Survivalism & Self Sufficiency Topics > Do It Yourself - Projects, Ideas and How To

Troubleshooting a small engine

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I was able to score a tow behind tiller on Craigslist for a great price. These are $1500 new, I got it used for $150.  But there's a couple of problems with it.

First is that the lever to lift/lower the tines wasn't working.  A $7 part and a cotter pin fixed this problem.

Next I changed the oil and topped off the transmission oil.  I also changed the spark plug and air filter.

But more importantly is that I can't get it to start.  It has a Briggs & Stratton Intek 900 engine on it, so fairly standard small engine.  I've never really done anything with small engines, so I'm not sure how to troubleshoot it.  I put in gas, pulled the cord and it won't start.  I sprayed in some starter fluid, but it doesn't sound like it's trying to start at all.

So, for the small engine neophyte, how do I troubleshoot this?  What would you do next to get this started?

Late to the party here........I search new posts often, but not all of the new posts come up in the searches.  ::)

So have you got it running yet? If it has spark, I would say most other small engine problems are linked to clogged carburetors........gas left in for too long.

David in MN:
I'll agree with Stwood that it's most likely the carb but *could* be a clog in the fuel line or fuel filter.

I rebuilt my tractor a couple years back and the sage advice I got is that with small engines (my Craftsman has a Kohler cast iron block) you're basically trying to figure out if it's the air, fuel, or electricity. So I wound up replacing it all and deep cleaning the carb. I'm not 100% sure what the problem was but it's run like a top since.

One more idea that happened to me. Buy a new gas cap. Mine had a clog and the gas tank pulled a vacuum and it took weeks to figure out why it would run for 10 minutes and die repeatedly.

I'm mechanically inclined but not some super expert on small engines. Most of these parts are cheap and with Youtube and blogs you can get it done.

Both David and Stwood are on the same track I follow.  I always eliminate the electrical first as it is easiest pull the plug and see if it is getting a spark.  This is often difficult to do without getting zapped have someone hold the plug with threads to frame and watch the gap as you pull.  Next I prime and pull the cord a few times, then inspect the plug for fuel.  Most of the time it is fuel and that is likely in the carb although checking the filter rand line is an easy starting point.  All that said I do end up taking to the local small engine guy to do the rebuild of carbs, but I am getting adventurous and doing some of that myself of late.  YouTube is empowering.

It looks like this engine has valves.  If you have spark and are spraying starting fluid directly into the engine via the carb and not getting any pop, I am guessing you have an intake valve that is not opening (i.e. push rod fell off, etc.). 


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