Ol’ Small Engine Joel

If it’s summer, D&L are probably mixing mud for another coat of adobe on their amazing house.

Or trying to. They bought an old used mud-mixer that has given them a lot of service, but it hasn’t been entirely trouble-free. When the clutch linkage or the bearings on the stirrer go out they’re on their own, but when they have a problem with that nasty old Honda engine my phone will ring.

Like this, but older and more used.

Like this, but older and more used.

It rang this afternoon. “Panic call!” said L. “We’re out of mud, we need to mix more, but when [D] tried to start the engine it just putted a few times and then gasoline started running out the bottom of the carburetor. Can you help?”

I owe D&L many many obs. To achieve karmic balance I’d basically have to somehow arrange to save them both from fiery deaths. Plus I was just sitting around staying out of the sun. So LB and I hopped in the Jeep and drove over to their place.

There have been a couple of times when calls like this made me look really smart. Their little generator went out once and I don’t remember how I got it working but I fixed it quick. They had laid down a shiteload of adobe on the floors of two rooms and then couldn’t get their compactor started: I swooped in and (by sheer luck) knew exactly what to do.

I wasn’t confident this was going to be a day like that. But still: Flooded carb on a stationary engine is probably a stuck needle & seat, right? And sometimes you can get to the needle valve through the float bowl. So I took off the bowl, pulled the pin on the float, and the needle valve came right out with it. Looked fine, but that didn’t mean anything. If it got cocked in its channel so it couldn’t seal at the seat, I probably just fixed it.

I put it back together, then experimentally pulled the starter slow. The engine was locked up. D got that “I’m totally screwed” look.

I asked him to get me a spark plug socket, and when he did I removed the spark plug and pulled the starter which now moved freely. A column of gasoline shot out the cylinder.

Reached down and unscrewed the crankcase dipstick, then hurriedly screwed it back in when gasoline and very dilute oil started shooting out. The engine was profoundly flooded. He brought over a drain pan and I pulled the drain plugs while he went into his workshop, fired up his compressor and ran an air hose out to the mixer so I could dry out the cylinder.

Cleaned off the spark plug, filled up the oil, put the air filter back on, opened the gas valve. Gave it a few seconds and nothing dramatic happened. Switched on the ignition and tried to start the engine. The engine wasn’t happy about it, it took several tugs and I was starting to worry, but it did finally putt. And when it got up to speed, it ran great.

I told D it might never happen again or it might happen the very next time. So I hung around while they mixed their first load of mud and got it in buckets, then watched them start it again for the second load. This time the engine started fine.

So I pulled it off again, but they’ve been running this thing five seasons now and it wasn’t a spring chicken when they started. They need to either give up on the adobe and retire it, or take it to town and treat it to an overhaul.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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3 Responses to Ol’ Small Engine Joel

  1. Joat says:

    I install a gas shut off valve most of the time when I work on small engines, I’ve had too many issues of needles leaking a little when sitting.

  2. MJR says:

    On the plus side the engine isn’t a hunk of Chinese crap. With the proper maintenance they will last and last and last…

  3. sevesteen says:

    Shut off valve was my suggestion here too-Cost under $10, and if you remember to use the damn thing saves a lot of trouble.

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