Small Engine Repair - advice

Recently, I have found myself spending an inorindate amount of time reading about small engines as the result of wanting to maintain/tune the ones that I have in the garage (snowblower, riding mower, weedeater, etc.). I've gone to the library, read online, bought a few DVDs and books, etc. As a result, my inquisitive daughter (8yo) has become very interested in small engines too...she's always interested in what projects my wife and I are involved with at any given time.
Her interest has now extended to ask whether or not we could put flyers in the neighborhood offering to "fix/tune" small engines around the block.
While I think that this would be a great way to her to learn about the different types of engines, there are obviously many variables to such a project. After thinking about it a bit, I wanted to ask for advice/opinions from those of you who might be more familiar with what is involved. What I've outlines so far is:
- The scope is the immediate neighborhood, as I do not have a truck to haul equipment. Anything that we would work on would have to be transportable through the neighborhood without additional lifts, hitches, etc. We live in an area where we can extend 3 blocks east/west on side streets without needing to cross an avenue or major road.
- Since this is not a business and she's <16yo, the only thing to charge would be actual part costs. No labor or additional expenses will be charged. Part replacements will be discussed with the owner prior to purchase.
- The effort to fix is "best attempt," there are no warranties or guarantees, and I'm not taking out additional insurance. If the owner is concerned about their equipment that much, they simply do not respond to the ad and can take their machine to a formal engine repair business. Furthermore, if the job is considered too advanced (i.e., engine overhaul) or requires specialized (expensive) equipment, then we would simply decline to attempt such a project. I don't mind spending a little money on flywheel pullers and a few other odds/ends, but I'm not going to spend money on major equipment to diagnose the one odd-ball machine someone might own.
- Her resources would include: internet sites, books, instructional videos and USENET (she's already able to surf and research information)
- The project ends when she returns to school
Is there anything else that we should consider (pros/cons)? I figured that even if we only received a few opportunities, or if someone donated an old machine or two that wasn't even worth selling in a garage sale, that it would be a good experience for her. I've been trying to explain to her the difference between "book knowledge" and the application of knowledge/actual experience. I guess that my primary concern is that we don't get into a bad situation with a local neighbor, but I think that if we outline the guidelines, we should be all right.
TIA.
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Another way to do this is to request old broken lawn mowers or string trimmers. Some people are happy to give them away.
Then fix them, and sell them.
This way, there is no worry about ruining someone's engines or meeting a deadline.
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FYI: most "won't run" problems with small engines can be fixed with new spark plug, air filter, and carb cleaning.
Easiest carb cleaning is to spray it with carb cleaner. At the same time, put conditioner in gas.
If that doesn't do it, then you may have to actually remove the carb, disassemble, clean, kit, and re-install. Some of the small carbs are tough to get to.
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instead of disassembling the carb, try dunking it into an ultrasonic cleaner with proper solvent
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wrote:

That's why it's best to hire children with little fingers.
That's what my brother-in-law does. While their parents are doing landscaping, the kids need some kind of daycare.
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Wow! Your 8 yr. old daughter came up with that? Go slow, but you should encourage her without committing her to something beyond her attention span. Peter's idea about the old lawn mowers was great. Make up a simple flyer on your computer and get fifty copies made. Check with your city and comply with their rules then help her put some out. Help her think of putting an ad in the free ad paper, greensheet or whatever in your area, saying 8 yr. old looking for old lawn mowers and small engines that don't run. Will pick up for free.
Take her as far as she wants to go. Don't be reluctant to let her make a profit. Profit is not a dirty word, especially for an 8 yr. old. Don't be disappointed when she tires of this; remember she is only 8. You are fortunate to have her interest extend this far.
One other thing: document her activity and her success. We had about 20 pages of document awards and achievements for our son, including little businesses he created early. He applied for a scholarship at the Art Institute of Dallas and got a 24 thousand dollar scholarship. That list of life long achievements impressed them. They even gave him a couple of thousand dollars cash in additional grant money because they liked the work he was doing while in class.
Your child is a gift, not just to you, but to the world. I'm sure you already knew that!
Randy R. Cox
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Randy Cox wrote:

