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Home > Small Engines > Top Reasons Why Small Engines Won't Start

Top Reasons Why Small Engines Won't Start

By Karin Mangan
Top Reasons Why Small Engines Won't Start

When a small engine won't start, the reasons tend to be simple and inexpensive to fix. You might need to replace a spark plug, test the choke, or clean the carburetor. Even if you're a novice at engine repair, don't be deterred from fixing it yourself. Get out your manual and follow this quick and easy troubleshooting guide.

Small engines rely on five main systems: fuel, ignition, exhaust, compression, and timing. When a small engine won't start, the root cause lies in one of these areas.

The Fuel system:

- Fill the fuel tank. Check that the shutoff valve is open and that the fuel line or fuel tank cap vent is not clogged.

- Be sure that the air and fuel filters are clean.

- Test choke or primer to ensure it's operating correctly.

- Replace broken or cracked fuel hoses.

- Clean the carburetor.

The ignition system:

Replace improperly gapped, damaged, or weak spark plugs. Remove the spark plug and inspect its appearance: it should look light gray or brown and smooth. Excessive black carbon indicates that the spark plug might be the wrong type for your engine or the oil mixture is too rich.

Test the safety switch.

Check both the exhaust screen and exhaust port for stoppages. If the engine still won't start, compression might be the problem. Special compression gauges are available at auto parts stores or small engine parts suppliers. Refer to your small engine manual for the pounds per square inch, or psi, specification. At least 60 psi is generally an acceptable reading.

Other possible causes include: a defective coil or armature in the timing system or a damaged flywheel or flywheel key.

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