2013-02-07 / News

From the Braver Institute

Years ago when I worked in hardware, I also sold and serviced chainsaws. They are fairly simple machines that can cause a lot of grief in spite of their simplicity. They can be very dangerous in careless, uneducated hands.

One day I had a customer come in to ask me what might be wrong with his saw. He explained that the saw would start and run, but the chain wouldn’t move. He asked if he had the chain too tight. I asked if he had the chain brake on. “Chain brake?” was his reply.

He had no idea what a chain brake was, yet he was going to try and use this chainsaw. The chain brake is a safety feature that engages either manually, or when the saw experiences kick-back (a dangerous situation where the saw jumps backward, usually toward the operator). The chain brake stops the chain from moving. Kind of like the parking brake on a car. I assume he had bought the saw from some big-box store where they don’t explain the safe operating procedures of such machines. Anyway, the guy felt really stupid for not knowing about the chain brake.

I think it is kind of normal for humans to slip into these moments of cluelessness, and when we do, we probably feel more stupid than others may perceive us to be.

I think back to the first gas-powered lawn mower my family owned. It came from my uncle. He gave it to my dad because it wouldn’t start. My dad determined that someone had filled the gas tank with water instead of gasoline. He drained the water out, put gas in and started the mower. I don’t know if my uncle ever heard the whole story, but I am sure that if he did, he probably felt kind of stupid.

Since that time I have always made sure that what was in my gas cans was actually gasoline before I filled up a piece of equipment. Knowing that you are trying to burn genuine gasoline is helpful when you do experience troubles with an engine.

I am reminded of a somewhat recent engine problem I was having.

I have a snowthrower that I haven’t used in four or five years. I really haven’t had the need for it.

A couple of years ago I tried to start it, but it wouldn’t run. If I poured gasoline directly into the carburetor, it would run for a minute or so until the added gas burned out. I came to the conclusion that either the float was sticking in the carburetor, or the gas line was clogged. I had doubts that the line was clogged since I always use gas stabilizer at the end of the season to prevent such things. Whatever the problem was, I wasn’t going to deal with it then. It was too cold out to start tearing the carburetor off.

The following year I put off repairing it until it was too late in the season, so once again I did without a snowthrower for the winter. No big deal.

This year I decided to get the snowthrower going before the snow. I had an idea that it might be handy. I ordered a carburetor repair kit and when it arrived, I set out to rebuilding the carb.

I’m a big guy, and my hands are big. Snowthrower carburetors are small and I soon realized the real reason I had put off the repair—I am not designed for snowthrower carburetor repair. After fumbling with the tiny parts for an infinity, I had the carb back together and reinstalled it on the engine.

I took the snowthrower outside, set the choke, turned the key on, pushed the primer bulb a few times, pulled the starter rope and … nothing. I poured a little gas in the carburetor, pulled the starter and it fired right up, just like before.

Either I had messed something up, or I hadn’t fixed the real problem. There was no way I was going to pull the carburetor off again. I would gladly spend the winter shoveling instead of working on the carburetor.

I decided to drain the old gas out of the gas tank, and start with a fresh batch.

That is when I discovered the true problem.

I know what you are thinking, and no, the tank wasn’t full of water or stale gas. The problem was much more stupid than that. The tank was completely empty. It had been so long since I had used the snowthrower that I had forgotten that when I prepare a machine for long term storage, not only do I use gasoline stabilizer, I also run the machine until it is out of gas, further reducing the chances of old gas gumming up the system.

Thankfully I have saved myself the embarrassment of this blunder by never telling anyone about it.

Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by e-mail at waye@braverinstitute.com

Visit the Braver Institute at www.braverinsitute.com

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