I always check my equipment before I need it as I don't want to be stuck trying to get my snow blower running when there is 12 inches of snow on the ground. This way if it is broken you can get it repaired before you need it and not be stuck waiting for the shop to fix everyone else's equipment before they get to yours. So basically don't wait to check your equipment until the weather service issues a storm warning
To ensure that things are ready to go when I want to use them next I do the following. Apart from changing the engine oil all of these are applicable to 2 stroke and 4 stroke engines.
Putting Equipment away for the year:
- Drain the fuel - I do this since gasoline does have a finite lifetime of about 6 months. Also modern gasoline has ethanol added to it which absorbs water. By draining the gas you prevent rust from forming in the gas tank if it has a steel tank, prevent water from getting into the gas, and also prevent varnish from forming that will plug up the carburetor. Once all of the fuel is out of the tank try to start the engine to get all the fuel that is left in the carburetor out.
- Change the oil - All of my 4 stroke small engines get fresh oil put into them at the end of the season so that they don't sit there with old oil in them all winter. This also ensures that there is fresh oil when I want to use it.
- Fog the engine - If you have never heard of this fogging the engine basically is to spray the cylinder with a fine oil that will prevent it from rusting and ceasing. You can buy special oil in an aerosol can for this purpose. The best way to fog an engine is to pull the spark plugs and spray the oil directly into the cylinder and then replace the spark plug.
- Check or Replace the spark plugs - Since you have pulled the spark plugs you might as well check them to see if they are still go, and if not replace them if needed.
- Put fresh fuel in the tank - This can be the fuel you just removed from the equipment you just put away so why not use it instead of letting it go to waste. If you left fuel in it from the year before it might be a bit questionable and should be drained and disposed of first.
- Check any belts to make sure they are in good working order, not cracked, and have the right tension. Replace as needed.
- Lube any chains and gears - This will prevent rust and ensure that they move freely. I find this especially helpful to do on the shoots of snow blowers so they don't frees or get stuck in place.
- Start the engine and let it run - I have always found that the first time starting a piece of equipment each year is always the hardest. This will also let you know if it works correctly or if you need to have it repaired.
- Once running take off the air filter and spray some carburetor cleaner into the intake to clean out any deposits that may have formed. Don't let it stall but it will smoke as it is running really rich when you do this. A few (4 to 5) quick 1 second squirts with a few second wait between each will do wonders if the engine isn't running very well. Now go put the air filter back on it. Once done let the engine run for 10 to 15 minutes.