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 Dave Rotigel This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  1. Turn on the gas
  2. Open the compression release about half way and pull her through twice.
  3. Then stopped her 90 degrees ATDC.
  4. Close the compression release
  5. Hook up the battery and "tickle" the ignitor.
  6. Opened the compression release just as the engine comes up on compression after firing the first time.
  7. She will go through compression and fire again (harder)
  8. Shut the compression release!

Read more: Galoway 16HP ignitor hit-n-miss

Submitted by Joe Betz This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Most of my engines, I start by:
  1. Opening the throttle screw about 1 turn or less
  2. Flip the choke plate over the mouth of the mixer
  3. Retard the timing with the little lever by the trip mechanism at the magneto
  4. Spin the flywheels until fuel runs out of the mixer
  5. Give it a couple of hefty pulls through compression. 
  6. Once it fires : Advance the timing - Open the choke - adjust the fuel.…

Read more: General small engines of 2½ HP or less

Submitted by Curt Holland This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Starting a magneto engine on compression

  1. Fill tank and clean spark plug.
  2. Set lever on magneto to the ADVANCED timing position.
  3. Hold in intake valve in to bring piston to TDC on intake stroke. Release valve.
  4. Hold hand over mixer intake (or inlet to carburettor on TG engines.)
  5. Pull through intake stroke to prime with a good shot of fuel.
  6. Continue to pull through until you feel compression.
  7. Grab top of flywheel and flip it hard, backwards, against compression.
  8. If you flip it hard enough the magneto should trip and fire the engine, reversing the direction you were turning it.
  9. If it fails to fire after a few attempts, repeat the priming sequence above, or try priming it through the priming cup.

Read more: Hercules/Jaeger/Economy

Submitted by Jim Parenteau This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I'll offer a few tips that i have found to make it easier tostart most any engine: (i'm fairly lazy & not muscular)To precharge cyl prior to starting, hold intake valve open,bring to tdc on comp stroke, choke, and flip it.. you get2 suction strokes without having to pull it thru compression.hold intake valve open and slowly back engine up till youget to tdc on comp stroke.Repeat as needed until you have fuel dripping from mixer.on the last one, release hand from choke just before itquits sucking, this will suck the fuel mixture in nicely.then, bring to bdc of comp stroke, (it should already be there) hold intake valve open and rotate until you knowyou can pull i thru comp with some speed. (on 4 hp ottawathis is about half way) it should fire.I do all this while kneeling next to the engine, (skided) thenI get up and pull it thru comp and it should have to fine-tune this method for each of your engines,but it's worth it.I've seen lots of people using one guy pulling flywheels andthe other guy running the choke, etc, for a long time just toget an explosive mixture into the cyl..This method only works with trip type mags or impulsemagnetos, but could save some cranking on non-impulseas well.…

Read more: General Tip To Start Almost Any Engine

Submitted by Curt Holland This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  1. Fill fuel tank and confirm spark at ignitor.
  2. Manually pump fuel pump until fuel is flowing over dam in mixer. Re-engage fuel pump pusher.
  3. Make sure choke is open.
  4. Move exhaust cam follower over to compression relief lobe.
  5. Begin turning "on side" flywheel the running direction using the right hand on the spokes.
  6. Once up to good speed, use left hand to shift lever off of compression relief.
  7. At the same moment turn the choke full on.
  8. Continue pulling hard on the flywheel spokes with right hand.
  9. It should sufficient momentum to suck in a full charge, go through a full compression cycle, and fire the first time.

Read more: IHC Famous (8HP) hit and miss ignitor engine