by Dave Toht
Leaf blowers aren't complicated machines that need frequent maintenance, but a little TLC still can extend their life. Here's how to take care of them at the start and end of the season, as well as before each use.
But first, the most important thing to remember — disable the leaf blower before working on it so it can't start unexpectedly:
- For electric models, disconnect the extension cord from the power source or remove the rechargeable battery
- For gas-powered units, allow the engine to cool and then detach the spark plug wire from the spark plug. The exception is if you're working on the carburetor, in which case you want the engine to run.
Caring for a Leaf Blower
By keeping your blower clean and repairing damaged parts, you help ensure that it runs for years.
At the Start of the Season
Add fuel. If your gas-powered blower has a 2-cycle engine, fill the fuel tank with a mix of good quality synthetic 2-cycle air-cooled engine oil and fresh gasoline. The owner's manual (download it here) gives the gas-to-oil ratio, but 40:1 is typical (4 liters of unleaded gasoline and 95 milliliters of oil.
Before Each Use
- Check for any loose or damaged fasteners and parts before each use, including the inlet cover on gas and electric models. On a gas-powered model, check the spark plug boot, air filter and housing screws.
- Check that the inlet cover latches properly and isn't damaged.
- Look down the blower tube and vacuum tubes and remove any obstructions.
- Inspect the fuel tank on a gas-powered blower; don't use the blower if the tank leaks or is damaged.
After Each Use
Let the engine cool and then do the following:
- Wipe the blower's exterior clean with a damp cloth and mild detergent, and then wipe dry.
- If your leaf blower has a collection bag, remove and completely clean out the bag out after each use. The bag has to be free of debris to allow free airflow. If the bag is torn or damaged, don't use it.
- Store the blower and fuel out of the reach of children in a well-ventilated area where fuel vapors cannot reach sparks or open flames from water heaters, electric motors or switches, furnaces or other heat sources.
Every So Often
Clean the air filter. A dirty air filter makes the engine less efficient, increasing fuel consumption. After every 5 hours of use, wash, dry and oil the air filter, following the instructions in the owner's manual.
At the End of the Season
Prepare the blower for storage if you won't use it for 30 days or more. Before you store it in a clean, dry area, get it ready:
Collection bag. If your blower doubles as a vacuum, turn the collection bag inside out and use a garden hose to wash it out. Hang it up to dry completely.
Drain or stabilize the gas. Stale gasoline makes it difficult — even impossible — to start an engine after a few months in storage, because gas loses its volatility as it ages and can become gummy. You have two options:
- Run the engine until all the gas is gone and the engine stops. The next time you add fuel, use fuel that's less than a month old.
- Pour fuel stabilizer into the fuel tank and then run the engine for 5 minutes to fill it with stabilized fuel.
Change the spark plug. Replace spark plug each year to ensure the engine starts easier. Using a gapping too, set the spark plug to the gap specified in the owner's manual.
Change the fuel filter. Replace the fuel filter when the gas tank is empty.
Tighten the muffler mounting screws. Remove the muffler cover and tighten the two screws that hold the muffler in place. Reinstall the cover.
Clean. Clean the entire blower and lightly oil external metal surfaces.
Cover. Covering the blower is a good idea because it keeps dirt and dust from coating the blower while it's stored. But use a cloth cover, not plastic — plastic traps moisture that can lead to rusting.
You can diagnose and solve some problems with your leaf blower. If these suggestions don't fix the problem, ask our experts or take it to an authorized service center.
Engine won't start. If you smell gas, you may have flooded the engine. Place the choke lever in the Run position, move throttle lever to the fast position and then pull the rope until engine starts. After engine starts, move the throttle lever to the slow position to allow the engine to idle. If it's not flooded, check for fuel in the tank. If there is fuel, look for a kinked fuel line. If the engine is getting gas, the spark plug might not be firing or the fuel filter might be dirty.
Engine idles roughly. Check for a dirty fuel filter or kinked fuel line. Failing that, take it to a service center; you may have carburetor or compression problems.
No acceleration or power. Clean or replace the air filter. If the problem persists, replace the fuel filter. Check for a kink in the fuel line. Clean and gap the spark plug. If none of these options works, you may have carburetor or compression problems that a service center should repair.
Engine exhaust smokes excessively. Make sure the choke is off. Next, check for a dirty air filter and clean or replace it if needed. If that's not the problem, empty the tank and fill with the correct fuel mixture. If the engine still smokes, take it to a service center.
Motor doesn't run. First, check that the extension cord is plugged in. If it is, see if the circuit breaker has popped or a fuse has blown. Most exterior receptacles are GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) protected. Depress the test and reset buttons on the receptacle and try the blower again. If you are sure the blower is getting power but not starting, take it to a service center.
Battery-powered unit won't run. Remove the battery and recharge it. Once charged, reinstall it and try again. (It's a good practice to recharge the battery after each use so you won't face the next round of chores powerless.) If the battery won't take a charge, replace it.
Blower vibrates excessively. If the blower isn't producing force, check for debris in the intake. If you find none, assume a mechanical failure and head for the service center.
Dave Toht has more than 60 DIY books to his credit. He has learned the hard way that a little maintenance now can head off big problems later.