What is probably the most common item of information we need when we're starting out with an engine for the first time, whether it be our first engine, or a type we've never seen before? How do I start it! While we all like to pretend that when we receive a "new" engine we carefully check it over by taking it apart and verifying it is in a condition to be started, the real story for most of us (me included) is that within minutes of getting it home (or in my case with my first engine I did it where it sat after buying it) we try and make it go. We want to see the satisfying sight of the engine bursting into life to justify the cash and effort we just poured into its acquisition!

This article is the result of a question I posted to the Stationary Engine Mailing list calling for submissions on how people start their various engines. I received a pretty good response, and for my part have contributed starting procedures for each of the engine types I've got running in my possession. Generally speaking, all engines start in approximately the same way - you spin them over until they fire :)... ok so it is not quite that simple with most of them...


Note all of these starting directions skip one key point - if your engine has external oiling through drop oiler(s) turn them on immediately the engine starts to fire so it does not seize up!. For my oilers I use a drop or two per minute per horsepower. For example for a 3HP engine, I use between 3 and 6 drops per minute. If you are getting a lot of oil thrown around during running you're probably using too much and should cut it back a bit. I test the drops per minute with the engine stopped because often you cannot see the drips when the engine is running because the air pressure in the tube splats the drip all over the inside of the sight glass when it falls. If you have this problem you might try putting a check valve under the oiler, or drilling a hole in the sight feed tube to relieve pressure. Remember to close the oiler when you stop the engine or you'll get covered in it next time you start.

If your engine has grease cups, before starting open each cup and top it off, screw it down until grease appears around whatever part it lubricates, open and top off again. Every hour or so I screw mine in a quarter turn.

Before starting I also go over the engine and oil all the stated oiling points. In addition I put a small amount of oil into each exposed gear and other moving bits (like valve stems, the pivot point on a governor etc.). You don't need much oil, just a very thin film. If your engine is throwing oil around while it is running it is probably getting too much from you!

Enough fuel

Nearly all the petrol and kerosene directions talk about closing the needle valve after starting until the engine runs clean. You start with a very rich mixture (lots of fuel) which would quickly carbon up an engine and kill it (not permanently!) if left that way and use way too much fuel. After the engine starts firing, slowly close the needle valve a little after each fire until there is no more black smoke coming out of the exhaust while the engine is running. Stop AS SOON AS THERE IS NO SMOKE - DO NOT LEAN IT OF FURTHER! If you make the mixture too lean the engine will run too hot and die (potentially permanently!).
Submitted by Glenn Wilson This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Ok - I have an engine very much like Tilley - it is a 1/2 breed
15HP natural gas two cycle that has been factory converted from
a steam engine to a two cycle natural gas engine that I run on
propane. The cylinder and main casting of the engine say
"Manwaring & Havens" & "Sheffield". I assume made in Sheffield, PA.

I'm sure there are lots of ways to run it but I found
what works for me is to burn the hot tube flame so the 6" stainless
steel hot tube (purchased from John Burns) is entirely red.
Connect an accumulator in front of the gas/air mixture input made
of 4" pipe about 4 feet long fed from a regulator set to about
2PSI. In between the accumulator and the engine is a 3/8" DIAMOND
valve. This is Much more controllable than a larger size!
The head itself has one threaded connection that sticks
straight out as if to hold a spark plug. In this hole, Is a short
nipple that sticks out, a tee with vertical hot tube and another
nipple with a ball valve that opens to the air.

Then, to start the engine, you open the valve to the atmosphere,
close the diamond valve and turn the engine over at least twice.
More times don't hurt anything. Leave the piston at BDC. Close
the air valve, open the gas valve to exactly 1/8. Put your foot
up on a spoke and grab the top of the one flywheel (there is a
clutch on the other side - only one steam engine flywheel) and
give it a bit of a turn back into compression. As soon as it fires,
and it will 90% of the time with this method, you have to immediately
open the gas valve ever so little until it fires again. Then keep
your hand on the gas valve and do tiny tiny adjustments until the
engine is running nice and comes up to temperature.

This engine runs like a four stroke when unloaded - i.e., ever other
compression stroke is only a small explosion and every other is a
good hard hit. If you crack the gas valve open farther, it will
hit hit hit but run too fast. I haven't had it loaded it but
suspect if it had a belt load on it, you could give it more gas
and it would hit hard every time.

I am writing this at 2am and reserve the right to change the
the 1) length of the stainless steel pipe, 2) the gas pressure in
the accumulator, and 3) the setting on the diamond valve because
I haven't run the engine since last fall but I believe what I have
written above is true and correct.

