FYI Hardware Guy: It's time to get your snow thrower healthy
By Ed Pfeifer
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Well folks it's that time of year again — time for the coughing, the lack of energy, the thick fluid buildup, and the sluggish starts.
Oh sure, we thought we took the steps we were supposed to; the preventative measures. Yet we are still faced with a case of the chills, fatigue, and a real headache. It's time for proper diagnosis, a prescription, a cure.
But lingering in our minds will be the question … what caused all this? Why is my snow-thrower so darn sick?
Many words and much ink have been used to describe small engine problems over the past several years. Tricky carburetors, chintzy engines, and user error are commonly cited as sources of these ills. These are all plausible causes of snow thrower failure, but nothing might be more likely than a fuel problem or more specifically, an ethanol fuel problem.
Ethanol fuel is a low level blend of 10% alcohol and 90% gasoline. It is now in the holding tanks of virtually every filling station from sea to shining sea. It's what you are buying at the pump.
Ethanol has its advantages; unfortunately your snow thrower does not appreciate them. Mechanics and others in the industry now maintain that through a process called “phase separation” ethanol causes an accumulation of water in fuel, which has a corrosive effect on engine components. Additionally, they claim it “gums up” and causes sluggish performance and improper operating temperatures.
Unfortunately, it seems that these issues are exacerbated over time. The longer the ethanol fuel sits, the more severe its problems. Hence the common issues with snow throwers, which sit unused for months with fuel in the tank.
So what to do? Well for a while now, experts have urged us to use fuel stabilizers when filling our gas cans. Treating fresh fuel is a great way to get in front of the problem and numerous products, such as Sta-Bil , are available for this.
Most of these chemicals though are specifically-designed for fresh fuel only, not that which is already tainted. Some, however, such as Star-Tron enzyme fuel treatment, claim to not only be effective on new fuel but also have a rejuvenating effect on stale fuel.
Still another option is to purchase ethanol free gasoline. It is available at various outlets and gas stations. It's an expensive, but sure way to keep ethanol fuel out of your snow thrower and other small engines.
As with all internal combustion engines, regular exercise is strongly recommended. Run your snow thrower periodically to keep the system clean and lubricated. This will help minimize the clogging of small carburetor jets and fuel lines.
Of course, engine ailments not related to ethanol fuel still crop up in snow throwers and must be addressed properly. But if the symptoms are flu–like, lots of coughing and sputtering, check out the gas. It may just be a “phase- separated “ water infiltrated gummed up mess of ethanol fuel plugging the arteries and infecting the lungs of what used to be a powerful and healthy machine. Check it out now and get it fixed so that when the February blizzard hits, you're not left out in the cold.
Ed Pfeifer is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media and the owner of Pfeifer Hardware Inc., 300 Marshall Way, Mars. If you have questions, call 724-625-9090.
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