The Importance Of Two-cycle Engine Maintenance
Author: Mike Moorhead
Failing to properly maintain two-cycle engines in grounds care equipment can have major consequences. Summertime — and the living isn't easy, especially when grounds care responsibilities lead the to-do list. The hallmarks of summer — leisure time, vacation and rest and relaxation — don't necessarily apply to maintenance professionals who handle landscaping and grounds care for schools, hospitals, municipal facilities and commercial and industrial buildings. Weeds, grass and vegetation often seem to grow at an almost unfathomable rate, and having the best tools to tackle these foes isn't an option — it's a downright matter of summer survival. Maintenance professionals aren't the only ones working overtime during the summer months. Power equipment — weed eaters, leaf blowers, chainsaws, etc. — shares the summertime workload. Therefore, the proper upkeep of these under-appreciated workers is often as important as the grounds care itself. Preventative maintenance and treatment of these two-cycle engine machines helps maintain optimal performance and keeps productivity consistent among maintenance staff. The following are some quick tips for providing best-in-class care for those trusted summertime shed heroes.
Bid Farewell To Ethanol-based Fuel
While ethanol is great in automobiles, it's extremely detrimental to the health of two-cycle engines. Not engineered to handle ethanol-laden gas, power equipment will often begin to show signs of critical problems linked to ethanol, such as hard starting or erratic performance. Power equipment dealers nationwide attribute a large percentage of internal damage in power equipment and related equipment failure to the after effects of ethanol use. Yet, what most people don't realize is that more than 50 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States contains ethanol. Most problems arise when gasoline with ethanol is left unused for extended periods of time — when it's stored in a maintenance garage, for example. The ethanol in gasoline attracts water from the atmosphere and the two bond together. This ethanol/water mixture separates from the gasoline in a process called "phase separation." When starting a two-cycle engine, the machine uses the ethanol/water that has separated from the gasoline and does not receive the lubrication that it needs.
This can cause immediate engine failure. Moreover, ethanol is also a powerful solvent and, when separation occurs, it often degrades rubber fuel lines and plastic components, which causes unnecessary maintenance problems and reduces the lifespan of equipment. Fuel that is ethanol-free protects the two-cycle engine from the corrosive nature of ethanol and ensures peak performance that lasts.
Embrace The Notion Of A "Clean Machine"
The phrase "clean machine" is important to remember when maintaining power equipment: It's exactly what one should aspire to have. Whether by hand or using an air blower or compressor, ensure that tiny particles of dust, grass, leaves and dirt are removed after each use of power equipment. Although cleaning is an extra step at the end of a long day of grounds maintenance, it's a step that elongates the life of the equipment and saves dollars in costly repairs.
Don't Discount The Owner's Manual
Although often discounted by a hurried user, the owner's manual is the roadmap to ensuring a long and satisfying relationship with power equipment. All equipment powered by two-cycle engines requires a carefully measured mix of oil and gas. Be sure to pay careful attention to the ratio of oil to gas indicated in the owner's manual. Better yet, try a pre-mixed gas and oil fuel, as it will minimize the potential of an improper ratio of oil to gas. One savvy manufacturer recently developed the nation's first-ever pre-mixed, ready-to-use gas and oil fuel for two-cycle engine equipment. Available in multiple ratios, these pre-mixed fuels guarantee the correct blend and eliminate the need for mixing proper ratios or filling and storing gas canisters whose fumes can overpower even the largest garage or shed. Further, gasoline — most often stored in vented containers — can lose octane and vapor pressure, attract water and, in some cases, separate into its base components. This deterioration occurs when the fuel is left unused in a vented container over the course of several months. Ethanol-free pre-mixed gas and oil fuel products have upwards of a two-year shelf life, eliminating concern about fuel deterioration and the need to continually drain and replace fuel and use fuel stabilizers. Storing power equipment is a simple, yet critical, way to demonstrate care. The storage area for power equipment should be dry and away from any potential water source to prevent rust and damage. Lastly, equipment should be put away with the engine facing down and, if possible, hung on a wall or in a location where it is protected from debris or accidental damage.