More Good Information on Mothballing and Maintaining Small Engines.

small engines

This morning I found a comment on small engines from Tim V. one of our readers that I thought deserved to be put up as a post in order for it to get wider distribution.  There is some good information on mothballing and maintaining small engines.  I have added a link for clarity.


“The fuel draining method has worked well here. On older Briggs engines that do not have a float bowl, the engine is run till it starves of fuel, the remaining fuel is absorbed with paper towel stuck into the tank, then the engine is left outside with the gas cap off until the tank is bone dry. If it is the pulse jet type with the diaphragm fuel pump,  the diaphragm plate is removed and also allowed to air dry. This gives an opportunity to look at the diaphragm and replace if it is getting stiff. Those diaphragms are cheap so we keep plenty in stock.

small engines
Honda GX160

For horizontal shaft engines, we have standardized on the Honda GX160 or the same sized Harbor Freight clone engines. Gasket kits are inexpensive, and we have found new carburetors on a popular auction site (made Overseas, of course) for about $12 including shipping. For long term support, that is a great value.

So far the Honda clone engines have performed without any issues. They have a cast iron bore and ball bearing shaft supports inside, which are not a common feature in a typical Briggs engine. Over the past few years we have spent time and money goofing around with things powered by Briggs 5 horse engines. The older type gas caps with the three vent holes leaked or spewed gas out the holes, which was not particularly safe. The tank to carb gaskets we bought from a local small engine shop acted more like wicks than gaskets, allowing gas to leak onto the tank and right under the muffler. Also not very safe. The real deal breaker for us was the aluminum bore, which cannot be honed, and scores easily. We asked an engine machine shop about boring out Briggs cylinders for oversize pistons and rings. They said it could not be done without installing a steel sleeve at significant cost.

With the inability to easily drain the tanks and the aluminum cylinder issue on Briggs engines, we have been migrating to the Honda-type engines. Even though Briggs parts are readily available and inexpensive, we felt that the Honda-type overhead valve engines were a better selection for long term service.

Our two cycle engines have several carb kits in stock for each carb type for long term support. There are several sizes of fuel lines on 2 cycle engines, so make sure you have plenty of each size available.

If you are working to provide long term small engine support, don’t forget plenty of brass brushes for de-carboning cylinder heads and piston crowns. One of the tools on our to-acquire list is a pneumatic spark plug cleaner, which sandblasts the gunk off the ends of plugs. I haven’t seen many small engine plugs that were actually worn out, but plenty that have been clogged with carbon from low temperature combustion and / or oil leaks.

One last thought – if you have your small engines to act as labor-saving devices for unspecified future tasks, then start collecting pulleys with the correct shaft size, keystock for them, and belts of various lengths.”

Tim V.

Thanks for the good information about small engines.



1 thought on “More Good Information on Mothballing and Maintaining Small Engines.”

  1. I just wanted to make a comment about the Honda engines. We use several in our seasonal business, which is usually about 4 1/2 months out of the year. After sitting for the balance of the year through a long winter, they have NEVER failed to start-up in the spring, usually on the first try, whether the rope start or the electric start. We wouldn’t want to use anything other than the Honda’s.

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