Design & DIY

3 conditions that block small engine fuel systems (and how to fix them)

This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of Cottage Life magazine

Gunk in any small engine’s fuel system can send it to sick bay, whether it’s an ATV, a chainsaw, or a brush cutter. Here are three 
conditions that can block your engine’s arteries.


Plastic tanks are now common for boat engines, but many other small engines still have steel tanks, which can rust and eventually leak. Rust particles can also detach and clog carburetor jets. Rx: Use a dental mirror and a flashlight to look inside your tank. If you find rust, your best bet is to replace the tank. It’s an easy job, usually involving a few bolts and a hose clamp.


When water condenses in the tank, it can lead to internal rust or, in severe cases, an engine that just won’t run—usually because water is in the carburetor. Rx: Store equipment with a full fuel tank to minimize the air space where condensation can form—and use fuel stabilizer if the engine will sit for a long period.


Most tanks have a “pickup filter,” located on the end of the fuel hose inside the tank. If these filters, which block large particles from entering your carb, plug up, they’ll need to be cleaned or replaced. Rx: Often, you can use a length of stiff wire with a small hook at the end to reach inside your tank and hook the fuel line. Carefully pull the line and its attached filter out through the filler neck. Remove the filter from the line by gently twisting and pulling. Clean or replace as necessary before dropping the whole assembly back into the tank.

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