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How to Start a Small Engine

By Blaze Johnson
Keep your small engine maintained for easy starting.

Starting a small engine can be difficult. Weather can adversely affect the operation of a small engine. Small engines of the 2-cycle variety are especially hard to start in cold weather and may take some time to get running. Engines that are 4-stroke will be easier to start during cold weather and tend to have less operating issues than 2-cycle engines. It is important to follow the specific maintenance guidelines provided by the engine manufacturer to ensure reliable operation. (reference 1)

Check the engine to ensure that the crankcase is filled with the proper amount of engine oil. Certain 2-cycle engines require a mix of gasoline and 2-cycle oil to lubricate the engine properly. Check the produc'ts operating instructions to determine the exact fuel to oil mixture needed. Depending upon the engine manufacturer, a special reservoir may be installed to contain and inject oil into the engine. (reference 1)

Clear any debris out of the air filter element and housing. An obstructed air intake will make it impossible for the engine to start or will cause the engine to perform poorly. (reference 1)

Fill the gas tank with fuel, set the choke (some small engines have a priming button instead of a choke, located on the carburetor, that needs to be pushed 2-3 times before starting) and attempt to start the engine. (reference 1)

Move the choke to the halfway position as soon as the engine starts to run and sputter. Open the choke back to the normal running position (turn the choke off). (reference 1)

Spray a small amount of starting fluid into the air filter element in case the engine will not start using the choke or primer button. Attempt to start the engine again. If the engine will not start using starting fluid, check for a fouled sparkplug or take the engine to a repair shop. (reference 1)


Things You Will Need

  • Starting fluid


  • Keep starting fluid away from heat sources and flames.

About the Author


In the spring of 2008, Blaze Johnson decided to share his expertise through writing. He studied business administration at a local community college and runs his own driveway mechanic service, specializing in computer-controlled vehicles and custom car audio installs. Johnson also serves as the de facto computer repair person for his family, friends and coworkers.