How to Tune up a Small Engine

by Jenny Carver

Tuning a small engine can help the engine last longer and perform better. Bringing it to a repair shop can take weeks and become expensive. Learn how to tune up a small engine yourself and save time and money, while keeping your engine in top shape.

Begin the tuneup by unplugging the spark-plug wire from the spark plug. Doing this prevents the engine from starting and causing injury.

Change the oil. Place the drain pan below the plug; then remove the drain plug, allow the oil to drain, replace the plug and fill the crankcase with oil. Most small engines require 20 oz. of oil.

Remove the starter clutch, using the starter-clutch removal tool in the small engine tune-up kit. Once this is removed, you will see the flywheel.

Remove the flywheel by putting the wheel puller on the two holes and screwing the shaft until it connects with the crankshaft. Turn the shaft with a wrench until the flywheel is loose. After removing the wheel puller, take the flywheel off the crankshaft and remove the shear pin from it. Set all of this aside until you are ready to reassemble the crankshaft.

Use a screwdriver to remove the cover from the points and condenser. With your hand, turn the crankshaft until the points and condenser move as far apart as possible. Remove the screw from the spacer that's holding the points in place, and then the spring. Remove them from the tray.

Get the spring compressor from the small engine tune-up kit. Use it to compress the spring and remove all of the wires. Remove the compressor. Install the new points and condenser from the tune-up kit by following the steps in reverse.

Use a spark-plug wrench to remove the spark plug. Replace it with a new spark plug , but don't connect the wire until you're finished with the entire project. Make sure to gap the new spark plug according to the manufacturer's directions.

Remove the screw on top of the carburetor to find the air filter. Replace it with a new filter and replace the top of the carburetor.

Replace all of the parts you removed and start the engine to test it. If it does not start, repeat all of the steps to make sure you are not forgetting something.


  • check Look in the manufacturer's guide for exact illustrations and directions when working on your small engine.


  • close Never pour gasoline into a hot engine.

Items you will need

About the Author

Since 1997 Jenny Carver has served as editor and freelance writer for many offline and online publications including,, "Hoof Beat News," "Import Tuner" and others. Carver owns a custom automotive shop where she has been doing paint and body work, custom interior work and engine building for over 11 years.