Small Engine Care for Outdoor Power Equipment

March 31, 2022

Tractor on Farmland

When hand tools are not enough, outdoor power equipment like lawnmowers, rotary tillers, post-hole diggers, and other farm equipment can get the job done. 

It does not matter if you have a hobby farm or something a little bigger, small engine machines can help you tackle your to-do list, as long as you use the best maintenance, care, and repair practices. 

Keeping your pieces of outdoor equipment lasting for the long haul is easy with the proper care and maintenance.

Why Is Regular Maintenance Important?

Small engine equipment produces less than 25 horsepower (hp) and requires regular maintenance to ensure they run efficiently and safely. Small engines can be found in standard power equipment such as a:

  • Snowblower
  • Leaf blower
  • Lawnmower
  • Tractor
  • Tiller
  • Hydraulic log splitter
  • Standby generator

Small engines in these pieces of equipment are composed of many components that work together to generate mechanical power. Small engine parts affect different engine systems, including fuel and exhaust, ignition, combustion, lubrication, and cooling. 

Regular care of your small engines ensures you notice areas that need cleaning, repair, or replacement before it is too late. Year-round care and maintenance can extend the longevity of your equipment, saving you time and money in the long run.

What You Need to Maintain Small Engine Yard Tools

Pouring gas in lawnmower

Keeping your outdoor equipment in working order requires the right set of small engine repair tools. 

What do you need to keep your equipment running smoothly all season long?

Refer to your owner’s manual for maintenance guidance.

Best Small Engine Maintenance Tips

Woman changing lawnmower oil

Small engines are a significant investment that requires regular engine maintenance to maintain high engine performance. While battery-powered equipment is becoming increasingly popular, gas-powered equipment is still popular and can last for years with the proper engine maintenance.

Here is how to keep your small engines happy and healthy.

Read the Owner’s Manual

Care and maintenance practices vary by make and model. For more information about small engine care and maintenance for your model, consult the appropriate product manual. The owner’s manual has maintenance requirements that keep your equipment and engine in peak performance.

Tune the Engine

Spring is one of the best times to do a small engine tune-up. Regular upkeep of the spark plug, air filter, and oil should be performed annually or sooner, depending on its frequency of use and storage conditions. Refer to your owner’s manual for tune-up recommendations. This annual practice should not take more than 10 minutes, at most. 

Clean or Replace the Air Filter

Air filters are essential to keep dirt and other debris from reaching your engine and carburetor. Clean air filters ensure your engine gets maximum airflow and the right level of fuel and air. Check the owner’s manual for recommendations on how often to change your air filter. In some cases, you may need to replace the air filter more frequently than suggested. 

Do not attempt to blow the debris off with compressed air since it can clog the intake system and reduce the engine’s longevity. Pleated, paper air filters require replacement, while foam air filters may be cleaned with warm water and soap, air-dried, and saturated with engine oil before reinstallation.

Check and Change the Oil Regularly 

Pouring gas in mower

Checking your oil frequently will ensure your equipment runs without a hitch. Ideally, engine oil should have an amber color that darkens with age. Engine oil can be replaced once per season with the appropriate oil recommended by the manufacturer. 

To check the oil level, remove the dipstick, wipe the oil with a cloth, put it back into the engine, and remove the dipstick to check the level. An oil change when storing the equipment for winter can hold over an engine until the following season. 

When checking the oil, check for loose bolts and fasteners and oil and fuel leaks. Check the equipment from every angle. This can require tilting the engine. Just make sure to tilt it away from the side of the carburetor to avoid saturating the air filter with gas or oil or leaking gas and oil.

Do not use automotive oil with small engine equipment. Use a high-quality oil designed for your engine. Oil changes are recommended about every 100 hours, but it depends on the climate in the region. Higher temperatures can break down oil faster, requiring more maintenance. 

Use a Clean Fuel Filter

Fuel filters in engines need frequent inspection. Clogged fuel filters can cause a significant downturn in engine performance and fuel efficiency. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the best time to change the filter or do it every 200 hours. Before you use your machine, brush off any dirt or debris that can accumulate on the engine when not in use.


If your equipment has oil stains or caked-on dirt, you can spray a degreaser in a well-ventilated area and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes while the degreasing agent breaks down the debris. Wipe the residue with a clean cloth and hose the surface down. Make sure to completely dry the equipment surface before starting up your power equipment.

Clean the Cooling Fins

Forgetting to clean the cooling fins can lead to expensive repairs and lengthy downtime. To keep your cooling fins clean, use a small bristle brush to remove debris from the cooling fins in your machines. In some equipment, the blower housing will need to be taken off to reach all of the cooling fins. 

Check the Fuel Cap

A fuel cap’s vent holes allow air into the tank. Regularly check the vent holes in the fuel cap to ensure they are not clogged or blocked. When it comes time to store your equipment, keep the fuel cap vent covered or closed. 

Change the Spark Plugs

Spark plugs can wear and tear over time, affecting the performance of your engine. For best results, replace spark plugs every 100 hours or every season to keep the engine at peak performance. Make sure you check the owner’s manual for the correct type of spark plugs for your model.

Check Battery Connections 

If your equipment is not starting like it usually does, you may need to check the battery connections to ensure they are working correctly. Your equipment’s electrical systems require a solid connection to relay the electricity. Access the battery and ensure the wire connections are not loose from the battery terminals.

Use a Battery Tender

If you plan to leave your equipment stored for an extended period, a battery tender can be a great option to keep charging your batteries during the colder months. Battery tenders can keep your equipment’s battery charged and ready for use when you need your equipment.

Treat Your Fuel

Pouring oil in mower

If you plan to store your lawnmower, leaf blower, or other small engine machines for longer than one year, you need to drain the fuel. However, fuel stabilizers are a great way to maintain the equipment you plan to use within the year.

Adding a fuel stabilizer in all of your tanks will reduce the need for costly repairs and save you from draining the fuel tank before storing it for the winter. Using stabilized and fresh fuel reduces the risk of a clogged carburetor, one of the leading causes of engine issues.

Check Ethanol Levels

High ethanol levels in your fuel can affect the engine performance. Most engine equipment can only use up to a 10% ethanol blend (E10). Ethanol draws in moisture from the air if it is not stored correctly, leading to a build-up in the engine, corrosion, and poor performance.

When to Ask for Professional Help

Fixing broken lawn mower

Most maintenance tasks are easy to perform. Detailed information on how to change the oil or replace the spark plugs and air filter can be found in the owner’s manual. If you are good with tools and machinery, you could even adjust valves and engine speed. 

If you do not feel comfortable performing a specific maintenance task, you should take your equipment to a professional for small engine repairs and tune-ups. Handling a problem on your own without the right tools or experience can be unsafe.

Best Storage Practices for Small Engine Equipment

When it is time to pack up for the off-season, it is essential to practice proper storage to extend the life of your equipment. Using old fuel or fuel that is not specific to your equipment is a surefire way to damage it. 

When stored for long periods, fuel begins to break down. Fuel can go bad in just 30 days. That is why it is critical to always use the freshest fuel possible. Buy fuel in small amounts and store it in a sealed container.

Shop Small Engine Equipment and Parts at Wilco Farm Stores

Keeping an eye out for wear and tear and other issues can keep your small engine equipment in working order for years to come. On- and off-season, small engine maintenance can go a long way and reduce the trouble of repairing equipment. 

To keep your equipment in check, Wilco Farm Stores provides customers with a wide range of parts and supplies to keep your small gas engines in good condition.