I LOVE this engine bought off eBay, sight unseen, for $850 on my
way to my first Portland show ever in the summer of 2001. The
engine was 4 hours west. The show was another 7 hours farther west.

Read more: 1/2 breed 15HP Natural Gas two cycle (ex steam engine)

Submitted by Rick Strobel This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Review emergency shutdown proceedures in my head.
Open main fuel valve.
Push in on the movable igniter contact several times..This "scrubs" the
Open mixer needle valve one quarter turn, close choke (This is for the old
mixer w/air shutter).
Open cc oiler, adjust drip rate. I've got mine dripping once every ten
seconds.  New rings.
Postion spark advance on Webster bracket to the right hand position.(START)
Pull thru several times until mixer is flooded, close mixer needle valve.
Pull thru until engine hits once, quickly open air shutter (just a little)
and needle valve 1/4 turn.
If it hits the second time, you will find yourself smiling.
Move spark advance to the left (run) position.
Adjust air/fuel mixture until exhaust is clear and running nicely..lot's of
After I'm happy that it's running nice..I then add water to the hopper.

Preheating the mixer/head and using hot water in the hopper is permitted if
you weigh in excess of 250 lbs. or you're "Packin'."  This really helps to
vaporize the fuel.

To Stop..shut off fuel. Now I don't drain the hopper until water temp. cools
down to approx. ambient.  Just a personal thing as I fear hot spots might
develop in head, cyl. to discusssion.

Go out next day and wipe up the oily mess...forgot to turn that damn oiler
off again:-)

Damn, this is FUN!!

Read more: 2 1/4 hp. Galloway (Early Style..oiler behind hopper)

Submitted by William J. Pfeiffer Jr., Sharon A. Cook,  Freckles the gutless wonderdog & Sugar the tongued terror This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Flippin the flywheels style.

  1. Check all the grease cups and fill as needed.
  2. Check the oiler and fill as needed.
  3. Using an oil can, lube the rocker arm, exhaust and intake valves, cam follower, pushrod slides, bevel gear for magneto, ignitor, and then a small amount on the skirt of the piston.
  4. Insure there is enough fuel in the tank by adding some.
  5. Check the water level in the hopper and add as needed.
  6. Pour a small amount of gasoline onto a nice terrycloth rag.
  7. Wrap rag around the air holes of the mixer.
  8. Set fuel mixer at 1 1/2 turns out from closed.
  9. Hook wire up to the ignitor. (I never leave the wire connected when not running)
  10. Turn the flywheels until I feel compression starting to build.
  11. Place my hands on the rim of the flywheels, making sure that my thumbs are not hooked around the flywheel but rather are also on the rim of the flywheel.
  12. Place one foot onto the edge of the cart.
  13. Give a good sharp pull. Repeat from 11 as required.
  14. Remove rag and sit down to listen to the stack music.…

Read more: Associated

Submitted by Curt Holland This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  1. Fill fuel tank.
  2. Turn side shaft so that fuel pump cam is up. (so fuel pump primer can be pumped)
  3. Open fuel injector needle valve 1 turn.
  4. Manually pump fuel pump to prime until you can hear
  5. 3 or 4 time good squirts go in the intake chamber.
  6. Open priming valve.
  7. Turn flywheels in the running direction through compression to TDC, letting the magneto trip.
  8. While slowly turning the flywheels down the power stoke, add fuel in the priming cup. Add LOTS of fuel (several priming cup fulls) as it is hard to start an Abby!
  9. You should now be about half way down the power stroke.
  10. Close the priming valve.
  11. With vigour turn the flywheels the running direction, through the remaining power stroke, the exhaust stroke, the next intake stroke, all while gaining momentum. It should easily go through the next compression stroke and fire.
  12. Continue pulling through until it fires, usually 2 to 4 times through.
  13. Adjust the fuel injector needle valve for proper operation as it warms up. Mine runs a 1/4 turn open.

Read more: Abenaque (6HP) hit and miss with magneto

Submitted by Paul Pavlinovich
My Commando is VERY hard to start... one of these days I'll be bothered to figure out why...
  1. Open the needle valve one turn
  2. Engage the "kick crank" and push the engine slowly through compression with your hand over the air intake a couple of times re-engaging the kick crank each time it is thrown off
  3. Engage the kick crank again and quickly push the engine through compression, on about the 100th time it will fire and run spewing oily smoke everywhere until it warms up.…

Read more: Commando two stroke