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Archive for September, 2013

Small engines and me

Posted by hammerscale on September 14, 2013

Some might have a love-hate relationship with something in their lives, but it seems I have a hate-hate relationship with small engines. I hate them and they certainly hate me. Or vex me. Air, spark, gas, – what can go wrong? About everything apparently, but far less apparent is the cause/solution.

Case in point was the pressure washer, 5.5 horse Honda engine GX160. It worked fine for years, then, about a month ago decides to not work. Runs great for several seconds, then quits. I, of course, check out the universal trouble-shooting guide, AKA Google. That leads me to a few Youtube videos about cleaning and rebuilding the carburetor. I took the carburetor off twice, and as expected, squirting carb cleaner randomly around in a vain hope of “cleaning” whatever it is you’re supposed to clean, only resulted in growing frustration in the” take it off/clean it/put it back on/fiddle with several linkages/get a quart of gasoline over your hands/and then try firing up the engine again” cycle of repeating events.

It was a little gummy, and I thought I had some success getting the float bowl to make a “moving around sound” Still, after the second try, the problem persisted. I ordered a new carb. $16.00

I installed the new carb today (another quart of gas down my sleeves) and fired the engine up. It ran a little bit longer, but still quit after about 30 seconds. I could hear the engine try to keep firing, but then quit.

The only thing really left was the spark plug. How often can spark plugs fail? Cars and trucks go for 75,000 miles before the recommended replacing, and I only put about 10 hours on this pressure washer each season. But, then I considered the machine is about 20 years old, so maybe……?

I took out the spark plug. It could be described as “carboniferous”, but that’s to be expected as I was running the engine rich trying to start it over and over again. The gap looked kind of big. So, one firm tap against the electrode and I declared it gapped properly.
Re-installed, the engine fired up on the first pull and ran fine.


A: It’s always the simplest thing.
B: Replace wear parts on a regular schedule.
C: All the fiddling, fumbling, and Googling and in the world can’t beat a lucky day.
D: All of the above.


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