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Barrette's Small Engines Inc. - FAQ's

What can I do to keep my small engine fuel system clean?

The problem stems from the fact that today's complex automotive fuels, mandated by ever increasing EPA regulations, are not designed for use in these smaller engines. The fuel manufacturers design these fuels for use in automobiles. Automobile engines are larger, have hotter ignition systems and many other factors that separate their design from the common single cylinder and twin cylinder engines found in outdoor power equipment.

Because outdoor power equipment is such a small percentage of the fuel companies market, they will not design specific or alternative fuels for use in these small engines. Thus we are left to deal with these fuels and take measures to ensure their use in our small engines does not negatively impact their design and function. To further complicate the matter there are now "seasonal blends" and alcohol blended fuels that include additives that make their use in small engines even more frustrating for those accustomed to using the fuels of the past or those not actively doing preventive measures to make these fuels work more effectively in small engines. Combine these modern fuels with the ever increasing demand for more fuel efficient and EPA regulated carburetion on these smaller engines, and we can see that today's modern small engines require more care and preventive maintenance by the user when compared to similar small engines produced in prior years.

There are companies that manufacture "fuel stabilizers" and fuel additives that claim to extend the storage life of fuels. Considering the fact that there are so many fuel blends and that the independent test results on these additives at this time is inconsistent, we can only suggest that persons considering the use of such fuel additives research the additive they are considering and evaluate the research data provided by these manufacturers carefully. We do not recommend any particular brand of fuel additive. Customers electing to use fuel additives do so at their own discretion.

Below are some recommended practices that can help prevent problems when using today's modern fuels as well as well as help to keep the fuel systems in these smaller engines clean.

A) Buy fresh fuel. Stale or out of season fuel is the number one cause of hard starting in small engines. Today's fuels break down very rapidly causing their flash point to diminish and weaken. The days of buying large containers of fuel at a single purchase to last for several weeks are past.

B) Store your fuel in clean, small volume, UV protective, approved for gasoline storage, plastic containers away from indirect sunlight and away from areas of high humidity. We do not recommend the use of metal fuel containers. Metal containers can rust internally and may even react with modern fuels.

C) Small engines that will be stored inactively for longer than 30 days should be COMPLETELY drained of ALL fuel before storage. This includes any fuel in the fuel tank, fuel lines and carburetion system. Products that are only used intermittently and spend large amount of their life in storage between uses (such as snow throwers, chain saws, garden tillers, log splitters etc...) are especially prone to the problems associated with leaving fuel in them while they are in storage. When the fuel ages the residue left behind is sticky and similar in composition to varnish. Left to dry, this residue can clog the precision fuel ports on engine carburetors and fuel delivery systems. Most small engines , unlike automobiles and larger engine applications, do not utilize electronic fuel pumps to move fuel from the fuel tank to the carburetor. Instead they utilize gravity flow systems and incorporate fuel bowls into the carburetors to store small amounts of fuel in while the engine is operated over undulating terrain to maintain a consistent fuel flow as the angle of operation varies. It is important that the fuel in these carburetor float bowls not be overlooked and left in the system when preparing a unit for storage. Each engine and product is different on how this procedure is to be performed, please contact the engine manufacturer if specific procedures on how to perform this fuel removal process on a specific model engine is needed. NOTE: Please properly dispose of used oil and fuels in accordance with your local regulations.

D) Keep debris from entering fuel systems by cleaning debris from around the fuel caps before opening and by not leaving fuel containers and fuel tanks open (except when necessary). Leaving the lid off the fuel tank when not refueling may allow airborne contaminants into the fuel as well as hasten the evaporation of volatile fuel components and may even create a fire hazard.

E) Don't leave fuel container lids and fuel tank caps lying in dirty areas where they can attract debris and then this dirt can be transferred to the container when the lid is replaced on the container. Place these caps on a clean surface while refueling.

F) Install in line fuel filters, where applicable, and change them regularly to help prevent any contaminants that do get inside the fuel system from reaching the carburetor. Fuel filters are available from most engine manufacturers and engine service dealers.

G) Avoid using fuels containing alcohol based additives whenever possible.

H) Clean or change engine air filters regularly to prevent contaminants from entering the fuel system via the air intake. Some engines have replaceable air filters (generally these are paper filters), some engines have air filters that can be cleaned and re-used (these are generally made from foam, nylon or other synthetic material) and some engines have a combination of the two (certain applications may have a disposable paper air filter along with a re-useable foam pre-cleaner). Please contact your engine manufacturer for information on what type(s) of air filters a particular engine model series requires and the proper cleaning method for a particular type of re-usable air filter or pre-filter. There is a vast amount of information on this subject available.

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