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home>>family>>gardening 2>>yard equipment

Getting Yard Equipment Ready for Spring


(ARA) - It's that time of year when handheld outdoor power equipment is pulled from storage and pressed into service. It's also the time when this equipment should get its annual maintenance.

Fortunately, equipment manufacturers and their dealers have made it easy. "Most products out there today have a tune-up kit available," says David Shumate, owner of Ike's Small Engines in Bryan, Texas. "The kit typically includes air and fuel filters, the type of oil the equipment requires, a pre-gapped spark plug, and whatever else is needed for the tune-up." Take the model and serial numbers of your equipment with you to get the kit, because "the kits are product-specific. Nobody shares parts."

A thorough tune-up goes beyond the obvious, says Nick Ellis, owner of Bethel Power in Bethel, Conn. "Lubricating the gearbox on a string trimmer is overlooked, as are control cables and carbon deposits in mufflers. And although manufacturers design engine cooling fins that won't collect debris, those fins should be checked and cleared of any leaves or pine needles that have accumulated there."

Shumate agrees that it pays to be thorough. When a customer brings in a piece of equipment, "we look at every moving component," including clutch, clutch drum, safety devices, air box integrity, as well as belts, bearings, pulleys, and the recoil starter rope.

Is all this too involved for the average homeowner? "I recommend that everyone give it a shot themselves," says Shumate. "If they replace the filters and the spark plug and that doesn't solve their problem, then they can bring it in to us."

Complete servicing takes only a half an hour to three-quarters of an hour, says Ellis. That's for the pros, who are familiar with the process and they have the necessary tools at hand. Even so, the homeowner should be able to service a piece of equipment in an hour or so.

And how often does it need to be done? "About every 25 hours," says Ellis. "If you use the equipment for an hour a week and your season is six months long, once a year is just about right." Ellis recommends the machine be brought to a dealership every other year for inspection and servicing.

Lots of people bring their machines to their dealers whenever service is needed. Lots of them bring them in when the weather warms. That's a problem, says Shumate. "The earlier, the better, especially if you want to get the machine back in three or four days." By late February, many people in his area are already cutting grass, so his regular customers bring their machines into the dealership in late January or early February to beat the rush.

Proper servicing ensures safe and productive use of the equipment. It also prolongs the life of the machine, says Ellis. "Homeowners who invest in a premium brand like ECHO and service the equipment regularly will get 10 or 15 years of reliable use without a problem."

For more information on the full line of ECHO handheld outdoor power equipment, visit www.echo-usa.com.

Managing Fuel

Springtime equipment problems often start as storage problems in fall. The number one offense is failing to drain the fuel before the machine is put away.

"All gas in the U.S. is oxygenated," says Andy Kuczmar, director of national service and technical training at Echo Incorporated. "Oxygenation reduces exhaust emissions, but it also makes the gas unstable. Gas should stay in the tank or can no more than 30 days." After four months of storage, gas has almost certainly gone bad.

Bad gas is easy to spot. It's discolored. "It has a yellowish or brownish tinge to it," says Kuczmar. "The best way to tell is to look at the fuel filter inside the tank. Filters are made of white felt, so if yours is brown, a red flag should go up." Bad gas also changes scent; it smells like varnish.

The solution? Carefully drain the bad gas into a proper container, and then bring it to a recycling center or add it to the nearly full gas tank in your automobile. Install a new fuel filter. Refill the equipment with fresh fuel. If there's a purge bulb, pump it several times to get fresh fuel into the carburetor.

If you drained the tank last fall and are now refilling it, Kuczmar has this advice. "Fill the tank, pump the purge bulb, and then let the machine sit for a half-hour. The fuel will restore flexibility to the carburetor's diaphragm so that the motor idles smoothly."

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