How to Deal with Engine Overheating

Overheating can quickly kill your engine, whether it’s air or liquid-cooled. However, while we may have a regular maintenance schedule for our car’s coolant system, the condition of the cooling systems used in our small equipment is often overlooked. What steps can you take to keep your engine from overheating and destroying itself?

A Dirty Engine is a Hot Engine

While motorcycles rely on passing air to stay cool, most small engines are fan-cooled. The flywheel has fan blades, which pull air through the front screen and pushes it around the cover and past the cooling fins on the cylinders. Dirt on the fins reduces heat transfer, and it can block airflow. Some V-twins have ports built into the cover, which let you blast compressed air through the housing to remove dirt. On other engines, you need to remove the cover and wipe off surfaces with a dry towel or brush. Never use water to clean your engine, as it may make its way inside, contaminating the oil.

Have a water-cooled engine? Check the radiator to see if the fins are clogged with dirt. If you have a Kohler Aegis engine, pick up their radiator cleaning kit. It has everything you need to clean the cooling fins without removing the radiator from your equipment.

Do You Have Enough Oil?

Oil doesn’t just lubricate, it transfers heat from the combustion chamber to the rest of the engine. This increases the effective surface area of the cooling system. Keep your engine oil topped up, instead of waiting for the low oil cutoff to kick in.

Check the owner’s manual for your engine for oil recommendations. Manufacturers recommend using a synthetic or heavier weight oil for high temperatures to prevent burn-off. For example, Kawasaki recommends going from 10W40 to 20W50 for use above 100°F, while Vanguard recommends their 15W50 synthetic oil for high-temperature operating conditions.

Is Your Engine Getting Enough Fuel?

If the engine’s air/fuel ratio is too lean, it will be down on power, or won’t run at all. However, even small changes can increase combustion temperatures. Leaking seals around carburetors add air to the mix, while clogged jets reduce the amount of fuel added. Modern gas degrades quickly, so you can bet you’ll have issues with deposits if you didn’t drain the fuel system before storage.

Getting the right ratio of oil to gas is critical for two-stroke engines. If the fuel mix has too much oil, the lean mixture can cause engine damage.

Need Parts for Your Small Engine?

Shank’s Lawn has everything you need, whether your equipment uses a Honda, Kohler, Kawasaki, Vanguard, or Briggs & Stratton engine. Not sure why your engine isn’t running right? Our service department can take care of it. Need to replace your old equipment? We carry a wide range of residential and commercial equipment from top brands, including Cub Cadet, Honda, Troy-Bilt, Wright, Woods, and more. Visit our shop at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA or see what we offer online at We ship parts and accessories across the United States and Canada.

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