Quick Start a Generator Modification




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We had snow and rain today and the wind is coming up. That is the kind of conditions that usually cause a power failure around here. I've had my pull cord electrical generator for 5 or 6 years now and I only use it when the power fails. The problem is getting the generator to start when the need comes up. More often than not I spend 10's of mins pulling on the cord and adjusting the choke to get the thing started. At times I just give up and wait for an hour or more in case the carburetor is flooded. All in all it is a frustrating experience and not what it should be.

So I came up with the idea shown in the video. It's just a simple way of directly feeding starting fluid directly into the engine carburetor. What this means is you don't have to remove the filter cover and the filter to get a good spray of starting fluid directly into the carburetor. Watch the video first and then check out the photos for extra info and the procedure to start the engine once you make the modification.

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Step 1: Materials and Tools


(All materials can be found in the electrical dept of hardware stores)

  • 2 inch nipple (this is just an outside threaded tube commonly used with light fixtures). I had a 2 inch nipple but I suggest you find a 3 inch nipple as it will allow easier access for the spray can (if a nozzle extension is not available).
  • 2 hex nuts to fit nipple
  • 1 lock washer
  • closed end nipple cap

Note: I had to buy three separate little packages of lighting accessories to get the combination of parts needed (see photos).


  • Hand held drill with a small bit for pilot holes and a larger bit to provide clearance for the nipple (the larger bit may also be used to remove the corner of the plastic plate in the carburetor (see video and photos)
  • Awl
  • Pliers or wrench to tighten nuts

Step 2: Locating and Drilling Holes

For my generator I had to remove a corner of a plastic plate behind the air filter so that the installed feed tube will allow a direct spray to the carburetor input. I removed the corner with first a small pilot hole drill and then a larger drill. Be sure to close the carburetor valve when drilling to keep any loose particles from getting in. Also make sure you clean out all plastic particles left from the drilling.

To make a tight fitting hole for the nipple in the air filter I ended up using a small carving chisel. (First I tried to make the hole with a twist drill but the filter material just wound up around the drill.)

The impression made on the foam filter by the plastic grid in the carburetor helps locate the desired hole to line up the feed tube with the carburetor input chamber.

The awl, fed though the feed tube (nipple), is a quick way to mark the location of the required hole in the filter cover. Once the hole center is marked the hole can be drilled and the feed tube mounted with an inside nut and lock washer and an outside locking nut.

After assembly of the filter and cover (feed tube already installed) you can carefully fit the assembly back in place on the mating carburetor frame. This might take a little bit of feeling around as now the filter is mounted on the cover where normally it is separate and installed first. To clue up before testing, lock the cover in place with the top and bottom clips and test fit the feed tube cap.

Step 3: First Start

Here's the procedure to start the generator engine with the starting fluid feed tube in place.

First make sure you have fuel in the tank and the fuel valve is turned ON

  • open the choke
  • remove the feed tube cap
  • shake the starter fluid can and spray just one second into the feed tube
  • replace the feed tube cap
  • close the choke (full choke or starting mode)
  • pull the starting cord
  • adjust the carburetor lever to achieve a smooth running engine

Sit back and wait for the first power failure :)

Note: I had to search around a bit to find a spray can nozzle and extension tube to fit my can of starting fluid. Now I think that the best approach is to find a longer nipple (at least 3 inches) so that a nozzle extension is not then needed. Bottom line is you don't want a plastic extension tube popping off and getting into the carburetor.

Caution: Starting fluid is very flammable - exercise due care and caution when working with it.



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    7 Discussions


    5 months ago

    I always run the bowl dry when shutting down (if you don't have a shutdown valve and a filter...put one on!)...I also put 1/4cup (2oz) marvels mystery oil (or cheap ATF) per 5 gallon...fires up first pull every time


    2 years ago

    The engine doesn't start as there is something wrong, easy start just masks the fault temporarily but doesn't do the engine any good.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Yes I understand that but when a blizzard is on the go and you need to get some juice to your fridge and freezer and your hands are cold and muscles are worn out from trying to start the engine you will try anything :)


    2 years ago

    I gave up on starting fluid as an assist on small engine start up when a lawn service guy showed me that carb cleaner worked better. Most of the time, poor start ups came from carbonized spark plugs in either weed whackers or chain saws. I got a spark plug cleaner from Harbor Freight and keep all my plugs in clean ready to use condition. Most of all, always suspect older stored gas. Once I started to keep my plugs clean, use fresh gas, and always use stabil or run out your fuel in a small engine I had little need for the carb cleaner / starting fluid trick.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    I have been using gas stabilizer but may not have had the correct amount and also may not have run the engine after adding it to the fuel. But with the generator I've had starting problems from pretty well day one. Even though my generator is, maybe, 4 or 5 years old it has been used perhaps for less than a total of 20 hours running time.


    2 years ago

    Good ideal. Starting fluid is not recommended for small engines. Be very, very careful. You can trash an engine using to much. I use WD40. Works just as well with no chance of destorying an engine.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Sorry for late reply didn't realize I had comments. In the process of doing the instructable and the project itself I learned from the web that the current version of WD40 may not be effective as a starting aid. Please check this out as I only saw one reference to this. I have used WD40 in the past to help with starting my old cars.