Recoil Starter Lube

This being leaf season, I just discovered that the recoil starter on the hulking 8 HP tangential leaf blower retracts very, very slowly. Having already started the engine, I did one pass around the yard with the pull cord dangling over the handlebar, but that’s not to be tolerated.

The starter mounts on the back of the motor with five screws, so removing it posed no problem at all. Removing the central screw released the friction clutch that helps extend the pawls, exposing the central boss that’s the combination hold-it-all-together point and gritty bearing for the rope spool:

Leaf blower recoil starter
Leaf blower recoil starter

Pulling the rope turns the spool and extends the pawls that engage the crankshaft. After the motor starts, the pawls retract and none of that stuff moves, so there are no high-speed bearings and not much need for strength.

I brushed off some of the larger chunks, worked machine oil around the central post, wiped off & lubed the pawls, took the friction clutch apart & lightly lubed it, put everything back together, and the starter now works fine again; there may be too little friction in the clutch, but that’s in the nature of fine tuning.

The leaf blower Came With The House™ and dates back to the era when Kohler made cast-iron engine blocks. It runs lean on the oxygenated fuel that’s mandated for Dutchess County these days, so it now runs lightly choked.

Tip: before you yank the rope on a small engine, pull it slowly until the crankshaft stops turning freely, then let the rope retract. That positions the piston at the start of the compression stroke with the valves closed, so your next full-strength yank will do the most good.

3 thoughts on “Recoil Starter Lube

  1. “It runs lean on the oxygenated fuel ”

    There is one station here in town that supplies “Alcohol-free Premium”. I am told it is a good choice for mowers/snow blowers/generators etc that sit in the off season since it stores well (no alcohol to attract water to separate). And no, I will not be bothered to drain the fuel from all those 8 engines, although I do try to remember to run the bowl on the generator dry.

    1. I’ve given up on all that with Stabil and liberal use of starting fluid: the former (seems to) prevent gumming and the latter wakes the dead. Run the tank low at the end of the season, add fresh gas before starting, give it a shot of volatiles right up the snout, and blam it lights right up.

      There was a very bad time right after the changeover to 10% ethanol, but things seem better now. When 15% ethanol comes around, that’ll probably mark the death of all the small engines and the van…

  2. In Oregon, it’s illegal to sell non-oxygenated gasoline (aka non-oxy) to pump into cars newer than American Graffitti hotrods, so the service stations all have 10% ethanol. However, all Oregon marinas and the fuel terminals do sell non-oxy, generally at a $0.50/gallon premium. Check for a source.

    I’ve found it’s worth it. 10% is marginal for the varnishes in gasoline to precipitate out (IIRC, 15% is not advised for motorcycle engines), and especially small engines are likely to have carb troubles due to clogged passages. A Honda 2hp outboard had this problem, even though I had shut off the gas to the carb. $100 later, I had a working engine and a firm resolve to use non-oxy. (Also had a chainsaw carb go sour due to varnish clog.) Since we use a lot of small engines out here, and the 2WD Ranger is mothballed every winter, we try to keep 50 gallons of non-oxy on hand. I’ll rotate the stock, but it doesn’t seem to go stale (never used a gas stabilizer for non-oxy), and if the generators are run once a month or two and then run with the fuel cutoff closed, things are fine.

    The other problem with ethanol is the attack on rubber. A mid-70s automotive carb uses a lot for seals and the accelerator pump, and these will die eventually. Small engines use them, too, so they’re doubly at risk.

    I cut off the gasoline (if there’s a valve), but haven’t worried about the tank. For what it’s worth, I’ve cured a minor case of stale oxygenated fuel by pulling the float chamber and rinsing with fresh gasoline.

    BTW, it’s all one Kohler.

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