PROTECT your investment

To get the most from your equipment, it's important to understand the fundamental design elements of both 2-cycle and 4-cycle engines.

Whether you have a fleet of equipment or one fully stocked trailer, your equipment is the beating heart of your business. You wouldn't ignore irregularities in your heartbeat; you'd go in for a checkup. It should be the same with your equipment. Your crew works hard, which means your equipment takes a beating and needs to be checked regularly.

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Routine seasonal maintenance is the best way to maximize the performance of your equipment. By keeping your equipment in good working order, you'll reap the benefits of extended product life, dependability and added value from your investment.

There are easy steps you can take to ensure that your equipment is in the best working order; but first, always consult your owner's manual. Sure, it takes time for you and your crew to familiarize yourself with the manual on your trimmer, blower or mower. But for every minute you invest reviewing these important booklets, you'll receive that many more dividends down the road. Also, know that your servicing dealer is always prepared to perform routine and warranty service on all your power equipment. An experienced service technician is your best resource for your maintenance needs, but there are also simple steps that you can take yourself to keep your equipment running smoothly.

Get to know your engine

To get the most from your equipment, it's important to understand the fundamental design elements of both 2-cycle and 4-cycle engines. A 4-cycle engine works in four stages: the power stroke (down stroke), the exhaust stroke (up-stroke), the intake stroke (down stroke) and the compression stroke (up-stroke). These four strokes occur in two revolutions of the crankshaft, with the power stroke propelling the piston through each of the other stages.

The stages of a 2-cycle engine are the power/exhaust stroke and the compression/intake stroke. Every time the piston approaches the top of the up-stroke in the 2-stroke engine, combustion and power occur. These engines differ from 4-cycle engines in that it takes two strokes (one revolution) to propel the piston, which provides fast acceleration.

Four-cycle engines have nine basic moving parts, including the crankshaft, camshaft, a connecting rod, valves, lifters and the piston itself. Two-cycle engines have only three major parts: the crankshaft, the connecting rod and the piston. Because of this, 2-cycle equipment naturally requires less maintenance and parts replacement.

4-cycle engine maintenance

To maintain your 4-cycle engines, use the following tips for starting the season on the right foot.

  • Walk-behind mowers:

    • Check and change your spark plugs.

    • Change your oil at the beginning of the season and after every 25 hours of use. If you're running a new piece of equipment, change the oil after the first 5 hours of use and check it regularly to add oil as needed.

    • Refill crankcase with a high-quality detergent oil classified “For Service SE, SF, SG or SW.” Follow manufacturer's specifications.

    • Change the air filters at least every 3 months or 25 hours of use. Do not assume that just because the exterior of a fuel filter looks clean that the interior is clean as well. Regardless of its appearance, it should still be changed at regular intervals.

    • Use fresh, clean fuel. You can also add a stabilizer to help prevent gum deposits in fuel-system parts. As a general rule, purchase and mix only as much fuel as you expect to use within 30 to 45 days, and check that it carries the minimum octane rating as recommended by the manufacturer.

    • In addition to the engine maintenance, check blades for sharpness, make sure the cutting deck is clean, check that pull cords are not frayed and see that all attachments are connected and working properly. Also, regularly check to ensure that all nuts and bolts are tight.

    • Check the level of decks for an even, high-precision cut.

  • Commercial riding mowers:

    • Check and change spark plugs if necessary. It's important to follow the manufacturer's recommendations when replacing engine spark plugs.

    • Change fuel filter, oil filter and air filter.

    • Be sure to check belts for cracks and frayed edges.

    • Always check tire pressure to ensure smooth operation.

    • Make sure levers are adjusted correctly and secured.

    • Consult manufacturer specifications to top all fluid levels and level the cutting deck.

2-cycle engine maintenance

Use these tips to service your 2-cycle engines.

  • Chain saws:

    • Lubricate the clutch drum bearing.

    • Clean the cooling fins on the flywheel, the cylinder fins, the area outside the carburetor and the starter housing with a brush or light air source.

    • Check the fuel filter and replace if necessary.

    • Have the carburetor checked and adjusted periodically by your servicing dealer to be sure that the saw is running at factory setting for idle and full-throttle positions, and without excessive heat.

    • Check the bar for excessive wear or bent rails and replace if necessary.

    • In addition, check safety devices to ensure that they are attached and working properly, and that the blades are professionally sharpened each cutting season.

  • Leaf blowers, edgers and trimmers:

    • Clean or replace spark plugs every season.

    • Use only high-quality 2-cycle engine oil. And use fuel that meets the manufacturer's specifications, which may call for a higher octane than what you would use for vehicles or other equipment.

    • Fuel stabilizers can help fuel maintain a high-octane level for longer periods, giving easier starting and cooler engine performance.

    • If your units feature an anti-vibration system, check its operating condition.

    • Check all cables for operation and damage and replace if necessary.

Keep your records up-to-date

It is best to keep up-to-date records so that you know when your equipment was last serviced. Whether it's keeping track of oil-filter changes, logging the dates and types of problems or recording service intervals and hours of usage (most commercial mowers have hour meters), there is no substitute for accurate, current records on all your equipment. The bottom line: Don't wait until it won't start; keep your equipment serviced. Keeping a disciplined eye on your equipment will benefit your business resulting in reduced downtime and improved productivity, and most of all, it will protect your investment.

Roger Simons is director of technical services for Husqvarna North America (Charlotte, N.C.).

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