Extension agent: Tune up your garden equipment

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 12, 2015

Many of our local gardeners have equipment such as edgers, trimmers and weed eaters that have been gathering dust until they’re hauled out for use. Tip and tricks of getting them back into running condition is easier than you think.

If you didn’t empty the fuel tank from last fall before storage, pour out the old fuel and replace with fresh gas. Don’t use the gas in the storage tank from a couple of months ago because by now it has degraded.

Gas sold in the winter has a different octane level than gas sold in the summer. If you measured and put in the correct amount of a fuel stabilizer last year you should be in good shape.

If you had to get fresh gas, add the fuel stabilizer. It not only protects against fuel degradation but it also helps protect against the ethanol that now comprises part of our fuel. Fuel containing ethanol has caused problems with air-cooled small engines since it was first introduced.

Take out the spark plug and inspect. Use a round feeler gauge to make sure it’s the right gap. If not, re-gap or replace with one that’s correct for your engine. Make sure the new one is the correct gap as well. This information can be found in the owner’s manual or online.

An engine has to breath. Check the air cleaner and replace if necessary. Also inspect the muffler to make sure that it’s not clogged up with a mud dauber nest.

Clean off any debris on the engine fins. These are air-cooled engines and clogged up fins will make the engine run hotter.

If there is an in-line fuel filter check that as well. You may have to fish it out of the fuel tank if it’s a two-cycle engine. On riding lawn mowers you can find it by looking for the fuel line to the carburetor.

The oil is the lifeblood of the engine. If it hasn’t been changed recently, now is the time. Many air-cooled engines require oil changes every 25 hours.

During the summer SAE 30W oil is usually recommended. Do not buy nondetergent oil for small engines. Modern engine oils contain additives, which protect the engine.

Make sure the container also has the initials API for American Petroleum Institute, which tests oil and gives it its stamp of approval. Multi-viscosity oil may break down sooner because of the higher operating temperatures associated with air-cooled engines. Check the manual to make sure.

Also make sure that all blades, chains and other components are sharpened and oiled for use. It should be ready to fire up. Make sure the spark plug fires.

With a pair of insulated pliers or a spark plug tester, hold the plug against the aluminum housing while someone cranks the engine. Make sure the button is on “on” when you do this. A spark should be readily visible.

Prime the carburetor and the engine should start. If you have spark and the engine doesn’t fire, check to see if there is gas in the combustion chamber. You should be able to smell gas after you remove the spark plug.

If no gas is present, you may have to disassemble the carburetor and spray it out with carburetor cleaner to remove any gum or varnish built up from old gas. This is not for the faint-hearted.

You can find carburetor disassembly and assembly instructions on the Internet. You may have to buy a rebuild kit. At this point you may have to take it to a small engine repair shop.

The key to maintaining any small engine is to provide it with fresh gas that has been stabilized to protect against ethanol in the fuel. Most problems stem from fuel.

The Market on Main is back in business and is located in the downtown movie theater parking lot just south of the theater. If you haven’t sampled any of the locally grown vegetables and fruits, you’re in for a treat. It’s open Saturday mornings from 8 to 10 a.m. If you’re interested in having a booth, please call Barbie Watts, the director of promotions and marketing for the Downtown LaGrange Development Authority, at 706-298-4534, or call the extension office.

What’s going on in Extension?

June 15: Beekeepers, 7 p.m., Ag Center

June 16: Troup County Cattleman: Forages and Nutrition; Dr. Dennis Hancock, guest speaker, 7 p.m. Tuesday. Program will start at 7:30 p.m. The $6 meal will be served at 7 p.m., Ag Center.

Market on Main begins Saturday mornings from 8 to 10 a.m. Come by and enjoy the pick of the day. Carmike Cinemas LaGrange 10 theater parking lot.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office.