things to Consider When Overhauling an Engine

Repower Article - 04/23/08

Does Your Small Engine Need An Overhaul?

Small engine vehicles, like lawn mowers, landscaping equipment and golf carts, can last for many years when properly maintained and cleaned.  When monitored regularly, issues with the engine’s performance can be fixed quickly so that they do not evolve into bigger and more serious issues.  There will be times however, when issues with the engine cannot be fixed by simple maintenance or small fixes. When this happens, a complete overhaul or replacement of the engine may be necessary. 

Overhauling or replacing your small engine is not something to be done flippantly.  It is important that the owner check all other possibilities before cutting their losses and getting a new engine.  Often times, irregular sounds within the engine or declining performance can be fixed with oil or other fluid changes, carburetor fixes, or a thorough cleaning.  

So when should you consider overhauling or repowering your small engine?  The following are signs that your engine needs serious help, and may require a major update.

Mechanical
According to Samuel M. Goldwasser of Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ, broken, damaged, or bent engine parts are a strong indicator that an overhaul is needed. These types of problems will cause your mower or cart to fail to start. It may also cause shaking or vibration if the engine does in fact turn over. If the mower makes a lot of loud noises or strong thuds when started or attempted to start, this strongly indicates that there is a mechanical problem.

Compression Changes
Lack of oil or strain on rings, valves or gaskets can cause low compression. Depleted compression will result in the inability to start the mower. It can also cause the mower or cart to lose power very quickly after it is successfully started.  Like an automobile, failure to remain started is a clear indicate that there are problems related to the starter system and/or engine cylinders.  Low compression, according to Goldwasser, may not require a complete overhaul, however, but may require replacement of the rings or cylinder head.

Noise
Excessive noise when the mower or cart is running is the first sign that something is wrong.  These sounds indicate that pieces are hitting others inappropriately.  Knocking or banging can be caused by a worn out engine or a piece that has worn out or is about to.  Noises happen in these vehicles. Investigate the engine through regular maintenance to see if these noises are new, understandable or fixable before going down the replacement or overhaul route.  Unusual sounds may be fixed quickly. However, if they persist or are clearly out of the norm, have it looked at right away. 

Deciding to overhaul your small engine depends on your level of confidence with repairing your equipment yourself.  If boring cylinders and carburetors seems daunting, repowering your small engine with a small engine replacement kit may be a better alternative. These kits are rebuilt, higher powered small engines that come with all the necessary replacement parts and clear instructions for installing it. Most also come with a decent warranty as well.  Either will save you money in comparison with replacing the entire piece of equipment, but one may be easier and more efficient than the other. 

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