Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why and How to Provide Regular Compression Tests on Your Small Engine

engine compression test how-to's

In our last blog post on DIY New Year’s Resolutions, we emphasized the importance of performing regular checks on your small engine, just as you would a car engine. This includes oil checks and changes, checking the ignition system and ignition coil, and performing compression tests. As promised, here’s our run-down of the why’s and how’s of compression testing. It may seem daunting if you’re new to performing your own maintenance, but the compression test is one of our favorite “essential” tests for two reasons:

1. It’s of the utmost importance, and
 2. It’s easy!

So, let’s start with the basics.

What is engine compression testing? 

In short, this is the first question mechanics ask when they’re brainstorming with other mechanics about why an engine isn’t running: “Does it have good compression?” An engine requires a certain amount of compression to drive the piston and crankcase. This test, which involves checking for leaks in essential components like around the piston or valve, will give you an immediate picture of whether each part is wearing evenly. Any problematic part can then be replaced so your cylinder can do its job properly.

When should you check your small engine’s compression?

As mentioned above, if your engine isn’t running, compression is the first thing you should check. However, there are other, less catastrophic signs that it’s time for a test. If you start your engine and find that it’s spinning unusually fast, that’s a tell-tale sign. Other signs include loss of power under load and erratic idling. Common causes of this occurance could include a blown head gasket or a stuck/bent valve. Even if you’re not experiencing any causes for concern, regular compression testing is the key to proactive maintenance.

Here’s how you do can perform your own compression test:

1. Obtain a gasoline engine compression tester that is specifically suited for the small engines used in chainsaws, cut-off saws, and lawnmovers. Ours is fitted with a 65 millimeter gauge and provides two scales of reading, psi and kPa.

 2. Access your spark plug by unscrewing the cylinder cover on your engine and gently slipping a flat-tip screwdriver under the rubber boot, maneuvering as necessary until you can get the rubber boot off the spark plug.

 3. Loosen the spark plug with a socket wrench and remove it, then set the choke to “off.”

4. Make sure there’s no remaining fuel in the cylinder or crankcase by cranking on the starter cord a few times.

5. Insert your compression reader’s hose into the spark plug hole. Pull on the starter until the compression gauge needle hits its maximum – it usually takes about 10 to 15 pulls. As a general rule of thumb, compression shoud hit at least 90 PSI if it’s hot or 100 if it’s cold, but check your engine manual; some engines require anywhere from 80 to 150 PSI. These readings are such great indicators of performance because if there’s a leak somewhere in the engine, there will be a drop in compression. If you’re more of a visual learner, check out this great video that details a lawnmower compression test:

Now what do I do?

If you noticed a poor compression reading, it’s time to do some trouble-shooting and repairs. If you have the expertise you can do this yourself, and we have all the parts and tools you’ll need. But when in doubt, take it to a mechanic; it’s not worth breaking your engine further.

And that’s it! You’ve just saved money on performing your own compression test, while keeping your engine happy and healthy in the process.

Here's a good piece on choosing lubricant for small engines, if ya need Lubricant.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Five DIY Resolutions Every Craftsman Should Make

New Year’s resolutions can be a polarizing tradition. Some people think they’re a great way to set and achieve new goals, while others believe they’re a silly superstition that will fall by the wayside within a month. But we at HLSupply love them! We think they’re a great way to get you thinking about your goals for the upcoming year, and they can be just the push you need to finally get started on the projects you’ve been putting off. Not sure where to begin this year? We’re here to start your year right with five easy, achievable New Year’s resolutions for any DIY enthusiast.

1. I Will Perform Regular Engine Checks

If you routinely use a chainsaw, lawnmower, leafblower, or other tool that operates on a small engine, then treat that engine with the same care you would a car engine and perform regular checks. While there are myriad tests you can perform to keep your engine in top shape, two of the easiest and yet most important tests are regular oil checks and compression tests. Oil loses its ability to lubricate over time, which can take a serious toll on the overall performance and longetivy on an engine, as many disappointed first-time car owners can tell you. So check (or just change) your engine oil frequently: usually after about every 25 hours of use.

2. I Will Perform Regular Maintenance on My Engines and Tools

To piggyback on our last point, if you do notice that something appears to be off with your engine, don’t wait for it to break down. One out-of-sync piece can often create a domino effect and cause serious problems for the whole system. Fortunately, we provide everything you’ll need to check and maintain your engine: gasoline compression testers, top-of-the-line oil, and even full carburetor rebuild kits. Look forward to our upcoming blog on how and why to perform regular compression tests, where we’ll provide you with the finer details of running these checks!

3. I Will Not Buy Something I Can Make Myself

Don’t go crazy with this one; obviously there are plenty of things you could make yourself that are much easier (and smarter) to buy. However, it can be fun to challenge yourself. So the next time you’re in need of a new planter, bookshelf, work bench, or bed frame, think about how you could make it on your own. Try doing this every one or two months and pick projects based on your skill level: there are some great ideas out there for woodworking projects for beginners, all the way up to beautifully-architected furniture or full home makeovers for the expert.

4. I Will Invite Someone Else to Join Me for a Project

If you’re constantly tinkering around outside or in the workshop, then let your construction time serve double-duty as bonding time with a friend, partner, or child. Collaborating on a creative endeavor can be one of the most fun and rewarding ways to spend time with someone. So next time, don’t go it alone! Invite your friend over for a beer and a work session, or teach your son or daughter about basic woodworking while instilling lifelong memories.

5. I Will Track My Progress

Sure, you can make resolutions, but can you keep them? There’s only one way to find out. Design a system of accountability that works for you, whether it involves writing down your activities, having a motivation buddy, or setting up milestones and rewards along the way. With resolutions this fun and easy, you’re sure to achieve your goals.

Wishing you a fabulous 2015 from HLSupply!