Randy, I appreciate the compliments and yes, she did come up with the idea. I've tried to jump on her inquisitiveness because as you mentioned, it is more likely short-lived than not and I'd rather her learn with her interest than not. That was the primary reason why we shortened the season between now and school...if she loses interest, I'm not left with the bag. We've done similar things with other interests, but this is the first where I don't have an unlimited supply of examples to provide. Actually, I was like that growing up as well...I had "music lessons" at 8,9, 10, etc. but I didn't decide to learn to play until 17 or so...the result was much different.
As for profit, if she continues interest then that is another pursuit. For now, this is for learning and I do not want to influence her inquisitiveness with external rewards.
And yes, she is eight...my wife never lets me forget that point :-)
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On 9 Jul 2006 08:47:36 -0700, tom snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

I assume she knows by now that the blade can kick back, and the engine can start conceivably start, even if one isn't trying to do so, by pushing the blade. I think the proper thing to do is get into the habit of not just disconnecting the spark plug wire, but also removing the spark plug. I used to rest the wire a half inch from the plug connector, and the spark can jump that far. That was decades ago. I don't know but by now it can probably jump farther. Or the plug connector can come loose from where I stuck it, and end up quite close to the spark plug connector. It can go right back to where it was most of the time.

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mm wrote:

Safety is always paramount to anything. In addition to the spark plug, I wrap the blade to minimize potential "scrapes" and cuts.
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I wouldnt fix anyones old equipment in a side job. The liabilities are WAAAY too high if someone gets hurts from a machine fixed by a 8 year old. Not to mention that equipment these days are normally throw out (and worn out) because lack of maintance as well as age. For the price of parts, you can get a new unit good for another 20 years. Nobody (but maybe me) that I know of still winterizes and tunes up equipment.
If it were me I would get used ones for free. Simple as that. If you have to pay for your garbage to be hauled away then be careful about what crap you take so that you dont end up paying for equipment with engines that are shot.
If I were to do this, I would pay for cheap snowblowers that have running motors or ones with at least some compression. You can fix them now with some money and save them for the season when they are in demand again.
Sell them on something like craigslist.com.
If you want free used stuff, try looking up your local freecycle.org Post a want item and see where it goes. (P.S. people dont want to read the history of WHY you want something, just that you are looking for something)
Anywho, I would be real careful about letting the 8yo work on equipment without supervision. The last thing you need to deal with is a trip to the hospital.
tom snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

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My first concern is the age of your child. Maybe she should start with bicycles or something without an engine. Anything with an engine (mower, trimmer, etc) can be dangerous when you need to test it out.
Vin - Menotomy Vintage Bicycles http://OldRoads.com
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OldRoads wrote:

Don't get me wrong, she will be supervised at all times and I will test the equipment as we do this (she's not going to be left alone to do this, it's a father/daughter project). This is just for her to learn about the different types of equipment and the fundamentals.
I'm just trying to take advantage of her interest at this time. Whenever she seems interested in something, whether it's computers, or house projects, or art, or whatever, I try to take advantage of that inquisitiveness knowing that she will probably be interested in something else in a month or two.
As for the bicycles and things without an engine, we do those things too. The reason I posted specifically about small engines was to find out if there was something I was overlooking and a few of the posts have brought to light some of those types of things (Thank You to everyone who has posted).
BTW, your bicycle web site is very slick.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Agree, go the 'free' route. Do not offer to fix your neighbors for a couple reasons, one is the liability, the other is the response. You will be inundated with stuff and most of it will be dropped off unasked.
Harry K
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Hello I have read every word typed in here today.As it happens I am a certified master small engine technician from Canada.CUDOS to your daughter,and your family. DO NOT ENTERTAIN ANY IDEA OF LETTING AN 8 YEAR OLD FIDDLE WITH ANY SMALL ENGINE. As the person above me stated,engines can and will kick back.ALL newer engines will still have spark since there are no points to set in the new ignition system,that is a very dangerous situation for anyone even a trained professional.Blades,pulleys, rope for recoils,springs,can accidentially fly off and hit you in the eye or fly out of its housing causing great personal damage.
If your daughter is earnest and YOU AS THE PARENT must be as well you must start by enrolling in a night school course for hands on training,before any attempt at being a mechanic. If ther is anything I can add please feel free to email me at
larry snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.ca ACE SMALL ENGINE SERVICE INC.
MSPEM.mASTER sMALL POWERED EQUIPMENT MECHANIC.
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