How To Troubleshoot Your Small Engine



Every repair project should begin with a troubleshooting phase. This is the phase of your repair project where you’ll identify the source of a problem, starting with the most obvious solutions and working towards complex solutions for less obvious problems.

The best way to thoroughly troubleshoot your engine is to systematically work through the various parts and systems in the engine to rule out possible causes of your issue. Being thorough is very important when troubleshooting your engine. Trying to identify what’s wrong with your engine can be likened to trying to find a lost remote control. Many times it’s located in a very obvious spot that didn’t seem logical enough or too simple to check. The answer to this is to be very thorough and not overlook things that may seem too obvious. Your remote just may be sitting there in the open.

The most important thing to remember when troubleshooting your small engine is to avoid the “bandage on a broken leg syndrome”. Simple solutions aren’t always the correct solutions they may only be a partial solution. For example: replacing a worn spark plug may get an engine to start, but the real issue may be a carburetor that is partially blocked. In this instance this problem will most likely arise again.

For Successful Troubleshooting

  • Consider all symptoms carefully
  • Look for the cause, not just a cure (avoid the “bandage on a broken leg” syndrome)
  • Gather as much information as possible. Knowing specifics of how the engine stopped working or if it just won’t start can make a difference in identifying the problem.


Common four-stroke small engine problems

Engine Won’t Start

  • Fuel Line Problems
  • Carburetor Problems
  • Ignition Problems
  • Compression Problems

Engine Runs Poorly

  • Engine Smokes
  • Engine Overheats
  • Engine Knocks
  • Engine Misses Under Load


Common two-stroke small engine problems

  • Spark Plug – Bad or No Spark
  • Fuel Related Problems
  • Compression Problems


It’s important to know exactly what you’re trying to fix when repairing your small engine. Doing some basic troubleshooting can help you narrow down and isolate the cause of your small engine problem. Knowing the cause of the problem is half the battle. Once the problem has been located you can take the next steps to repair or replace the damaged or non-functioning parts in your small engine and get your outdoor power equipment running again.



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