Many lawnmowers, string trimmers, leaf blowers and other lawn and garden equipment with small engines were underwater during the flooding from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
But, in many cases, that equipment can be salvaged after it’s flooded, says Dr. Dick Parish, an engineer at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station.
"It is very difficult and expensive to salvage more complicated equipment like cars, trucks and tractors because of issues with electronics, upholstery and so forth," Parish says. "But small lawn and garden equipment is much simpler."
Parish says it’s important to get small engines dried out as soon as possible. The longer they sit in water – or water sits in them – the greater the risk of major damage.
"Cleaning and drying the engine immediately may allow you to save it," he says. "If the engine has been exposed to saltwater, you should wash it with fresh water before drying it. Also, wash off any mud or trash before drying."
Parish says to empty the gasoline tank and dispose of the diluted gasoline at a recycling station. It will be easier to drain the fuel tank if you remove it first, he advises.
"If you have access to an air hose, blow out the gas tank to help dry it," the LSU AgCenter engineer says. "If not, try to dry it with a small rag. Spraying a little WD-40 into the tank will help dry it."
Parish says the crankcase on a four-stroke engine must be completely drained.
"If water comes out with the oil, you probably should add some light oil, rock or shake the engine, then drain it again and repeat until no water comes out with the oil," he says.
The engineer also says to remove the spark plug and drain any water in the cylinder. Add a teaspoon or so of engine oil through the spark plug hole and then rotate the engine a few times while the plug is still out to coat the cylinder walls.
If the engine is seized, you may need professional help or may have to discard it completely, Parish says. After turning the engine over with oil in the cylinder, install a new plug or carefully clean and regap the old plug if it is still in good shape. Install the spark plug using the correct torque.
Parish also slays to replace the air filter and remove any water in the carburetor area. If the engine has a fuel filter, replace it. Clean and drain the fuel lines before installing a new filter. If you have an air hose, blow out the fuel/air system before reassembly.
If the machine has a transmission case, check for water. If any water is present, drain the case, dry it and replace the gear oil.
If the engine has an electronic ignition module, that might have to be replaced also, he says.
"After thoroughly cleaning and drying everything, add clean engine oil and fresh gasoline. Then try to start it," Parish says. "Running it will warm it up and help dry any spots you missed.
"You just might be able to save your small engine," Parish says.