Motors and Engines: Maintenance

Proper operation and care of power equipment can prevent damage and injury to your plants, yourself, and to your equipment. Safety procedures and maintenance guidelines can be found in owner/operators manuals, which should be read, kept handy, and passed on when equipment changes hands.

Three key elements for good electric motor and gasoline engine maintenance are:

1. Keep the motor or engine cool. Excess heat will ruin either and is produced when overload occurs or the cooling system is clogged. Keep the machine clean inside and out, around fans, shrouding, and cooling fins. Oil is necessary for both lubrication and cooing and should be of proper viscosity and rating. Keep oil fresh and at proper operating levels or ratios.

2. Keep dirt and trash out of rotating parts, especially engine parts. Safety first here! Never attempt to clear debris while unit is under power. Trash wrapped around shafts or debris in cooling fan can burn out a motor or burn up an engine. Always check these areas before starting up and during breaks in operation.

3. Keep parts lubricated. Dirt, water, and other contaminates will damage motors and engines if permitted to enter the lubrication system, usually through the carburetor or air intake. The abrasive action of dirty lubricants will cause overheating and thinning of lubricant. Dirty air or oil filters will cause excessive heating and slow proper lubing. Two stroke engines are lubricated by oil mixed with gasoline. Gently agitate this mixture often and limit storage time to a month if possible. Four stroke engine oil should be changed within twenty-five hours of service, and fifteen hours of heavy dusty use. Periodic lubrication of shafts, cables, and axles will improve machine longevity.

The use of power equipment in our landscape is time saving, convenient, and sometimes very frustrating and expensive. Preventive maintenance of your motors and engines will always pay for itself, so lessen the stress.

If you haven't fired up your trimmer, mower, edger, shredder, or tiller yet, then you should clean all filters, empty fuel from tank and float bowl if provided, replace with fresh fuel and read the startup procedures from your operator's manual. Electric wiring should be checked for fraying and good connection and replaced if damaged. Safe operation is paramount, but always think clean air, clean oil, clean fuel, sharp edges, proper timing, and your equipment should work for you, not vice versa.

DeForest Lewis Jr.
April, 1992