Most Valuable Diagnostic Tools/Gear

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Old 05-05-10, 02:42 PM
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Most Valuable Diagnostic Tools/Gear

For the DIYer small engine hobbyist, what would you say are the most valuable specialized tools to have or buy?

That's outside a typical set of tools a mechanically minded DIYer is likely to have.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 03:21 PM
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I would vote for a multi-meter, I prefer analog, but even a digital will let the user see something that is otherwise invisible. From simply testing a bad bulb to checking continuity, or the presence or absence of a voltage, they are a must for a lot of trouble shooting.

IMO,
Bud
 
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Old 05-05-10, 08:13 PM
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I'm thinking an Air Gap type spark tester... Use it 2-3 times a week,,, The next best thing would be a Can Of Ambition,, but it seems everyone is sold out of that... Seriously tho.. The Air Gap type tester is worth it's weight in gold some days.... Roger
 
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Old 05-05-10, 08:47 PM
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I have multiple multimeters, so I'm well equipped on that one.

I know there's an official Briggs and Stratton air gap spark tester --- is that what you'd recommend? I'm sure a lot of people would do a variation of grounding a spark plug to test spark.

I've always thought a hairy chested DIYer would check that by holding onto the spark wire, spinning the magneto and measuring how high you jumped....
 
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Old 05-05-10, 11:53 PM
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My most commonly used tool is a 3/8" cordless impact gun. I feel it is indispensable.

Most importantly, no amount of tools can make up for lack of knowledge and the ability to approach, diagnose, and solve a problem efficiently and effectively. That is where the men are separated from the boys.
 
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Old 05-06-10, 04:57 AM
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Originally Posted by cheese View Post
My most commonly used tool is a 3/8" cordless impact gun. I feel it is indispensable.
I have just gotta get me one of these.

Over the years I've found a good compression tester and an inline spark tester has been all I needed as far as tools go.

IPLs, service manuals, these forums and common sense takes care of the rest.
 
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Old 05-06-10, 07:26 AM
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I can't really pick out one item. I do have several one use, specialty tools, many of them fashioned by myself.
A good set of 1/4" drive sockets, metric/standard and power driver I could not live without....

As for a spark tester, the cheapest easiest to use no fail I have is a 3' piece of wire cut off from a 110V household appliance with a medium sized clamp on either end. Use a known good plug clamp one end of the wire to the plug the other to good ground on engine, install high tension lead on test plug, spin engine. This does not allow to check the spark while the plug is under compression however, which I have not experienced being a problem, but know it can be.

I've gone through more than a couple of inline testers only to have them all fail on me eventually.
 
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Old 05-06-10, 07:28 AM
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Is an automotive style compression gauge what is needed? Do small engines and auto engines commonly share the same thread pattern?

A compression gauge is something I've never had or learned to use. I imagine practicing on equipment you know works properly is good experience for recognizing a problem with defective equipment.

How routinely do you use a compression gauge when inspecting equipment?
 
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Old 05-06-10, 07:42 AM
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I have an automotive gauge but rarely use it. Mostly on 2cycle if anything. Many techs have told me that if the engine can support it's own weight on the pull rope, then it should have enough compression to run. I have tested some that run perfectly fine but only show 60 psi.
4 cycles have other ways to check and briggs actually says to feel for resistance enough on the engine when turning by hand, feel for the compression stroke, and release the engine, it should spin back slightly...

For most small engines, I think a leak down tester is a better investment than compression gauge. Just as quick and easy to use, but much more accurate and specific testing.
 
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Old 05-06-10, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by SeattlePioneer View Post
How routinely do you use a compression gauge when inspecting equipment?
Particularly on 2-cycle, when owner says 'it just don't start anymore', I do compression and spark tests 1st. How can you know where to start if you don't know what is or what ain't working?
98% of the time it's the carb anyway.
If I did it for a living, I would get a leakdown tester for 4-cycle.
2-cycle I can do vacuum and pressure testing, but rarely comes to that.
 
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Old 05-06-10, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by GlenM View Post
Particularly on 2-cycle, when owner says 'it just don't start anymore', I do compression and spark tests 1st. How can you know where to start if you don't know what is or what ain't working?
98% of the time it's the carb anyway.
If I did it for a living, I would get a leakdown tester for 4-cycle.
2-cycle I can do vacuum and pressure testing, but rarely comes to that.
First thing I do with 2 cycle equipment is check that is has fuel, and attempt the "proper" starting procedure. 1/3 of the time the problem seems to be OE

Next would be a squirt of "gas" in the carb and a few tugs. If it fires you can usually get a good idea if it is going to run by the sound when it fires. Now you have confirmed spark, and that it will run, in about two minutes.
If no fire, then the trouble shooting steps commence
 
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Old 05-06-10, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by BFHFixit View Post
First thing I do with 2 cycle equipment is check that is has fuel, and attempt the "proper" starting procedure. 1/3 of the time the problem seems to be OE

Next would be a squirt of "gas" in the carb and a few tugs. If it fires you can usually get a good idea if it is going to run by the sound when it fires. Now you have confirmed spark, and that it will run, in about two minutes.
If no fire, then the trouble shooting steps commence
I do that on newer units, but, the stuff I get is old, owner says 'fix it and I will pay you, if it can't be fixed, keep it for parts, I was going to throw it away anyway'.
So, I got a collection of trimmers that water sat in for a couple of yrs,or was straight-gassed, mostly box-store stuff.
A lot of stuff I get is more rescue, recover than straight repair, I can salvage most mowers.

thanks,
 
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Old 05-06-10, 09:25 AM
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Most valuable tools I use? My eyes, ears and nose. What does it look like? What does it sound like? And what does it smell like? Consequentially, I wear safety galsses, and ear muffs when needed. LOTS and LOTS of older mechanics that are 3/4s deaf and a few out there with one eye.
 
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Old 05-06-10, 10:43 AM
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I have to use two pairs of glasses in my workarea, strong and stronger.
 
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